Well-observed reflections for true fans of the silver screen.

CELESTE HOLM SYNDROME

ON CHARACTER ACTORS FROM HOLLYWOOD’S GOLDEN AGE

Background becomes foreground in this take on actors with memorable faces and forgotten names.

As a young man in the 1970s gazing up at the silver screens of the Thalia, the Art, and the Bleeker Street—Manhattan’s film classic revival cinemas—Lazar learned about the importance of supporting actors—e.g., Edward Everett Horton and Ruth Donnelly in the comedy Holiday, who upstaged the film’s stars, Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. In personal, insightful essays, the author defines the brilliance of second-billed players such as Horton and Donnelly as well as many others (Eric Blore, Jessie Royce Landis, Franklin Pangborn) in Hollywood films from the 1930s through the 1960s. Lazar divides his subjects into two categories: actors whose quirks, mannerisms, and attitudes remained constant in all of their films and actors who created a gallery of completely different characters. Among the former group, the titular Holm, along with Eleanor Parker, Nina Foch, and Eve Arden, played chic, mature, canny women whom male leads ultimately threw over for bland, unthreatening leading ladies. At the time, Hollywood’s version of patriarchy ruled. Throughout, Lazar limns his subjects with wit. Holm’s voice in All About Eve, he writes, was “tonic to [Bette] Davis’s gin.” But his essays transcend reminiscence. A look at the difficult Oscar Levant reflects on the broader nature of character itself, and, inevitably, the observations on the performers reflect on the author. A perceptive chapter on actors notable for playing mothers leads to Lazar’s sensitive memories of his own mother. Most entertaining, though, is the penultimate chapter, about Martin Balsam. The actor was a close friend of Lazar’s father, a successful travel agent who himself knew a bit about acting: He impersonated VIPs on the phone to get “unavailable” rooms and plane reservations, and he once foiled a robbery by feigning a faint.

Well-observed reflections for true fans of the silver screen.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4962-0045-7

Page Count: 186

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

more