"""IF THEY MOVE, 'EM!"": The Life and Times of Sam Peckinpah" by David Weddle

"""IF THEY MOVE, 'EM!"": The Life and Times of Sam Peckinpah"

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Film critic Weddle's first book is a comprehensive, if somewhat overwritten, biography of a legendary Hollywood maverick. Sam Peckinpah's (1925 -- 1984) career is yet another monument to the destructiveness of the Hollywood machine and the self-destructive tendencies of alcoholics. As Weddle tells it, Peckinpah's early life inculcated in him a macho obsession with guns, booze, and a certain self-conscious toughness, all of which was filtered through an artist's considerable sensitivity. His best films are poised on the cusp between those two poles, a reflection of his need to please both his tight-lipped lawyer father and his overprotective, hysterical mother. Out of that crucible emerged a brilliant but tormented filmmaker who repeatedly drank and fought himself out of work. On the other hand, as Weddle's account makes clear, Peckinpah's stern sense of artistic integrity, combined with his penchant for on-the-set improvisations, made him somewhat ill-suited for the rigidity of Hollywood filmmaking, even after the studio system had all but collapsed. Weddle has interviewed over 100 family members, friends, and colleagues of Peckinpah's and read extensively in his diaries and papers, and the research shows. On the other hand, his writing is often turgid, filled with overextended metaphors. His critical judgments are sometimes debatable (how many film historians would agree with him that the '60s are the most interesting decade in American film?), but the production histories of films like The Wild Bunch and Major Dundee are exemplary. Finally, as Peckinpah's career begins to founder on the rocks of booze and cocaine, Weddle seems to run out of steam. Never less than interesting, this volume makes a nice complement to Marshall Fine's Bloody Sam (1991), drawing on some new sources and adding to the picture of a troubled and troublesome artist.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1994
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Grove