A readable, delightful work of film/cultural history for movie fans.

GIANT

ELIZABETH TAYLOR, ROCK HUDSON, JAMES DEAN, EDNA FERBER, AND THE MAKING OF A LEGENDARY AMERICAN FILM

A noted authority on all things Texas, Graham (English/Univ. of Texas, Austin; State of Minds: Texas Culture and Its Discontents, 2011, etc.) turns his attention to film with this authoritative tale of “Big Texas Oil” and the epic movie Giant (1956).

At the “top of his game” after A Place in the Sun (1951) and Shane (1953), George Stevens, the film’s “often inscrutable” director, was anxious to film Edna Ferber’s latest novel, Giant, about a Texas ranching empire and the clash between old ranch aristocracy and the new breed of oilmen. Hollywood was abuzz as the cast took shape. For the main part of Bick Benedict, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Robert Mitchum, Charlton Heston, and Errol Flynn, among others, were passed over for Rock Hudson, who was popular with teenagers. For the role of Bick’s wife, Leslie, Stevens “had his heart set on Audrey Hepburn” and then Grace Kelly, but Elizabeth Taylor got the role: “Stevens didn’t choose Taylor so much as she chose him.” Alan Ladd, Marlon Brando, and Richard Burton were passed over for a young actor with “little-boy wounds…brash bad-boy behavior and exposed nerve endings,” the “rebel,” James Dean, as the “surly, resentful ranch hand Jett Rink.” Dean died during production. Graham recounts in detail filming in the small, still-segregated-by-“custom” town of Marfa, whose citizens would soon learn that the film was a “powerful indictment of racial intolerance in Texas, and in the United States.” Peppered throughout are lively profiles of the crew and actors, which also included Dennis Hopper and Carroll Baker. Cultural critic Rebecca Solnit called Giant “a freak: a wildly successful mid-1950s Technicolor film about race, class, and gender from a radical perspective, with a charismatic, unsubjugated woman at the center.” As Graham notes, the film “keeps finding new ways to speak to Americans across the decades.” Stevens won an Academy Award; Hudson and Dean got best actor nominations.

A readable, delightful work of film/cultural history for movie fans.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-06190-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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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

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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