A SIEGEL FILM by Don Siegel


An Autobiography
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 Funny, ever entertaining, immensely readable and revealing autobiography of action/suspense director Don Siegel and how he made or contributed to some 50 or more movies and TV shows. For buffs spellbound by the inner organs of moviemaking, Siegel (b. 1912) chooses a terrific way to tell his saga: by improvised screenplay dialogue. Siegel co-wrote most of his scripts and has a faultless ear for the voices of his fellow directors, co- writers, famous cameramen, producers, and giants like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Henry Fonda, and Elvis; actors like Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Edward O'Brien, Richard Widmark, Lauren Bacall, and Viveca Lindfors (Siegel's ex-wife); and studio execs like Hal Wallis and ogre Jack Warner. Siegel opens smashingly, with the taming of obscenity-spouting John Wayne for his farewell role as the cancer-ridden gunfighter of The Shootist (1976). Highlights include the making of prison pictures Riot in Cell Block 11 and Escape from Alcatraz; the horror classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers; detective flicks Dirty Harry, Madigan, and Coogan's Bluff; westerns Flaming Star and Two Mules for Sister Sara; crime epics Baby Face Nelson and Crime in the Streets; and oddities such as Clint Eastwood's The Beguiled. Siegel joined Warner Brothers in 1934 and worked his way through all the lesser departments of filmmaking until being put in charge of a second unit that created montages and inserts that glued stories together. For years, his fast-made but inventive montages accounted for more film per year than the footage of each of the studio's first-level directors. Siegel complains about studio heads, draws blood on folks who sold him out, and details the idiocy of trying to make a film (Rough Cut) produced by egomaniac Broadway producer David Merrick. So Dirty Harry isn't Hamlet! One of the top-drawer screen books, from which you rise gorged from an eye-popping Thanksgiving dinner of filmcraft. (Sixty b&w photographs)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-571-16270-3
Page count: 500pp
Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1993


by Kevin Avery