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There's a case to be made for monographs on mediocre, well-meaning talents, but the author of Alfred Hitchcock has not advanced it in this cautious homage to second-rate filmmaker Stanley Kramer. The producer/director of such varied works as Inherit the Wind and The Domino Principle is introduced as less than ""auteur"": why then devote considered analysis to more than 25 of his admittedly less than satisfying movies? Kramer, says Spoto, has probably been the ""subject of more outrage and controversy among critics and public than any other American in Hollywood."" Scarcely. Nor have his vaunted moral predilections always been as laudable as those of Spencer Tracy--""whom Kramer. . . always wanted to play his other serf on the screen""--in Kramer's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Kramer repudiated his partner, Carl Foreman, when he ""ran afoul"" of the House Un-American Activities Committee--an issue Spoto glosses over, stressing instead an image of Kramer as ""first to make Hollywood films about pressing and often unpopular issues."" Here the author is not entirely misguided, and Spoto makes some astute observations on the limited virtues of movies like Ship of Fools and, particularly, of Kramer's four films on blacks in America (Home of the Brave, The Defiant Ones, Pressure Point, Guess. . .). Spoto writes with ease and good humor, but the emphasis is skewed; and almost equal space is allotted to ""a pleasant enough diversion"" called The Secret of Santa Vittoria as to the far more provocative Judgment at Nuremburg. Similarly, the films Kramer merely produced are accorded as much attention as those he directed too. For the most part, it's difficult to fault Spoto's film knowledge or taste--and more difficult still to imagine why he selected this topic.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1978
Publisher: Putnam