Well-informed biography of the flamboyant director, utterly lacking the stylishness that made his films so memorable.
The son of touring players, Vincente Minnelli (1903–86) had only the briefest experience of the kind of small-town, Midwestern life he would later enshrine in such popular MGM fare as Meet Me in St. Louis and Father of the Bride. Film scholar Levy (All About Oscar, 2003, etc.) does a commendable job with Minnelli’s early professional years in Chicago and New York, where he dressed department-store windows and designed sets and costumes for movie theaters’ stage shows; he would remain deeply, some said overly, concerned with visual effects in all of his films. Levy also evinces a solid understanding of the essentially somber worldview that made Minnelli as successful with melodramas like The Bad and the Beautiful as with such brilliant musicals as An American in Paris and Gigi. He was the quintessential studio director, capable in most genres and able to produce highly personal work within the assembly-line system’s confines. Indeed, first wife Judy Garland complained that he didn’t support her in the battles with MGM that led to her spectacular flameout and the couple’s divorce. The bisexual Minnelli’s stormy union with Garland is the only one of his four marriages that receives much attention here, and only a single male partner is mentioned by name. Aside from a rather catty portrait of his close bond with daughter Liza, the director’s personal life is scanted in favor of his career, which makes sense since he lived for his work. Levy’s judgments about the films are sound; it’s a pity they’re conveyed in dreadful, occasionally incomprehensible prose. This sentence about Father of the Bride is regrettably typical: “Stanley confronts his worst fear of humiliation, here reflected actually a nightmare rather than imagining or dreaming about at.” Such painfully inept presentation undercuts the author’s strong case that Minnelli is the most underrated of Hollywood’s Golden Age craftsmen.
Solid work in desperate need of the careful attention of a competent copy editor.