TWENTIETH CENTURY'S FOX

DARRYL F. ZANUCK AND THE CULTURE OF HOLLYWOOD

An effective, in-depth evaluation of the life and work of the master movie mogul. One increasingly circulated variation on the auteur theory holds that certain remarkable producers, like Zanuck, have had a profound shaping influence on the movies they oversaw. But even in these terms, Zanuck enjoyed a remarkable, perhaps unique career. With close to 1,000 movies to his credit, he painstakingly crafted (working at an extraordinary level of detail) an unprecedented string of noteworthy—and usually successful—films, from All About Eve to The Grapes of Wrath and How Green Was My Valley. As Custen (Performing Arts/CUNY, Staten Island) notes, Zanuck ``would not give up the belief that although filmmaking was a collaborative enterprise, ultimately he and he alone possessed the judgment to successfully run the machinery of storytelling and to regulate the enterprise surrounding it.'' Zanuck was also responsible for any number of cinematic milestones. From the first major talkie, The Jazz Singer, to the first gangster movies, to Cinemascope, he had a sixth sense for surprising the public with its own unsuspected wants. As Custen demonstrates, Zanuck, an artiste among businessmen, was quite unlike any of the other men who ran studios. He came to Hollywood during the Silent Era, vaguely determined to be a writer. His real break came with his creation of the Rin Tin Tin series. From there he giddily ascended to the control of his own studio at the age of 31, a position he maintained until he was in his 50s, when in the fit of a middle-age crisis he moved to Europe and pursued a peripatetic and priapic existence, producing occasional movies as the mood took him. While Custen's story has great legs, his writing suffers from feet of clay—he can't resist constantly repeating himself. Nonetheless, a significant reappraisal of a major, often neglected, moviemaker. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 1997

ISBN: 0-465-07619-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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