by Greg Mitchell ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 14, 2020
Reel film meets real history in this scintillating tale.
What happens when the military gets involved in an arts project.
Mitchell, the former editor of Nuclear Times and Editor & Publisher, uses his sharp investigative reporting skills to unearth this detailed, behind-the-scenes story about Hollywood’s first movie on the atomic bomb. It begins innocuously enough in October 1945, two months after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, with a letter to actress Donna Reed from Ed Tompkins, her former high school chemistry teacher who moved on to become a scientist at Oak Ridge. He asked if she thought a “movie could be planned and produced to successfully impress upon the public the horrors of atomic warfare.” Mitchell sets his tale up as a series of battles. The primary one was between the scientists, including Tompkins and Robert Oppenheimer, who were desperate to control nuclear proliferation and the deployment of nuclear weapons, and the military, led by Gen. Leslie R. Groves, director of the Manhattan project. Reed’s husband, talent agent Tony Owen, helped pitch the idea to MGM’s Louis B. Mayer, who showed a keen interest in the project. Paramount’s Hal B. Wallis had a similar idea, with “controversial novelist Ayn Rand” writing the screenplay. MGM lined up Bob Considine, author of Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, to write theirs. MGM talked to President Harry Truman, who was on board, even coming up with an apocalyptic title: “We are either at the beginning or the end.” Wallis’ less dramatic title was Top Secret. In mid-December 1945, the New York Times published a story about the “Hollywood Atom Sweepstakes.” Wallis eventually dropped out of the race. Excellent research and rich dialogue give Mitchell’s book a novelistic flair as he recounts the battles between MGM and the military over actor choices, deletions, revisions, and retakes concerning fact vs. fiction, with the military and the White House usually winning. The Beginning of the End opened with a notice indicating that it was “basically a true story.”Reel film meets real history in this scintillating tale.
Pub Date: July 14, 2020
Page Count: 272
Publisher: The New Press
Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020
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by Pamela Anderson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 31, 2023
A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
The iconic model tells the story of her eventful life.
According to the acknowledgments, this memoir started as "a fifty-page poem and then grew into hundreds of pages of…more poetry." Readers will be glad that Anderson eventually turned to writing prose, since the well-told anecdotes and memorable character sketches are what make it a page-turner. The poetry (more accurately described as italicized notes-to-self with line breaks) remains strewn liberally through the pages, often summarizing the takeaway or the emotional impact of the events described: "I was / and still am / an exceptionally / easy target. / And, / I'm proud of that." This way of expressing herself is part of who she is, formed partly by her passion for Anaïs Nin and other writers; she is a serious maven of literature and the arts. The narrative gets off to a good start with Anderson’s nostalgic memories of her childhood in coastal Vancouver, raised by very young, very wild, and not very competent parents. Here and throughout the book, the author displays a remarkable lack of anger. She has faced abuse and mistreatment of many kinds over the decades, but she touches on the most appalling passages lightly—though not so lightly you don't feel the torment of the media attention on the events leading up to her divorce from Tommy Lee. Her trip to the pages of Playboy, which involved an escape from a violent fiance and sneaking across the border, is one of many jaw-dropping stories. In one interesting passage, Julian Assange's mother counsels Anderson to desexualize her image in order to be taken more seriously as an activist. She decided that “it was too late to turn back now”—that sexy is an inalienable part of who she is. Throughout her account of this kooky, messed-up, enviable, and often thrilling life, her humility (her sons "are true miracles, considering the gene pool") never fails her.A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.
Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2023
Page Count: 256
Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023
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SEEN & HEARD
by Barbra Streisand ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 7, 2023
What a talent, what a career, what a life, and what a treat to relive it all with this most down-to-earth of demigods.
A gloriously massive memoir from a sui generis star.
When Keith Richards and Bruce Springsteen published 500-page memoirs, that seemed long—but as we learned, they really did have that much to say. Streisand doubles the ante with 1,000 pages. In addition to chronicling her own life, the author offers fascinating lessons on acting, directing, film editing, sound mixing, lighting, and more, as revealed in detailed accounts of the making of each of her projects. As Stephen Sondheim commented about her, “It’s not just the gift, it’s the willingness to take infinite pains.” The pains really pay off. With every phase of her life, from childhood in Brooklyn to her 27-year-romance with current husband, James Brolin, Streisand throws everything she has—including her mother’s scrapbook and her own considerable talent as a writer—into developing the characters, settings, conversations, meals, clothes, and favorite colors and numbers of a passionately lived existence. In the process, she puts her unique stamp on coffee ice cream, egg rolls, dusty rose, pewter gray, the number 24, Donna Karan, Modigliani, and much more. Among the heroes are her father, who died when she was very young but nevertheless became an ongoing inspiration. The villains include her mother, whose coldness and jealousy were just as consistent. An armada of ex-boyfriends, colleagues, and collaborators come to life in a tone that captures the feel of Streisand’s spoken voice by way of Yiddishisms, parenthetical asides, and snappy second thoughts. The end is a little heavy on tributes, but you wouldn’t want to miss the dog cloning, the generous photo section, or this line, delivered in all seriousness: “Looking back, I feel as if I didn't fulfill my potential.”What a talent, what a career, what a life, and what a treat to relive it all with this most down-to-earth of demigods.
Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023
Page Count: 992
Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023
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