An informative, lavishly illustrated but often dry historical who’s who of Hollywood’s female side.

HOLLYWOOD: HER STORY

AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF WOMEN AND THE MOVIES

Both on-screen divas and off-screen talent are celebrated in this encyclopedia of female luminaries in the movie industry.

Historian Tietjen and Bridges, founder of Denver’s Women+Film, group these brief biographical snippets chronologically by decade and year, an arrangement that highlights the historical waning and waxing of women’s presence and clout in movies. They document much participation by women behind the camera in the industry’s early decades, starting with Alice Guy-Blaché, director of The Cabbage Fairy in 1896. Women were also busy working cameras, writing scripts, acting, and running their own production companies. The reign of the studio system from the 1920s into the ’60s, they contend, set women back as men consolidated their dominance of creative and executive positions. In these decades, their entries are heavy on Golden Age actresses, from Greta Garbo and Hedy Lamarr to Marilyn Monroe, with just two female directors, Dorothy Arzner and Ida Lupino, getting steady studio work. But women held their own as screenwriters and film editors and kept a toehold in everything from animation to color film technology. The entries from the ’70s to the present tell a story of flourishing female creative control. Women like Sherry Lansing became studio chiefs; female producers prospered; women thrived in crafts, from costume and set design to sound mixing; and female auteurs staged a comeback, culminating in Kathryn Bigelow’s best director Oscar for 2010’s The Hurt Locker. (Perhaps the greater testament to their entrenchment in present-day Hollywood are the entries on female directors who helmed high-grossing schlock like Twilight and Kung Fu Panda 2.)

The volume is a useful reference source with a wealth of facts, including information on most of the female Oscar winners through the years. (Some mistakes slip in; the authors have both Viola Davis and Emma Stone winning the 2017 best actress Oscar.) The entries resurrect many unsung figures who demonstrate the unexpected breadth of women’s contributions, including cinematographer Brianne Murphy’s development of safety features for filming high-speed car chase scenes and Katharine Blodgett’s invention of nonreflective glass for cameras. The book is a visual feast with lots of color photographs from various sources. Unfortunately, with so many women to cover and so much space taken up by visuals, the entries are mainly very spare, with only a few lines to encapsulate lengthy careers. Readers therefore get little sense of the meat of these women’s lives and their experiences in Hollywood. The most intriguing entries are slightly longer ones that open a window onto their subjects’ thinking, be it screenwriter Elinor Glyn’s timeless lament over butchered scripts—“Even when, at last, after infinite struggle, a scene was shot which bore some resemblance to the original story, it was certain to be left out in the cutting room, or pared away to such an extent that all meaning which it might once have had was lost”—or stuntwoman Frances Miles’ valedictory on the action genre. (“I’ve done all the falls, fights and chases you could ever think of. When Westerns began to go sissy with banjos, guitars and quartets I branched out into features.”) On those occasions when readers hear these women’s own words, the book comes alive with color and insight.

An informative, lavishly illustrated but often dry historical who’s who of Hollywood’s female side.

Pub Date: April 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4930-3705-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2020

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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