While it lingers over past wrongs, this work about writing Frank Capra’s biography remains entertainingly sincere.



A memoir recounts the arduous process of producing a book on a celebrated film director.

McBride (Two Cheers for Hollywood, 2017, etc.) explains that creating an extensive, warts-and-all biography of an American icon was no simple task. In fact, it was a monumental time- and energy-consuming process that eventually produced a book in 1992. The story begins much earlier with the author’s efforts in Hollywood. He was a screenwriter with some successes (co-writing, for example, the film that became the Ramones vehicle Rock ’n’ Roll High School), a journalist, and author. His earnest interest in movies pushed him to “seek out and interview every venerable director I admired.” In 1975, he was able to interview Frank Capra while “on self-assignment” for Daily Variety. It would prove the first of many interviews that would lead to seeking out all there was to know about the man behind such classic films as It’s a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. But not all of the discoveries would be pleasant ones. Capra, it turns out, made plenty of enemies in his time, particularly during the Red Scare of the 1950s when he had “thrown colleagues to the witch hunters to save his own skin.” McBride battled everyone from lawyers to a distrustful university archivist to uncover and publish the details of Capra’s epic journey. Readers are reminded that this was an uphill battle all the way and that the biography genre “challenges you on every level as a researcher and writer, critic and scholar.” Although the idea of the story behind a biography of a film director may not sound like riveting stuff, the tale is marked with deceit, a car crash, and a desire to know. What does it take to produce a less-than-glamorous portrait of a man who many consider a genius? The author deftly shows exactly what it took and the specifics are most telling. The book dives deeply into concerns like the fair use of material, including presenting information on a court case involving a biography of J.D. Salinger in 1987. Somewhat less thrilling are the many foes McBride seeks to expose. Did a university archivist really send a graduate student to spy on the author while he worked through Capra’s papers? Does it matter at this point? Still, McBride has some intriguing things to impart and he is not afraid to reveal them. He considers Michael Bay “the worst director in modern Hollywood.” And don’t get the author started on the idea of the film director as auteur. While he’s indisputably cranky in places, McBride’s overall honesty strongly comes across in these pages. Who knew something as seemingly innocuous as penning a biography would entail so much lasting conflict?

While it lingers over past wrongs, this work about writing Frank Capra’s biography remains entertainingly sincere.

Pub Date: March 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-949950-47-2

Page Count: 601

Publisher: Vervante

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2019

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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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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