WALT DISNEY

HOLLYWOOD'S DARK PRINCE

Muckraking, unauthorized biography of Disney that nonetheless paints such a rending picture of his childhood and young manhood that one forgives most of his later lapses. Eliot (Down Thunder Road, 1991, etc.) thinks that Disney was a great artist—which may account for what turns out to be a largely sympathetic biography of the filmmaker's dark side. Disney's fundamentalist father, Elias, was such a monster to his sons, whom he beat mercilessly, that Walt came to believe he wasn't his father's child—nor would Walt's mother protect him from Elias's savagery. These trials, and especially the anxiety about his parentage, became the template for Disney's later cartoon stories, Eliot says, and account in part for the mogul's endless troubles with his stable of animators, whom he underpaid and refused to give any power to. Nor would Disney grant Mickey Mouse's real creator, fellow animator Ub Iwerks, his proper credit, though Iwerks was Disney's oldest friend aside from the filmmaker's brother, Roy. On his marriage night, Disney found himself impotent, Eliot says, a state that later recurred during times of stress, which were exacerbated by a drinking problem and bouts of depression. Meanwhile, Disney's father had instilled in the boy a hatred of Jews, and Walt never curbed his tongue about Jews among his animators—and especially not when talking about fellow studio heads. He felt cut out of the real money in Hollywood since he could only produce movies with his own money while other studios monopolized distribution and exhibition. Following WW II, Disney helped organize resistance to the studio monopolies and in many ways brought about the downfall of the studio system. Earlier, he had become an informant for the FBI—according to Eliot, Disney wanted J. Edgar Hoover to investigate whether he really was the son of his alleged father—and, here, the author draws from some 500 pages of Disney's reports to the Bureau. Very readable, actually quite laudable, work. (Sixteen pages of photographs—not seen)

Pub Date: June 1, 1993

ISBN: 1-55972-174-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Birch Lane Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1993

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

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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