As riveting and revealing as a film by an Oscar winner.




Entertainment Weekly writer Harris (Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood, 2008) returns with a comprehensive, cleareyed look at the careers of five legendary directors who put their Hollywood lives on freeze-frame while they went off to fight in the only ways they knew how.

“As long as they lived,” writes the author, “the war lived with them.” Arranged chronologically (beginning in 1938), the text generally includes the doings of each of the five (John Ford, George Stevens, John Huston, William Wyler and Frank Capra) in each of the chapters, with Harris artfully intercutting events from his principals’ private as well as professional lives. The author also keeps us up to date on Hollywood without his five, showing us the stars who were winning Oscars, how the five felt about the winners (sometimes themselves) and how Hollywood sought to profit from the war. Harris segues seamlessly to scenes all over the world—the Aleutians, England, France, Germany, Italy, the South Pacific and other venues important in the war and in his story. We learn along the way of the involvement in various cinema projects by other considerable talents—e.g., Lillian Hellman, cinematographer Gregg Toland, Theodor Geisl, Mel Blanc and animator Chuck Jones. Some of the five worked together (Capra and Stevens), but others worked separately on feature-length documentaries, short subjects and films for military use only. Among the more enduring productions were The Memphis Belle: The Story of a Flying Fortress (Wyler, 1944) and the powerful, wrenching footage shot in 1945 at the liberation of Dachau by George Stevens’ crew. Stevens was devastated by what he saw and later shot The Diary of Anne Frank (1959). Harris also chronicles the politics, personality clashes (military vs. Hollywood), egos, drinking, carousing and sexual exploits.

As riveting and revealing as a film by an Oscar winner.

Pub Date: March 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59420-430-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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


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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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