An engaging and lavishly illustrated look at American film, from the master director. Based on the scripts of two documentaries on American film by Scorsese and writer/director Wilson, this is less a history than a catalogue raisonnÇ of the films that have shaped Scorsese's own works. He is a notoriously devoted film buff, and his knowledge of cinema is both encyclopedic and deeply, even humbly, practical: ``The more pictures I make, the more I realize that I really don't know. I'm always looking for something or someone that I can learn from.'' One of the rewards of this book is the number of filmmakers, such as Boetticher and Ulmer, and films, such as Silver Lode, that Scorsese retrieves from obscurity—the filmography at the end is not to be missed. As a director, he is understandably a strong proponent of the auteur theory and its emphasis on films as personal expressions. In fact, this book is organized around various modes and manners of directing, from the ``Director as Storyteller'' to the ``Director as Smuggler'' to the ``Director as Illusionist.'' Scorsese and Wilson's discussion of the difference between directors who worked subversively within the system (smugglers such as Fritz Lang) and those who worked against the system (iconoclasts such as Orson Welles) is particularly revealing, as is their analysis of the three uniquely American genres: musicals, Westerns, and gangster films. However, in line with this work's coffee table aspirations, Scorsese and Wilson often tend to favor ``let's go to the highlights'' film appreciation over rigorous film criticism. This book also suffers from its screenplay origins—it doesn't read nearly as well as it plays—but it is a worthy albeit idiosyncratic window on American film and its shaping influence on a major director. (Book-of-the-Month Club selection)
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").
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)