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 The second half of Powell's autobiography, like the first, shows the British filmmaker to be an exceptionally fine writer. Powell takes up the story where the first volume (A Life in Movies, 1987) left off, just after Powell and his partner, screenwriter Emeric Pressburger, had reached the top of the British film heap with The Red Shoes in 1948. In the second volume, sadly, things begin to fall apart for the Archers (as their film company was called). Unpleasant, even disastrous, involvement with Hollywood producers Samuel Goldwyn and David O. Selznick result in a string of flops. Although they recoup with the enormous commercial success of The Battle of the River Plate (1956), the partnership dissolves. Powell goes on to make Peeping Tom (1959), a masterpiece that enrages the critics with its violence, scaring the distributor into virtually suppressing the film. Powell goes to Australia, where he makes two successful films and jump-starts a moribund film industry. After that, however, the book becomes a depressing catalogue of projects not realized as onetime friends shun a filmmaker who they feel has grown too old to employ. As in the first book, Powell offers splendidly vivid descriptive writing, ruthlessly honest self-evaluations, and generous and evocative portraits of famous men and women as varied as Frederick Ashton, Alexander Korda, Thomas Beecham, Jennifer Jones, and Selznick. Unfortunately, Powell died after completing the first draft of the book and his widow, film editor Thelma Schoonmaker, appears to have been reluctant to allow much tampering with his final work. As a result, the book occasionally rambles and sometimes reads like transcribed dictation (which much of it is). On the other hand, some of Powell's digressions are as fascinating as the story from which they divert us. A book of charm and panache, this is a lovely legacy. (24 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: April 5th, 1995
ISBN: 0-679-43443-7
Page count: 612pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1995