Trenchant film-by-film analysis from an author clearly in love with his subject. A compelling introduction to one of...




Companion volume to LaSalle’s Complicated Ladies (2000), about female stars of Hollywood’s aesthetically rich pre-Code era.

In 1929 the advent of talking movies opened the door to more provocative Hollywood filmmaking, often imbued with strong social commentary. But in 1934, reactionary forces succeeded in establishing the Production Code, a mechanism that allowed a small group to decide what was acceptable for the nation’s movie screens—a form of control that held sway for the next quarter-century. LaSalle’s premise is that the five-year pre-Code era of 1929–34 was a seminal period in American movie-making that helped foster the very ideal of the modern man, caught between his own sense of right and an increasingly mechanized, conformist society. Those years offered directors opportunities to express serious concerns about American society while featuring an array of leading men—Clark Gable, Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney, Rudolph Valentino, among others—who were “dangerous” in that they broke with the smiling, swashbuckling heroes of the ’20s silents. They questioned and resisted authority, shaded the lines between good and evil, challenged concepts of law and order, and introduced caddish and even cruel behavior in screen romances. Above all, they were the key players in an emboldened Hollywood that made movies about and for a generation disillusioned by WWI and the Depression. This is film studies and not social history, yet LaSalle’s descriptions of films and stars can’t help but illuminate America at a time that was uncertain. The author’s erudition is great, and his writing is lively, precise, and witty in his discussions of classic films such as Public Enemy, Gold Diggers of 1933, 42nd Street, I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang, Little Caesar, Central Park, All Quiet on the Western Front, Wild Boys of the Road, and Son of the Sheik.

Trenchant film-by-film analysis from an author clearly in love with his subject. A compelling introduction to one of Hollywood’s golden eras.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-312-28311-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2002

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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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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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