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The sad story, well and respectfully told, of an American original struggling with procrustean politics, timorous producers...

A veteran biographer of film legends records the sad career arc of Nicholas Ray (1911–1979), the director of one of Hollywood’s most iconic films, Rebel Without a Cause (1955).

McGilligan (Oscar Micheaux: The Great and Only, 2007, etc.), who has also written biographies of directors Altman, Cukor, Hitchcock and Eastwood, plunges into Ray’s majestic and messy story with his customary assiduousness, creating a clear and balanced portrait of a most complex man. Born Raymond Nicholas Kienzle in Wisconsin, Ray soon drifted toward community theater, then radio, then the leftist, experimental theater that flourished in his youth. One of his teachers in Chicago was Thornton Wilder, and Ray, who soon moved to Hollywood, seemed to have met and befriended (and often betrayed) just about every showbiz notable in the third quarter of the 20th century, including Elia Kazan, John Houseman, Gloria Grahame, Howard Hughes, James Dean, Joan Crawford, Natalie Wood, John Wayne, Richard Burton, Gore Vidal, Charlton Heston and myriad others. He was, temporarily, an acolyte of Frank Lloyd Wright and worked with Alan Lomax, Pete Seeger and others in the folk-music scene. Although he never had total control of a film, he still directed about 20, including some that appear on critics’ lists of notables—including They Live By NightIn a Lonely Place, On Dangerous GroundJohnny GuitarKing of Kings and others. His serial womanizing and several marriages (well chronicled here), his struggles with alcohol and drugs, his gambling addiction and his incessant tinkering with scripts all soon made him persona non grata among producers.

The sad story, well and respectfully told, of an American original struggling with procrustean politics, timorous producers and personal demons.

Pub Date: July 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-073137-3

Page Count: 560

Publisher: It Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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