Like most oral histories, a tad self-indulgent but filled with insights and good dish that movie buffs will relish.

Tape recordings made in the three years before Orson Welles’ death in 1985 capture the legendary film director’s outsized personality.

As editor Biskind (Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America, 2010, etc.) explains in his introduction, Henry Jaglom talked Welles into acting in his first feature, A Safe Place, in 1971, and they became friends. Jaglom’s generation worshipped the creator of Citizen Kane as a groundbreaking auteur who pioneered their sort of personal filmmaking; Welles liked to be worshipped. By the time Jaglom began recording their conversations over lunches at Ma Maison, Welles hadn’t made a movie in 10 years, and F Is for Fake (1974) had flopped. Aided by Jaglom, he was trying to get financing for a film version of King Lear or his political script, The Big Brass Ring. But nothing came through, and Welles’ income from TV commercials had also dried up; his reputation was at a low point. In conversation, Welles shows himself eager to disprove his critics, as well as to savagely gossip about his bitterly estranged theatrical partner, John Houseman, and to comment unflatteringly on the talents of friends/rivals, from Laurence Oliver and John Huston to Marlon Brando and Peter Bogdanovich. Jaglom, an admirer but not a sycophant, occasionally protests such judgments, but he’s unfailingly supportive of a friend they both know is in the twilight of his career. Welles could be mean-spirited and insufferable, but he was also blazingly intelligent. His nailing of Woody Allen and Charlie Chaplin as sharing “that particular combination of arrogance and timidity [that] sets my teeth on edge” is characteristic of his sharp wit about every aspect of moviemaking, and he’s just as smart about history, music and fine art. You can understand why his friends were so devoted.

Like most oral histories, a tad self-indulgent but filled with insights and good dish that movie buffs will relish.

Pub Date: July 16, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9725-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2013


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



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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