JIMMY STEWART

A LIFE IN FILM

Largely scissors-and-paste celebio of Stewart, spiced with two interviews that Pickard, a British film scholar, conducted with the actor over the years. Stewart biographies (e.g., Allen Eyles's James Stewart, 1984, and the two on film—one for PBS's Great Performances, the other for the American Film Institute) all seem to give off the same warm glow, as if each biographer has just been kissed by Kim Novak and Donna Reed while Katharine Hepburn served oolong tea and gingersnaps. But Pickard drives home the thought that, aside from Stewart's humanity and idealism—not to mention his genuine courage as a bomber-group commander leading nearly 20 missions over Germany during WW II—the actor's main qualities, seldom understood by his fans, are his versatility and artistry. Suicidal George Bailey of It's a Wonderful Life is not filibustering Jefferson Smith of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, who is not Charles Lindbergh of The Spirit of St. Louis or the voyeur of Rear Window, and so on. After the war, the honeymoon of Stewart's return to film lasted only a few years before a string of flops told him he'd played out all his rope and needed a new line in acting. Luckily, his first Western (Winchester `73, 1950) was a smash, toughening him up and reviving his career. The great tragedy in Stewart's life, Pickard reminds us, was the death of one of his twin sons in Vietnam. That war also ended Stewart's type of Western, forcing him to turn to two TV series, The Jimmy Stewart Show and Hawkins, that were no better than they had to be. Slim pickings on a tasty bird. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 1993

ISBN: 0-312-08828-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1992

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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