On the Bedside Table - Summer Reading 2014

We're now officially into the summer reading season. I've been remiss in reporting on books I've picked up lately. I also wanted to let you know about some books coming up later this year that I feel will be well worth picking up.

Since slogging through Victoria Wilson’s book on Barbara Stanwyck, I have become quite fond of kindle editions since I am not schlepping around a huge brick of a book.  Most of what I have been reading has been on the kindle app.  You suffer with tiny photos and some odd formatting glitches, but, much easier to read on the bus!

 I cannot recommend highly enough Mark Harris’ recently published Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War It was engrossing from page 1 and a thoroughly well researched and documented history of the wartime lives of Frank Capra, John Ford, John Huston, George Stevens and William Wyler.  The subject is a piece of history that needed to be told and it’s fresh and a vigorously written.  You can also see how the various wartime experiences affected each director, especially George Stevens (who I have always held as one of the finest IMO).  A must read! 

Scott Eyman’s John Wayne Life and Legend also crossed under my nose.  Eyman’s prose has always appealed to me and I was afraid my lack of real interest in Wayne as a performer would color my feelings about the book.  Pshaw!  Eyman is an elegant writer and his research has always been impeccable.  My knowledge of Wayne and his career was scanty and confined to clich├ęd sound bytes.  I found myself liking Wayne a good deal (politics aside) and the book is a great read.  I do have to say I disagree with the assesment of Wayne's film Circus World.  It was a staple on tv when I was young and I have great fondness for it.  Sadly, not available on DVD.  Following on the above Five Came Back,  I found myself really, really not liking John Ford.  Bottom line is, I’ve sold Wanye short and did not give him much credit as an actor and producer.  Shame on me.  I thought it was a readable, level-headed and fine book.  I think now I need to give some of his 5 day westerns a chance, I will bet they are fun!  It also boasts one of the most beautiful portraits of Wayne I have ever seen on the cover.  Hubba!  Two Thumbs Up as Siskel and Ebert would say.

I’ve got the brick and mortar copy of Douglas Fairbanks and theAmerican Century by John C. Tibbetts and James M. Welch sitting on the bedside table, literally.  I’m looking forward to picking it up and reading it, I love all things Douglas Fairbanks!

Coming up later this year are two books I’ve pre-ordered and wanted to let you know they’re out there.  First, I make no secret my favorite film blogger is the Self-StyledSiren.  Her perceptive and beautifully composed blog enlightens me and makes me envious of her talent with words.  I was excited to see on a Facebook post and on her blog that The Siren has a novel coming out that will be near and dear to the film geek’s heart.  Her novel entitled Missing Reels is being published in November by Overlook Press.  You can pre-order it on amazon and read more about it here on the Siren’s blog. It’s going to be a great and I can’t wait to read it!

Next up is a long overdue examination of the great silent era director Rex Ingram by Ruth Barton entitled Rex Ingram: Visionary Director of the SilentScreen.  Ingram has not been examined in detail since Liam O’Leary’s groundbreaking book on the director.  So much new material has come to light on Ingram as his films have been rediscovered.  Of course I am interested because of his landmark The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but there is so much more to learn about the man who directed Scaramouche, The Prisoner of Zenda (1922), Where the Pavement Ends, The Arab, The Magician and Mare Nostrum.  Ingram was a visionary, he was a pioneer who, like Von Stroheim chaffed under studio rule and Louis B. Mayer’s thumb.  Dr. Barton also maintains a website for Ingram here.
Finally, thanks to a squib on his website and confirmation by email from the man himself, James Curtis another of my favorite authors is working on a biography of the great designer and producer William Cameron Menzies.  It is slated for publication in 2015.  Another person that I feel is LONG overdue examination.  Again, I can hardly wait!
After Fairbanks, what shall I read next? 


Hamlette said…
I really need to read the new John Wayne bio -- I've been reading such good things about it! And I've seen a bunch of his "oaters," and they're hilarious! There are so many of them available -- you can get a set of 20 of them for $5 most of the time. One of my favorites is "Randy Rides Alone," which never fails to make me laugh.
Tinky said…
You're making me jealous! I want to read all of them plus--but I'll settle for the books I HAVE to read for work (for the moment). Let us know how you like the next couple.....
Jef Roberts said…
Politics aside, I have always had a soft spot for Wayne. He's pretty much a straight ahead actor - with the possible exception of Red River, The Quiet Man, and The Searchers. But something about him has always been entertaining for me and I have lived with quite a few of his movies for multiple viewings over the years. I really must investigate early stuff though. My Wayne watching begins with Stagecoach.
Jef Roberts said…
I will add the bio to my reading list too on your recommendation.

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