On the Bedside Table

Per usual, I am dipping into more than one book at a time, perhaps not the most efficient way to read and absorb, but, that is always how it has been with me.  Before I get started on what I am currently reading, let me begin with an announcement of a new book coming down the pike. 

I am very excited about this one.  In the interest of full disclosure, the author is a very dear friend of mine.  I've been watching this project gestate and am thrilled to announce a new biography of Douglas Fairbanks Sr. by Tracey Goessel entitled The First King of Hollywood: The Life of Douglas Fairbanks.  It's coming out in October and you can order it by hitting the link above.  Having read an early draft of the manuscript, I can state without reservation, this will be a terrific read!  Tracey is the foremost collector of Douglas Fairbanks and has utilized some amazing material housed in her massive collection for this book, stuff that has never before been seen. 

I just recently finished Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen.  This certainly was a page-turner. I had no problem with the switch between the Lombard biography and the events leading up to the crash. I found the biography of Lombard to be "bio-lite" easy to skim and clearly cribbed from the sources. It was also rather scanty, which is fine.  The tome would have been much longer and only adding pages and no new material really.  The meat of the research went into the files on the crash, recovery the aftermath, and final investigation, this was very good. I like that he gave names and stories of the other victims of this accident, Lombard was the big name, but there were others on board. That was nice, it completed the story.

Where the author completely lost me had to do with either ridiculously easy errors in the text to correct such as the oft-repeated "Robert Stack Academy Award Winner," no he was a nominee. The real deal breaker for me were the pages and pages where the author put himself in Clark Gable's head and was expressing thoughts, feelings and memories of Lombard for which he had no source. I suppose it was to make Gable a more human tragic figure, but, it made me groan. The notes in the kindle edition were scanty and I assume the same in the brick and mortar version.  It was a fast read, nicely paced.  Buy it here.

Just when you thought the final word on Buster Keaton had been written, you come across this richly detailed and meticulously researched book. Buster Keaton's Crew The Team Behind His Silent Films by Lisle Foote highlights and shines the spotlight on the unsung heroes who worked, played baseball, helped create, supported, and filmed Buster Keaton. This is one of those books, a must for the silent film fan, and, the Keaton aficionado in particular. Scrupulously researched, there are a thousand stories hidden here. A must have for any Keaton Damfino or fan of silent film, you will see many many familiar names among the "players" and it is an absorbing read.  Buy it here.

I read this several months ago, Hope: Entertainer of the Century by  Richard Zoglin.  It was a very readable book. I think the problem with the entire book is simply the fact that Bob Hope controlled his public persona and that was solely what was presented in his own books (ghostwritten or not) as well as here. You get the shtick and not the man down deep. The author mentions that Hope was not what you would call introspective. Certainly not in public. Plenty of people who worked with Hope have been interviewed, neverheless, there is no real depth or examination. I enjoyed the book a good deal as a chronicle of Hope's career, his early years and struggle to rise to the top was most interesting to me as it was the period that was so little known. As an examination of what made Bob Hope tick just is not there. It seems Hope never let his hair down and revealed the inner man, even to his surviving children. He did a lot of good work, made some good films and he worked tirelessly for the men and women in uniform overseas. I suspect this is the most thorough book on Hope that will likely be written. My feelings at the end are somewhat ambivalent about the man and I certainly did not agree with his politics. But, that is neither here nor there, it's a free country!  I suspect I will go watch They Got Me Covered or My Favorite Brunette and I will laugh and enjoy the movies and that, will be just fine.

I've got a bun in the oven right now, more on Rudolph Valentino.  How much more can there be, you ask?  Well, there is a thorough examination of his career and his reception across the world.  Slated to complete in 2016, here is my shameless announcement and a link to the Facebook page if you want to keep up with the progress


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