Author Topic: Favorite Books on Directors, Actors, Etc.?  (Read 1716 times)

Favorite Books on Directors, Actors, Etc.?
« on: March 02, 2020, 11:30:26 PM »
I love biographies, but I really love autobiographies, because its (hopefully) coming from the source, even if they might leave out a few details.

Or a book about Hollywood, or the movie-making process… I just bought one entitled, "Letters from Hollywood: Inside the Private World of Classic American Movemaking"

I have Marlon Brando's autobiography "Songs My Mother Taught Me" and would highly recommend it.

Highly recommend
Conversations with Filmmakers Series
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conversations_with_Filmmakers_Series

I'll add more once I take a look… Please share any recommendations!

Re: Favorite Books on Directors, Actors, Etc.?
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2020, 12:20:52 AM »
John Waters' Shock Value is great.  He's someone I find funnier as a person than a film maker, so any books and talks are always worth seeking out.

Despite not knowing his films, I really liked Errol Flynn's My Wicked, Wicked Ways for being so eventful and candid (if not always that likeable).

Sin Agog

  • Dogs fucked the pope; no fault of mine
Re: Favorite Books on Directors, Actors, Etc.?
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2020, 01:42:41 AM »
Despite not knowing his films, I really liked Errol Flynn's My Wicked, Wicked Ways for being so eventful and candid (if not always that likeable).

I loved that book, even if he was an actual fucking slave-driver at one point in, if I recall correctly, Papua New Guinea.  Fuck's sake, Errol.  Way worse than your standard womanising sins.


Good ones:

Ingmar Bergman - The Magic Lantern.  I believe there's another one of his more devoted to the nitty-gritty of his films, but this is his personal reflections and he could sometimes be utterly excoriating, at least when it came to himself.  Extremely honest.  Reminded me a bit of Bunuel's My Last Sigh.

Akira Kurosawa - Something Like an Autobiography.  Only covers his career up to Rashomon (after which he felt the scope and popularity of his subsequent films would overwhelm the tone he was going for), but it's a really good book, especially when it came to the hierarchy of the pre-war Japanese film industry and his relationships with people like Naruse and Ozu.  I consider the '30s Japanese films I've seen some of the most humane movies I've ever viewed- particularly the director Sadao Yamanaka who died before he turned 30 in the war- and this is a sharp-focused snapshot of the era.

Cronenberg on Cronenberg/Herzog on Herzog/Hawks on Hawks/Godard on Godard/Sirk on Sirk/Lynch on Lynch/and Cassavetes on Cassavetes you obviously know about.  All of these things are culled from interviews conducted personally with the directors, as well as TV, radio, print interviews they've done over the years, and then painstakingly edited into something with some kind of through-line that's fun to read.  I'd hate to think about all the innumerable ums and aimless digressions an editor would have to cut out from Sin Agog on Sin Agog.

The BFI film classics are fun little epilogues to your favourite films or something you've just watched.  My favourites are Cleo de 5 & 7, Kind Hearts and Coronets, L'Atalante, Grey Gardens, Tales of Hoffman, Big Lebowski...

Of course one of the most important film books of all of the times is Amos Vogel's Film as a Subversive Art.  Some people find him a bit too heady and pretentious, but gottdamned if he wasn't the most important figure in film who never made an actual film himself.  It almost feels like he created the entire cinema counter-culture singlehandedly, which would be an overstatement, but he certainly gave a huge amount of it a home, and encouraged every cinematic rule-breaker with whom he crossed paths to then stamp on those broken rules until they turned to dust.

Re: Favorite Books on Directors, Actors, Etc.?
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2020, 06:22:26 AM »
Joseph McBride's biography of John Ford is magnificent.  The various contexts of his long life are well depicted and he makes you want to see the films.  His book about Capra I enjoyed a lot less.  Not sure why, other than it gets bogged down in a lot of detail, and it's also hurt by Capra seeming to be a man who was incapable of enjoying life.

Re: Favorite Books on Directors, Actors, Etc.?
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2020, 11:16:10 AM »
Werner Herzog's diaries (as in Conquest of the Useless) are hilarious to dip into although not much use if you want a proper account of how his films were made.

The Battle of Brazil about the "troubled" making of Terry Gilliam's masterpiece is very good.

It also seems hard to do a bad book about Orson Welles, with both David Thomson and (at somewhat ridiculous length) Simon Callow doing a good job.

And rather obvious recommendations but both William Goldman's memoirs, Adventures in the Screen Trade and Which Lie Did I Tell? are very entertaining about the business and craft of filmmaking, and Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (a history of 1970s New Hollywood) is very good film history.

Re: Favorite Books on Directors, Actors, Etc.?
« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2020, 01:23:05 PM »
"Cassavetes on Cassavetes" is a great one.

Dex Sawash

  • Silver Member
  • ****
  • Upphängningspunkterna
Re: Favorite Books on Directors, Actors, Etc.?
« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2020, 05:11:47 PM »

Kamasutra on Jenny Agutter

Re: Favorite Books on Directors, Actors, Etc.?
« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2020, 07:43:14 PM »
Film as a Subversive Art.

It's less well known but Film Is by Stephen Dwoskin is equally essential. It treads similar ground, but as he was involved with filmmaking himself has more insider tales. Like any great film book it made me want to see everything mentioned, though doing so for a lot of them still remains difficult.

The Ghastly One by Jimmy McDonough is a sensational biography of misanthropic zero budget auteur Andy Milligan. I have a great fondness for Milligan's ramshackle melodramas but I know many who can't stand them still adored that book. John Waters is a huge fan of course. It's been out of print for years now but an expanded reprint is on the way from FAB Press.

I'm also a huge fan of Stephen Thrower's deep dives into genre cinema. Having the patience and erudition to make sense of the vast minefield that is Jess Franco's filmography is a major achievement. And Nightmare USA I enjoyed so much I ended up seeking out every single film covered within.

Re: Favorite Books on Directors, Actors, Etc.?
« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2020, 08:56:49 PM »
Some lovely picks here.

Two biographies are always go-to suggestions for me:

The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre by Stephen Youngkin. Probably the best biography I’ve read about an actor and am struggling to think of a better biography that I’ve ever read full stop. A real labour of love (going from memory, but I think it took 20 years) the level of research is incredible as is the amount of people that Youngkin interviewed.

There’s a lot of fascinating information about the film industry and production. The section about Lorre’s sole directorial film (which the book takes its name from) does the masterpiece justice.

Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life And Times Of W. C. Fields by Simon Louvish. Great biography that busts a few fair myths about Fields and also examines (brilliantly) the films he made. A section for one (It’s a Gift, I think) was published as one of the BFI’s books that Sin Agog.

Re: Favorite Books on Directors, Actors, Etc.?
« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2020, 09:03:44 PM »
...The Ghastly One by Jimmy McDonough is a sensational biography of misanthropic zero budget auteur Andy Milligan. I have a great fondness for Milligan's ramshackle melodramas but I know many who can't stand them still adored that book. John Waters is a huge fan of course. It's been out of print for years now but an expanded reprint is on the way from FAB Press....

That's pretty much me sold then!

One book that I often recommend with these sort of threads is McDonough's Russ Meyer biography (and more than likely would have done so here sooner or later) and I've been meaning to check out for ages more of his work.

Egyptian Feast

  • Who wants to DIE for art?!
Re: Favorite Books on Directors, Actors, Etc.?
« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2020, 09:30:34 PM »
I'm also a huge fan of Stephen Thrower's deep dives into genre cinema. Having the patience and erudition to make sense of the vast minefield that is Jess Franco's filmography is a major achievement. And Nightmare USA I enjoyed so much I ended up seeking out every single film covered within.

Nice one, that sounds like a worthy challenge. Great book. I didn't see anywhere near as many of the films covered, but at least it introduced me to Boardinghouse and Death Bed - The Bed That Eats. I've only read this and his Lucio Fulci book, but Thrower is great and I should really check out that Franco book.

That Andy Milligan biography sounds brilliant, I'm definitely picking up the reprint.

Re: Favorite Books on Directors, Actors, Etc.?
« Reply #11 on: March 04, 2020, 09:51:25 AM »
"The Ghastly One by Jimmy McDonough is a sensational biography of misanthropic zero budget auteur Andy Milligan".

It's such a fantastic book I'm really pleased there's a fancy new FAB Press edition coming out. Like all their books it looks really beautiful. I wrote to Jimmy a while back and he said the film rights to his Meyer biography had sold so there may be a film coming soon. The final chapters that deal with Russ's dementia are heartbreaking.

Re: Favorite Books on Directors, Actors, Etc.?
« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2020, 05:26:32 PM »
I wrote to Jimmy a while back and he said the film rights to his Meyer biography had sold so there may be a film coming soon.

They had better call it Rack Focus.

Re: Favorite Books on Directors, Actors, Etc.?
« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2020, 12:05:50 AM »
I'm not finished, but "Bloody Sam: The Life and Films of Sam Peckinpah" is one I'd recommend. I like some of his movies, but always found him to be more interesting that his films.

Re: Favorite Books on Directors, Actors, Etc.?
« Reply #14 on: March 07, 2020, 12:37:13 AM »
Joan's Book (Joan Littlewood)
Kinski On Kinski
Nightmare of Ecstasy: Life and Art of Edward D. Wood Jr
Hitchcock by Truffaut

Egyptian Feast

  • Who wants to DIE for art?!
Re: Favorite Books on Directors, Actors, Etc.?
« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2020, 03:03:11 PM »
Nightmare of Ecstasy: Life and Art of Edward D. Wood Jr

Excellent book.

How I Made 100 Movies In Hollywood & Never Lost A Dime by Roger Corman, courtesy of an ex over 20 years ago, is one of the best presents I've ever received. I still dig it out every few years and reread. I wish he'd do a follow-up talking about churning out exploitation movies in the post-Jaws era, but he's not likely to at this stage.

Tags: