There is a new book out by actress Illeana Douglas that is worth reading. Titled "I Blame Dennis Hopper", Illeana relates how her childhood was transformed after her father saw Dennis Hopper's film "Easy Rider" in 1969. He quit his well-paying job and built a hippie commune in the family's backyard. Illeana's grandfather was actor Melvyn Douglas, who starred in films with Greta Garbo and Paul Newman, among others. She is a true film buff and natural-born storyteller, funny and wry.
Eve Babitz, L.A.'s "It" girl from the sixties and seventies, is getting hot again. Her collection of autobiographical stories, "Eve's Hollywood", is back in print. Babitz, whose godfather was Igor Stravinsky, argues that Los Angeles was anything but a cultural wasteland during her youth. A graduate of Hollywood High School, she designed album covers for Linda Ronstadt and chilled out with Jim Morrison of The Doors. Producers Amy Pascal and Elizabeth Cantillon have optioned four of Babitz's books, planning a television series based on her experiences.
Screenwriter Frederica Sagor Maas published her memoirs in 1999, titled "The Shocking Miss Pilgrim: A Writer in Early Hollywood". Sagor received her first major screen credit on the Clara Bow film, "The Plastic Age" (1925). Sagor was under contract at MGM, and also worked at the smaller studios. When her writing career faded, possibly due to her outspokenness and left-leaning political views, she worked as a literary agent.
Sagor had contact with many of the screen greats, including a young Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo. She also knew Dalton Trumbo, who was the subject of a biopic last year. Her memoir is a fascinating look at early Hollywood and the role women played in the film industry.
In 1970, silent film star Pola Negri published her autobiography, "Memoirs of a Star". Negri rose from a poverty-stricken childhood in Poland to become one of the top stars of the silent era, known for her work with German director Ernst Lubitsch. Despite her penchant for exaggeration, her book is still highly entertaining. She also offers the occasional perceptive comment about film and acting: "I always distrust a performer who looks at a role and asks what she, herself, would do in the situation. The moment she does, she is no longer creating the character but re-creating her own personality. The interpretation of the author's intention must be her first duty."
Producer Lynda Obst is being rewarded for her thirty-plus year career in Hollywood. On June 15th, 2016, she will be an Excellence in Film honoree at the Women in Film Awards. Obst's credits include "Interstellar" (2014) and "Contact" (1997).
In 1996, Obst published a memoir titled "Hello, He Lied: and Other Truths from the Hollywood Trenches". The book is really a business manual on how to succeed in the film industry, with sections like "The Ten Commandments for Chix in Flix". She also states, "You lose if you don't respect the fact that this game has been played in a particular way since its inception...Only the players change." Obst does not dish on the players she has worked with; this is for readers interested in understanding how Hollywood functions as an industry.
Last week, I reviewed "The Caller" starring Frank Langella. In 2012, Langella published a memoir titled "Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women as I Knew Them". The book is a collection of stand-alone chapters, each containing Langella's thoughts and recollections of a well-known personality. Some of the people he has encountered include Jackie Kennedy, Robert Mitchum, Rita Hayworth, Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, and Paul Newman. Since Langella met many of these people toward the end of their careers/lives, the way he portrays them is often with a tone of melancholy and regret. The book does offer an insider's view of the joys and hazards of the actor's life.
"Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool" is British actor Peter Turner's memoir of his brief love affair with actress Gloria Grahame shortly before her death in 1981. Turner was several decades younger than Grahame, but his love and respect for her is evident in his book. Grahame had a tumultuous love life, and at one point married her stepson (making her ex-husband her new father-in-law!). Turner mentions this fact but doesn't dwell on it. Grahame spent time in Turner's family home while suffering from the stomach cancer that ultimately killed her.
Annette Bening will play Grahame in an upcoming film version of this book, to be released sometime in 2017. The memoir has been reissued with a new afterword by Peter Turner. It is a quick read and time well-spent.
So I'm fudging the topic a little bit by including Al Franken here, but his new book "Al Franken: Giant of the Senate" is funny, candid and enlightening. Franken does give some detail about his work on "Saturday Night Live". He and his partner Tom Davis wrote the famous Julia Child sketch for Dan Ackroyd (Save the Liver!). What I did not know is that Franken co-wrote the screenplay for the Andy Garcia/Meg Ryan film, "When a Man Loves a Woman". The story is autobiographical, as Franken's wife battled an alcohol addiction. There are also laugh-out-loud moments, especially concerning Ted Cruz. Writer Louise Erdrich said she skipped meals in order to read this book, while I was almost late for work because of it.
"Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool" premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on Saturday, Sept. 2nd. The film will get a limited release around Christmas and then go wide in January. You can check out the trailer now (as usual, I think it gives away too much). Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool Official Trailer Annette Bening does, however, capture Gloria Grahame's unique voice and make it her own.
The book jacket for Nolte's new memoir contains no blurbs or positive reviews from friends or co-workers - never a good sign. Nolte's book does not contain a great deal of insight; he is rather flippant regarding his multiple marriages and his substance abuse. Although he has used multiple drugs throughout his life, Nolte makes it sound easy to beat an addiction. Regarding his career, he gives Barbra Streisand high marks as a director and "The Prince of Tides" remains one of his favorite films. Nolte has had a remarkable career as an actor and "Rebel" is a reminder of the many excellent films he has made.
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