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review 2020-02-10 19:58
Home Work (Andrews)
Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years - Emma Walton Hamilton,Julie Andrews Edwards

"[T]he pressures were tremendous. Yet she never wavered. Her optimism, delicious humour and selfless nature were always on parade. It was if she'd been hired not just to act, sing and carry the entire film, but to keep everyone's spirits up as well. She did. She held us together and made us a team. Julie was quite transparent. There was no way she could conceal the simple truth that she cared profoundly for her work and for everyone else around her. I think that beneath my partly assumed sarcasm and indifference she saw that I cared too. As two people who barely came to know each other throughout those long months of filming, we had somehow bonded." (In Spite of Myself, p. 396).

 

So wrote Christopher Plummer about Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music".

 

In her own always-generous if always-measured way, Julie Andrews returns the compliment in this volume (p. 55):


"I didn't see much of Chris Plummer beyond the workday, as he spent most of his spare time at the Bristol. Word spread that he was becoming renowned for his late-night performances at the piano in the hotel bar. In his youth, he had trained to be a concert pianist, and he was very good indeed. He apparently spent his evenings at the bar getting quite smashed and playing Rachmaninoff or Tchaikovsky until the wee hours. That said, Chris was the glue that held us all together; the one who always kept us from going too deep into the saccharine side of the story. He was so disciplined in his acting, so knowledgeable, that he was appropriately imposing as the Captain. Yet he was very gentle, and constructive too. He'd make suggestions as to how we would play a certain scene..."

 

In that last sentence is reflected one of the pervading themes of this volume of Andrews' memoir: her relative insecurity as an actor (she took no acting lessons prior to making these blockbuster movies), which is the more striking in comparison to her complete confidence in her musical side.

 

Just as her singing features impeccable diction and razor-sharp intonation, Andrews' prose here is correct and well-crafted (and has gone through careful editing, obviously, by her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton). Though it's idiomatic and not over-formal, you will search in vain for exclamation marks or exaggerations in her prose. The net effect, especially if you are not reading carefully, is rather emotionless. It is only if you look carefully at exactly which well-chosen words she has actually chosen that you can read the emotion, barely beneath the surface. This is particularly true, of course, when she writes about her family - her divorce from her first husband, Tony Walton; and her long marriage to director Blake Edwards, and creation of a blended family (Emma, two of Edwards' children acquired through marriage, and two adopted orphans from Vietnam).

 

The detailed portion of the book, true to its title, is largely focused on Andrews' Hollywood films - the three huge musical hits (Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, and Victor/Victoria) as well as the somewhat lesser-known films, some hits and some misses (The Americanization of Emily, Hawaii, Star!, Thoroughly Modern Millie, S.O.B., 10 - and several others I've missed out, I'm sure). Since it's a chronological account, we also get stories about the Julie and Carol television specials, as well as her own TV series. In addition she chronicles the beginning of her side-hustle as a children's book writer. Since there's no mention of her late-life work (the Princess Diaries movies, for instance), I think it's possible that a volume 3 is in contemplation.

 

Oh yes, did that bond from "The Sound of Music" last? If you can believe the joint interview of Plummer and Andrews (2005) that I pulled up on youtube the other night, it most certainly did. The affection and respect between them didn't look at all acted to me.

 

If you're at all interested in Julie Andrews' work, or in Hollywood history, I heartily recommend this one.

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review 2019-12-02 17:56
Book Review - Off Camera by Wendy Qualls
Off CameraOff Camera by Wendy Qualls
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book made my nerdy heart sing!

A contemporary feel good romance where a bonafide nerd falls for a Hollywood hunk and both discover that some things - like love are worth fighting for. I especially got a kick out of the nod the author has given to geek culture in general and Sci Fi conventions in particular - both are near and dear to my cosplaying geek heart! DragonCon rocks, Wendy!!!

The plot was fun to follow, the writing was solid and the heat between the two men was intense, while their falling for each other was a slow burn that made my heart melt. The secondary characters were charming and fun to read and I really really loved this whole concept from start to finish.

Well done, Ms. Qualls, well done.


View all my reviews

 

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review 2019-08-05 18:18
Out Sept 1
Colours to the Chameleon: Canadian Actors on Shakespeare - Keith Garebian
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.

Keith Garebian sounds like the type of guy that you would love to discuss Shakespeare with. He has a wide knowledge not only of the Bard but of the actors and the history of Shakespearean theatre. This book shines a much-needed light on to the Canadian actors of Shakespeare. At times the book is interesting and even funny, but at other times it is frustrating and trying.

For the most part, the interviews with eleven actors (4 women, 7 men) are interesting, offer an oral history of not only the respective actors’ careers but of Shakespearean performance in Canada. At times the actors push back at some of the criticism leveled at them – for instance, Juan Chioran’s comments about how is acting is different then the traditional Angelo method.

Yet, I left the book with a better understanding of the men than I did the women. Part of this is because the male/female ratio undoubtedly. I mean you have nice romantic Shakespeare roles, but when we think great Shakespeare women, we usually go Lady Macbeth, Cleopatra, Beatrice and maybe Juliet. So, I can understand the obsession that the author seems to have with Lady Macbeth. I do. But too much of the book in regards to some of the women actors is spent with Garebian telling the reader what he or someone else thinks about Lady Macbeth first and then with the women, usually simply agreeing with the statement. I don’t blame Garebian – Lady Macbeth is Lady Macbeth but his enthusiasm overwhelms those chapters. I would love to hear what he has to say about her. But I would also really like to hear what else the actors have to say in those sections. For instance, did anyone of them play say Cleopatra?

The one exception to this is Chick Reid’s chapter, which in many ways is the best section in the book. In Reid’s chapter we have a look at the use of gender switching in the theatre (i.e. a female Lear) and how it effects the play and character. In addition, while several of the actors in the book also teach, Reid is where we get the most information about teaching. IT is a very interesting chapter and stands out from the rest. In fact, that chapter itself is worth the cost of the book.

This book is in many ways an excellent look at Shakespeare and acting as well as highlighting the theatre in Canada.
 
 
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text 2019-04-22 18:55
For horror fans

 

 

BearManor Media Announces a new book for horror film fans:

Bela Lugosi & The Monogram 9

By Gary D. Rhodes and Robert Guffey

 

Between 1941 and 1944, Bela Lugosi starred in a series of low-budget films released by Monogram Pictures. To many viewers at the time and during the decades that followed, the “Monogram Nine” were overacted and underproduced, illogical and incoherent. But their increasing age has recast such condemnations into appropriate praise: in the 21st century, they seem so different not only from modern cinema, but also from Classical Hollywood, enough so as to make the aforementioned deficits into advantages. The entries in the Monogram Nine are bizarre and strange, populated by crazy, larger-than-life characters who exist in wacky, alternative worlds. In nine films, the improbable chases the impossible. This book, in turn, chases them.

 

“Gary Rhodes has become my favorite nonfiction author, while the subject of some of his writings, Bela Lugosi, has long been one of my favorite actors. Now Gary has teamed up with co-author Robert Guffey to present, for the first time, a collection of in-depth and insightful essays evaluating those lesser ‘classics’ that comprise the so-called ‘Monogram Nine.’ If you are a Lugosi fan and also a fan of old ‘B’ horror films, you will love this book.” – Donald F. Glut, filmmaker, Marvel Comics writer, and author of The Empire Strikes Back novelization

 

“An extraordinary volume. Rhodes and Guffey refract these films through the lens of surrealism, detailed genre study, auteurist-informed close readings, star studies, and vigorous historicism to name a few of the kaleidoscope of methods employed. This book provides a breakthrough model for serious work on films that have to date received very little scholarly attention.” – Michael Lee, Ph.D. (University of Oklahoma), editor at the journal Horror Studies

 

Learn more at:

http://www.bearmanormedia.com/bela-lugosi-and-monogram-9-softcover-edition-by-gary-d-rhodes-and-robert-guffey

 

Other horror titles you might enjoy:

 

Bela Lugosi in Person

by Gary D. Rhodes and Bill Kaffenberger

The latest in a series of books by researchers extraordinaire Gary D. Rhodes and Bill Kaffenberger, Bela Lugosi in Person brims with new facts,figures, and never-seen photos documenting the actor’s scores of live public performances from 1931 to 1945, the era of his greatest fame. Three-act plays, vaudeville sketches, variety shows, and personal appearances are all chronicled at length, bringing new perspective to Lugosi’s life and career.

 

Robert Florey's Frankenstein starring Bela Lugosi

by Philip J. Riley

With the success of Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi, Universal Pictures was quick to capitalize on creating a new Lon Chaney in Bela Lugosi. Chaney had been the original choice to portray a duel role as both Dracula and Professor van Helsing, Dracula's adversary. Before production could begin, Chaney died, suddenly leaving Carl Laemmle Jr. without a star.

 

No Traveler Returns: The Lost Years of Bela Lugosi

by Gary D. Rhodes and Bill Kaffenberger

In No Traveler Returns, Bela Lugosi scholar extraordinaire Gary D. Rhodes and Bill Kaffenberger provide a fascinating time travel journey back to the late 1940s/early 1950s, when Lugosi – largely out of favor in Hollywood – embarked on a Gypsy-like existence of vaudeville, summer stock, and magic shows.

 

Scripts from the Crypt: Ed Wood and the Lost Lugosi Screenplays

by Gary D. Rhodes, Tom Weaver, Robert Cremer, and Lee R. Harris

With trowel and brush in hand, noted film archaeologist Gary D. Rhodes excavates the cinematic sepulcher of Ed Wood's unproduced scripts for Bela Lugosi, The Vampire's Tomb and The Ghoul Goes West. Joining Rhodes on the expedition are pith-helmeted horror movie expert Tom Weaver, plus Lugosi's original biographer Robert Cremer.

The Classic Horrors Club Podcast:

EP 30: The Dr. Phibes Companion

 

Check out this interview with Justin Humphries, author of The Dr. Phibes Companion on The Classic Horrors Club Podcast.

 

Click here for Podcast:

https://soundcloud.com/user-102192570/ep-30-the-dr-phibes-companion

 

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review 2019-03-19 21:13
Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star (Hunter)
Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star - Tab Hunter

Tab Hunter (real name Arthur Gelien) was only vaguely known to me as an actor - his movie acting career was essentially over before I became aware of such things, and his TV appearances were too infrequent and minor to register. However, his name came up now and then, as I grew interested in figure skating culture and history, as a fairly long-term partner of Ronnie Robertson, perennial silver medalist and quite possibly the greatest spinner of all time (check out youtube if you don't believe me). Hunter skated competitively himself a bit in his youth, enough that he was cast (with Dick Button!) in a Hans Brinker movie. After this biography was published in 2005 - and again after it received publicity with the release of a documentary about him in 2015 - I also learned to link his name with that of Rock Hudson, Roddy McDowall, and other closeted Hollywood leading men.

 

I quite enjoyed most of this autobiography. It is neither morbid nor thoughtless (the blond good looks of his youth do not indicate a brainless bimbo). The details of the staged romances with up-and-coming actresses like Natalie Wood are told matter-of-factly. There is definitely a hint of self-pity in his recounting of the way the studios treated him, but it's no more than you'd expect, and it's clearly mitigated by the older actor's understanding that he had a very good ride in the jet set era, financially and in terms of lifestyle. He name-drops like mad, of course, and we'd expect nothing less. And a warning to readers of the e-book/Kindle version - the photo section has been shunted unceremoniously to the end of the book, without any sort of table of contents entry, but it is there. The photos are interesting, though small in their e-version, and the beefcake ones, aimed explicitly at the female population, provoke admiration and wry smiles at the same time.

 

There were moments when I didn't much like Mr. Hunter, from his own account, though they were relatively few. One of those was his entirely uncalled-for use of "fag" (twice) to describe certain hangers-on in his social circle when he was at the height of his financial success. Yes, yes, I know, re-appropriation, but this was clearly a dismissive use, and perhaps not unexpected from a man whose conventional masculinity was his major selling point. And perhaps this usage might not have grated quite so much when the book was published, 13 years before I read it.

 

Those interested in the shenanigans of the Hollywood studio system (Hunter and Natalie Wood were the last actors put under those famous long-term contracts), and the creepy world of agents, with sidelights on the spaghetti western scene in Italy and the world of Hunter's real passion, raising and training horses for show-jumping, will find lots to interest them in this book. Those interested in salacious details of the lives of actors like Rock Hudson (for whose career Hunter is convinced his own was sacrificed) and Tony Perkins (with whom he had a relationship for a while) will have to look elsewhere, since this is a man of the mid 20th century after all.

 

Recommended as a useful counteractive to the official Hollywood narrative of the time, for its unexpected little additions to figure skating history (he has nothing but good things to say about Dick Button, by the way), and as a rather interestingly reflective late-life autobiography of someone you might consider to be a bit of a Salieri; a mediocre career (and he knows it) but still celebrated.

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