Film and DVD book round up
Before he spawned America’s most famous Irish Catholic presidential dynasty Joseph P Kennedy was a Hollywood player. It could be said he was Hollywood’s prototype player. Between 1919 and 1928 he treated the burgeoning movie business like the gold mine it was and made a fortune. He also had decent and indecent friendships with some of the biggest female stars of the time, among them Marlene Dietrich, Anne Fontaine and Gloria Swanson, as a well as wrecking the careers of some of the men who thought he was their friend. Kennedy’s glamorous and sordid story is laid out in painstaking detail in film historian and writer Cari Beauchamp’s fascinating Joseph P Kennedy’s Hollywood Years (Faber) ●●●●. Beauchamp’s thorough account of the pioneer days of Hollywood highlights that in terms of power in American nothing satisfies the hungry quite like showbusiness and politics, or maybe they are one and the same thing.
William J Mann follows up his excellent Hepburn biography Kate: The Women Who Was Katherine Hepburn with the more ruminative but no less fascinating How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood 1941-81 (Faber) ●●●●. Mann grapples with the decadence and madness of the girl who became a woman under the spotlight. It’s a book of incidental pleasures, dizzying anecdotes and attempts to skewer the cultural zeitgeist that was Taylor in those years. It is also the closest anyone has come to capturing the essence of this troubled screen queen.
Having released the huge collection of film essays Have You Seen … ? in the run up to Christmas last year, the great writer and film historian and chronicler David Thomson delivers up something far more stocking friendly this year. The first four of his muted Great Stars (Penguin) series of slender book/essays are now available. Bette Davis ●●●●, Gary Cooper ●●●●, Humphrey Bogart ●●●● and Ingrid Bergman ●●● are his initial subjects and Thomson brings his distracted, hyper connective gaze to all of them with the charm of an old dagger-carrying friend. Give this man a knighthood now, for services to great cinema.