Wednesday, September 7, 2016


The legendary interviews of Alfred Hitchcock by Francois Truffaut, the French New Wave auteur who idolized him, took place in Hollywood over the course of a week in 1962. Their talks, with assistance by translator Helen Scott, were recorded and in 1966 a book, referred to by Truffaut as "the Hitchbook," was published. To everlasting acclaim. Revised and updated by Truffaut not very long after Hitchcock's death and only a year before his own end, Hitchcock/Truffaut stands as the definitive tome on Hitchcock and one of the all-time great books on film. And it is the inspiration for Kent Jones' 2015 documentary.

My copy of "the Hitchbook," with post-it notes

Though the interviews weren't filmed, they were recorded and photographed, and Jones includes sections of the audio and photos throughout his documentary. Most fascinating, though, is to watch scenes from Hitchcock's films (and clips from all of his great films are shown) that vividly illustrate his own words on his artistic process.  The observations of filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, David Fincher, Paul Schrader and others are also illuminating and provide insight into the powerful and long-lasting impact Hitchcock has had on filmmaking.

A must-have companion piece to the book, Hitchcock/Truffaut is currently available on HBO Now, HBO Go, via "On Demand" through September 10, and on DVD and Blu-ray.


Monday, August 1, 2016

THE REAL JAMES DEAN, new from the Chicago Review Press

61 years ago this September 30, newly-minted movie star James Dean, with an ace Porsche racing mechanic riding in the passenger seat, wrecked his brand-new Porsche Spyder on a remote northern California highway, bringing to an end his own turbulent 24-year-old life. The gone-too-soon Hollywood rebel instantly became a cult phenomenon and, over the six decades since, his story has become and remained legend and been the subject of countless books. Today the Chicago Review Press will release the latest, The Real James Dean: Intimate Memories from Those Who Knew Him Best.

James Dean, Hollywood, 1955, photo by Phil Stern
Edited by Peter L. Winkler, author of a bio on Dennis Hopper, an actor who knew and idolized Dean, The Real James Dean is a compilation of previously published material gleaned from magazines, newspapers and autobiographies, all mostly long out of print. Though the collection includes a few publicity-office-generated pieces from fan magazines like Modern Screen and Photoplay, there are many compelling accounts from personal friends, lovers, stage and film actors and the directors of his three major films: Elia Kazan, Nicholas Ray and George Stevens.
  • Raymond Massey, who portrayed Dean's father in his break-out film, East of Eden (1955, Elia Kazan), recounts his frustration and losing his temper on the set while working with the young "Method" actor.
  • Shelley Winters recalls driving through Hollywood one night with her friend, Marilyn Monroe, as Dean, on his Triumph TR5 Trophy motorcycle, recklessly circled her car at high speed, terrifying both women.
  • Jim Backus, who played Dean's father in Rebel Without a Cause (1955, Nicholas Ray), describes Dean preparing for a dramatic early scene by "sitting in his darkened dressing room with a record player blasting out the Ride of the Valkyries, and drinking a quart of cheap red wine."
The memories collected in The Real James Dean reflect the views of those who found him a beautiful, talented and kind fellow as well as those who thought him eccentric and "impossible." The general impression that emerges from these recollections is of a volatile, sensitive young man deeply committed to becoming artistically and materially successful recognized through his craft. But one cannot escape the belief that he was emotionally ill-equipped to handle the immensity of the fame that loomed ahead.

On Saturday, August 6, at 2pm PDT, a random drawing for a copy of The Real James Dean: Intimate Memories from Those Who Knew Him Best will be held. Entrants must live or have a shipping address in the U.S. or Canada and should enter by email to Please include your name, mailing address and contact information. The winner will be notified - and the book shipped - immediately.

Congratulations to Christina of Ontario, Canada, the winner in our random drawing for a copy of The Real James Dean! And thanks to all who participated.


My thanks to the Chicago Review Press for a review copy of this book.

Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean during the filming of Giant (1956, George Stevens)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Celebrating National Classic Movie Day: "5 Movies on an Island"

If by some bizarre quirk of fate I end up stranded on a deserted island that happens to have a reliable food source, lots of sunshine and balmy tropical breezes, I just might be blissed-out enough not to crave watching classic films. But probably not. A fundamental given for today's 5 Movies on an Island blogathon celebrating National Classic Movie Day is that some form of gizmo or gizmos capable playback will be ready and waiting for me on my island and that I'll have chosen and brought five movies with me to watch until I'm rescued - hopefully, within a week or two.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Real and Unreal Old Hollywood: "Hail, Caesar!" (2016)

Hail, Caesar!, the latest comedy from Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo; O Brother, Where Art Thou?) offers a tongue-in-cheek bow to Hollywood circa 1951 through a series of escapades that take place during a day in the life of Eddie Mannix, production head and unofficial "fixer" for a major studio. It should surprise no one that the Coens have conjured a wildly stylized and madly screwball satire of this scenario.

Those familiar with Hollywood history know that there once really was an Eddie Mannix and that he was a studio exec/"fixer" at MGM (not the Coen's "Capitol Pictures"), the most powerful of all studios, for several decades. As General Manager and head of production, he was a right hand to studio chief, Louis B. Mayer, and it wasn't until 1958, after Mayer's ouster and death, that Mannix left MGM; he'd been in the picture business for 42 years by then.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

SF Symphony 2015 -2016 Film Series Nears End; 2016 - 2017 Series Announced


The San Francisco Symphony's third annual Film Series will come to an end later this month with screenings of Steven Spielberg's 1981 classic, E.T. The Extraterrestrial, from March 23 through 26. The symphony will accompany, performing John Williams's Grammy winning score live. For more information, click here.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Reminiscing: "Now, Voyager"

Summer of '42 (1971)

A soft-focus nostalgia piece set during the early days of World War II, Summer of '42 was released in April 1971 and went on to become one of the surprise hits of that year. The story followed a 16-year-old boy's coming of age during a family vacation on Nantucket Island where he roamed the small village, sand dunes and shoreline, horsing around with his buddies, dating a girl his own age, and crushing on the lovely bride of a soldier just gone to war.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Local Night Life: Noir City at the Castro and the San Francisco Symphony's Film Series

The 2016 film noir season was officially launched with San Francisco's Noir City XIV, January 22 - 31, at the city's Castro Theatre. The 10-day festival, presented by the Film Noir Foundation, is traditionally the first in a series of Noir City events to follow in Hollywood, Austin, Portland (Oregon), Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Kansas City.