Much More to Come

Oedipus Wrecked: Walsh’s White Heat

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The controversy stirred up by Raoul Walsh’s classic gangster film, White Heat—starring James Cagney as the deranged killer Cody Jarrett, American cinema’s most notorious psychopathic and deranged urban outlaw—was exactly what the director loved: fiction that made waves. This was the reason he made movies: for Walsh, controversy was good drama, therefore, good storytelling. Yet when American...

The Saga of Raoul Walsh’s The Big Trail

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Raoul Walsh’s The Big Trail, released by Fox Film Corporation in 1930, is the director’s most far-reaching epic adventure. As if the scope of the film wasn’t large enough—cutting across seven U.S. states during filming–Walsh’s personal challenge was no less epic. Less than two years earlier he’d lost his right eye in a jeep accident while on location shooting what would have been his and...

The Hidden Hazards of Black and White Movies

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When I began researching my biography of the American film director George Stevens, my daughter, Lizzie, had just turned eight. She was a smart, intuitive kid for her age, and downright sophisticated by the time I put down the last pencil and collected the last job from my printer for the book. I liked to think that the wit and wisdom Stevens gave the females in his films — Katharine...

Reconstructing Evil

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Orson Welles’ 1958 psychological and visual masterpiece Touch of Evil has been reshaped and reconstituted with no less frequency than an Alfred Hitchcock film in the hands of a feminist. The film – which brought us those great “screen lovers” Mexican-American cop Vargas (Chariton Heston) and swampy, I-am-your-worst-nightmare Quinlan (Welles) — was taken from Welles by Universal...

She Drove Without Stopping

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Jaimy Gordon. She Drove Without Stopping. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1990. $18.95. Jaimy Gordon has a Freudian view of the world. This is to say, for Gordon being female is an entrapment that occasions an elegiac eye in recounting how fathers first seduce, then abandon their daughters. This is also to say that She Drove Without Stopping is a shrewd fiction of an autobiography (or vice versa)...

Leolo

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Leolo, the autobiography of a young boy, is a story with many subjects — each of them fiercely, heart-wrenchingly imagined. On one hand, it’s a story about the dark side of one of the darkest families ever committed to celluloid; on the other hand, it’s a child’s surrealistic voyage of revenge against this brood, mounted with language that is at once visceral and angrily funny...

Resonating Bodies

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Lynne Alexander. Resonating Bodies. Atheneum, 1989. $18.95. Imagine, if you will, that you are in love with a violin. This is not an ordinary love that you would have for a woman, for a man. Rather, this is a love that centers on a svelte, sensual and curvy viola with the charms of a sorceress, the hunger and the passion of a beautiful female. She allures no less than she entraps. Her body comes...

Mary Pickford: More Than a Sweetheart

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Christel Schmidt, editor. Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies. University of Kentucky Press, 288pp America’s original screen darling Mary Pickford always seemed to get there first: she was the screen’s first true icon. one of the first women to start up an independent production company in Hollywood (United Artists, with D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin and her then husband Douglas...

Impolite Society

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TASHLINESQUE: The Hollywood Comedies of Frank Tashlin. Ethan de Seife. Wesleyan University Press 280pp In the annals of the Hollywood comedy, the director Frank Tashlin’s films create a place of their own, inhabiting a world at once ribald and delightfully impolite. Tashlin’s landscape is lively (evidence of ta roots in 1930s and 40s animation), politically and culturally savvy...

From Mr Darcy to Mr Big

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Entertainment is one thing, but excitement and controversy – what Margo Channing would have called “fire and music” – are quite another. Carol Dyhouse’s Heartthrobs: A History of Women and Desire offers the former, as the author relates the history of what, she says,women do and have always done: create sexual fantasies about men. This proclivity is a historical fact, she argues, before digging...

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