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A. H. Lynde
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a collection of production stills from the TCM Archives, with an introduction by the charming and knowing host of TCM primetime features, columnist-critic for The Hollywood Reporter, and official biographer of Oscar -- Robert Osborne. Osborne explains the technical reasons for the stills and much film lore. But mostly, and here's where the fun lies, these photos show the very human side of filmmaking. Many of the best are candid moments of film people working, acting, hanging around for the next scene, sulking, laughing or moved by the acting and mugging. My favorites include James Dean looking down at his fingers, sitting on the floor, either lost in method or just bored; tough old John Ford enjoying himself a bit too much 'teaching' Jeffrey Hunter how to embrace young Vera Miles in The Searchers; George Peppard crouched against a fence, a dog in his lap, while Ford points out something to Carroll Baker, who plays Peppard's mother, though 2 years younger than he (How the West Was Won).
There are some sumptuous glamour shots: the Barrymore brothers, in profile naturally, speaking on seeming serious matters outside the Grand Hotel, as a slinky Joan Crawford eyes them suspiciously from the art deco revolving door; Hepburn coyly smiling, leaning into Tracey whose hint of a grin tells all, as director George Stevens, pipe in hand, drinks it in (Woman of the Year); Judy Garland, in a famously glamorous shot against faux clouds, her back arched, decked in sexy black with hat cocked slyly over half her face, her fingers spread and her mouth sumptous red, just bursting to belt (Summer Stock).
There's just so much here, one shouldn't attempt to catalog it all. But....just a few more highlights: Garbo about to speak her first film lines in English (Anna Christie, the highest-grossing film of 1930), director Clarence Brown mesmerized by her "shimmering presence". Gable and Crawford rehearsing in one of their eight films together (Dancing Lady), she kneeling at his feet, and his manly compassion captured as director Robert Z. Leonard watches intently, his fist clenched. Gable insouciantly flinging the roulette wheel as the great cinematographer James Wong Howe and skillful director W.S. Van Dyke, each in his characteristic way, look on (Manhattan Melodrama). A very personal favorite (my first date movie), David Lean's Doctor Zhivago ($200 million gross in 1965), with a shot of the loathsome tuxedoed Rod Steiger character toasting the 17-year-old Lara (Julie Christie), as the notes state, "surrounded by a corps of film artisans", and the final shot of the film, an older Christie alighting from a trolley, to be glimpsed by her lover Zhivago (Omar Sharif), who vainly chases her into nothingness. The most startling shot of all, however, I will not reveal. You should jump a bit when you see it, a part played by the highest paid actor of 1946 directed by the meticulous Delmer Daves. Yes, this book reminds us constantly that filmmaking is business as well as art.
Some wide shots are difficult to see, some a bit out of focus (which is why I give this 4 stars) but remedied with a small magnifying glass, with this coffee table book laid out flat. Osborne's colleagues, no slouches they, contribute absolutely fascinating notes. Any American film buff's delight.