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The New Biographical Dictionary Of Film 5Th Ed [Hardcover]

David Thomson
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
Price: £35.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

4 Nov 2010

This book is both more and less than history, a work of imagination in its own right, a piece of movie literature that turns fact into romance.' Gavin Lambert was reviewing the first edition of David Thomson's monumental work in 1975. In the years since the fourth edition was published, careers have waxed and waned, reputations been made and lost, great movies produced, trends set and scorned.

This fifth edition has 300 entirely new entries and every original entry has been re-examined. Thus the roster of directors, actors, producers, screenwriters and cameramen is both historical and contemporary, with old masters reappraised in terms of how their work has lasted.

Each of the 1,000 profiles is a keenly perceptive, provocative critical essay. Striking the perfect balance between personal bias and factual reliability, David Thomson - novelist, critic, biographer and unabashed film addict - has given us an enormously rich reference book, a brilliant reflection on the art and artists of the cinema.

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The New Biographical Dictionary Of Film 5Th Ed + 'Have You Seen...?': a Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films including masterpieces, oddities and guilty pleasures (with just a few disasters)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1088 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown; 5th Revised edition edition (4 Nov 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408701596
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408701591
  • Product Dimensions: 18.5 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 380,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

English-American writer David Thomson was educated at Dulwich College and the London School of Film Technique. After seven years at Penguin Books, he became a Director of Film Studies at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire between 1977 and 1981. Perhaps best known for his magisterial Biographical Dictionary of Film, Thomson is a prolific writer on film including biographies of David O Selznick and Orson Welles, and two books on Hollywood: Beneath Mulholland: Thoughts on Hollywood and Its Ghosts and The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood. Thomson lives in San Fransisco with his wife and two sons.

Product Description


Waspish, incendiary, whimsical and erudite to a fault, the author has an acuity that makes other critics seem like charlatans and this labour of love worth every penny. (SUNDAY TIMES)

No self-respecting film fan would be without David Thomson's valuable reference work on their shelf. (RTE GUIDE)

Brilliant- an absolute must-have for all movie fans. (WHATS ON LONDON)

David Thomson's magnificent, addictive doorstop dictionary is one of the best movie books of all time. (EVENING STANDARD) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

* The fifth edition of an indispensable reference book for filmgoers, completely revised and brought up to date with more than 200 new entries - 1,000 in all.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential film criticism 6 Jan 2004
This is a magnificent book: if I were allowed only one book on film then I would unhesitatingly choose this one.
Arranged alphabetically, and covering virtually every important actor, director and producer in film history (and many other figures associated with film), it provides fairly thorough filmographies, but it’s not intended as a reference book. On questions of fact (‘Who won Best Supporting Actor in 1975?’; ‘Who played Marlowe in Murder My Sweet?’) this is not the most convenient work to consult, and often the answer simply cannot be found.
Rather, this is film criticism – and Thomson is an acutely perceptive, intelligent and eloquent critic. Invariably passionate, often funny, frequently challenging and provocative, and occasionally annoying, he is a brilliant writer and a model of how to say a lot in few words. In little more than a sentence or two he can offer a profound observation or opinion which radically alters one’s own view on a film or individual.
He can be wonderfully iconoclastic. For example, both John Ford and Stanley Kubrick, widely esteemed as great directors, are (rightly to my mind) shown up for their severe shortcomings. Sometimes he can be spectacularly and justifiably savage, about Roberto Benigni or Wes Craven for example. Equally, he is very good at extolling the virtues of underrated individuals, Barbara Stanwyck for example. Above all he provides honest, thoughtful and sophisticated appraisals, in most cases amounting to miniature essays, which rarely fail to open up new insights.
Thomson is no snob or elitist: he may lambast Tony Scott and Madonna, but he has good things to say about Spielberg and Schwarzenegger, Tarantino and Sharon Stone.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A necessity for film lovers 16 Jun 2010
It might be worth noting that this book first came out in 1975 and has been revised and updated every couple of years, the last being the paperback version in 2004 (specifically the paperback, as it has a few more entries than the hardback of the same time does.) Bear that in mind when/if ordering, you don't want to get an old copy (though it would still be a good read)

I'm simply adding to what other people have said, yes, it is a great book, my copy is worn and tattered, has notes and underlinings on most of the pages. I have read nearly all of it a few times, there's no way of telling because while some people (my brother included) read it from cover to cover like a novel, i just dip in to read up on a specific person, and it's sort of like working through a maze, you start with one person and get sucked in, next thing you know 3 hours have passed and you've been led on from entry to entry. It's very addictive! Not least because it is so well written, besides the actual passion and (at times philosophical, even poetic) understanding of film and what it does to people.

Though maybe Thomson himself is getting a little weary of film, he's in his 70's now, he can't update it forever, and as a writer i suppose it's only expected that writing would be his foremost passion. Hence the amount of writing that he has actually produced.

There are a number of other Thomson books out there.. - Have you seen? Rosebud. A recent Memoir. A recent series on famous hollywood stars. Alien Quartet. Suspects, Beneath Mulholland. Besides his other writings on the Nevada desert, the race to the Antarctic, and Laurence Sterne. Not forgetting his numerous articles for the Guardian newspaper and

But The New Biographical Dictionary of Film is the one to start with, just make sure you have a bit of time to spare before you start looking.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last, Laura Linney! 1 Nov 2011
By GlynLuke TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This deftly-written, subtle, slily witty, occasionally exasperating, inspiring, myth-busting, wholly magisterial, utterly unique, now near-legendary tome is everything its admirers say it is, and probably more.
I am reviewing the latest, hardcover, edition, which has recently fallen on my doorstep with a grateful thud. It`s quite a hefty volume, this one. I am still keeping my dog-eared copy of the paperback 2003 edition, as it`s such an old friend now, and I know my way round it as well as my own room. Here, with Daniel Day Lewis in a still from the recent There Will Be Blood adorning the cover (appropriate enough, though sadly replacing a scene from Howard Hawks` To Have And Have Not, which, let`s face it, takes some replacing) is Thomson`s 1000-page meditation on cinema, its makers and some of its shakers.
Anyone who doubts the primacy of the aforementioned Hawks as a supremely natural director of actors, in most genres, or who has the usual inflated opinion of John Ford, who takes something of a well-earned beating from the author in these pages, should read this book. Anyone wanting a pitch-perfect eulogy of Robert Mitchum ("untouchable") or Lee Marvin ("the last of the great wintry heroes") or Jeff Bridges ("as close as the modern era has come to Robert Mitchum") or the lately less visible Nick Nolte ("America`s most elemental actor") should revel in this book.
There are - and will always be, alas - some hurtful omissions. Where, after all these years, is Ellen Barkin? She may not have done much of note recently, but how can one defend the inclusion of, say, small-part British toff comic foil James Villiers, when an actress as smart, vivacious and watchable as Barkin is passed over? The same goes for Catherine Keener.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Eccentric, choleric, masterful, or, When the critic becomes the story
Only a lad from Streatham could be quite so rude about America's greatest art form* and be feted for it. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Simon Barrett
5.0 out of 5 stars The best
Not only facts, but a personal point of view about film - movies and the people who make them. Sometimes irritating, of course, allways sharp.
Published 6 months ago by JLR
5.0 out of 5 stars My film bible
Since the 4th edition, this book has been my film bible. Mr Thomson's analyses are penetrating if sometimes uncomfortable, but rarely off-beam. Read more
Published 22 months ago by walterwhite
5.0 out of 5 stars A master of his subject
If you are interested in cinema then David Thomson is the man to tell you just about anything you might want to know. Read more
Published 23 months ago by R. Bell
3.0 out of 5 stars Just about kindled interest.
One star deducted for the poor quality Kindle version - no pics and littered with production errors. The book itself is more subjective than the title suggests. Read more
Published on 9 Feb 2012 by Brian Walker
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful reference
I bought this book for a friend who is passionate about films and film stars. I'm sure she will enjoy delving in to it even though she seems to know everything about her subject. Read more
Published on 22 May 2011 by ellarose
5.0 out of 5 stars The most important book ever written about Film
This is without doubt the most important book that has ever been written about the subject of Film and filmmaking. Read more
Published on 31 Jan 2011 by S. Hyde
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
Take no notice of Thomas from Norway - this is a fabulous work. I'm an Oscar nominated screenwriter and there is no better volume for understanding what film could and should... Read more
Published on 2 Feb 2006
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest film books available...
The New Biographical Dictionary of Film is a revised edition of Thomson's seminal book on cinema- one of the key film books alongside The Cinema Book, Film Art & Susan Hayward's... Read more
Published on 31 Dec 2003 by Jason Parkes
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