An informed, and interesting, run through of the great Welsh actor's career, which is not just the usual loads-of-pictures and little-to-chew-on text type of film book some offer of stars.. GIven as well the paucity of books other than this, and its current low cost, it is to be doubly welcomed. Baker was a working class boy who made good with one or two iconic roles as well as a later notable collaboration with Joseph Losey. Refusng to move to Hollywood, Baker recognised that his strength lay in being able to communicate a genuine no-nonsense tough persona but with undercurrent of vulnerability when called for. His place in the British cinema of the time is assured and no fan will want to miss this survey. Shall is an academic, but writes free of jargonese throughout. The book is compact and well printed.
Excellent summary of Stanley Bakers life. If the film Zulu is your main reason for purchasing this book I suggest Saul David's 'Zulu: The Heroism and Tragedy of the Zulu War of 1879'. A modern interpretation that shows the Zulu war from both sides.One of the most brutal conflicts of the British imperialist policy during the nineteenth century. If you combine Saul's book with the film 'Zulu Dawn' which shows the events leading up to 'Rorke's Drift' which is the event the film Zulu is based on (albeit loosely in some places), you get a vivid image of the whole event. The Stanley Baker book was an inspiration for me to find out more about the Zulu Wars.
I was glad to discover that a book on the life and career of unsung hero Stanley baker was being published and for the most part, I am impressed with the results. the author portrays Stanley baker as a man that, in spite of his considerable success as an actor, didn't lose contact with his own people in south wales and that his visits to the welsh mining town were quite frequent. however, the actual text only amounts to about 150 pages. in my opinion, this isn't anywhere near long enough. the biography should have been at least 250 pages and with about a hundred photos from different periods of Stanley baker's life. the photos that have been selected are good though, most of which I haven't seen in print before. there is a fair amount of detail given to most of the actor's major films, particularly his collaborations with American film makers cy enfield and joseph losey. I particularly enjoyed reading about the making of "hell drivers," "violent playground," "Zulu," "the criminal," "accident," "yesterday's enemy," "hell is a city" and "sands of the Kalahari." this is certainly better than nothing but I feel an opportunity has been somewhat missed.
Robert Shail has written a fine tribute to one of Britain's true authentic leading screen actors. Only yet available in hardback and at 160 pages and 20 photographs and stills, it may at first seem too little but it lists all of Stanley Baker's film work interspersed with biographical details of the actor's life. Really what a good biography should be. Highly Recommended.
I must admit I borrowed a copy of this book from my local library rather than buy it; the buying books' budget has been stretched overly lately. I have been interested in reading about British cinema (Andrew Spicer/G MacNab/ P Warren/Charles Barr) for some years now and I have long enjoyed Stanley Baker's films especially his British period before Zulu (ie 1963ish). I have thought myself he was overlooked, and a biography of him is most welcome. There is extant only Anthony Storey's 'portrait' of the man in his last few cancer- ridden months published in the 1970's and hard to get hold of. Shail's rather slim it must be said biography had the benefit of cooperation from Baker's widow and other friends. It focusses mainly on his early life and career, both as an actor and producer and how Baker defined his own Welshness in his roles and creative life. This is not the book for much personal information on his private life, though the occasional remark from his widow creeps through despite this. Shail assesses all Baker's films and his work in them, from the minor to the major ( Losey's The Criminal) but I would have liked more detail again;on his relationship with Losey for instance; though there are some worthwhile anecdotes about how Baker dealt with his colleagues and film crews. Some of his major roles in films like The Criminal felt a bit rushed over; they could bear more analysis. But an essence of the man's character, allegiance to his roots, family and friends,creative ambitions and sheer hard grit that got him to the top in the business against some odds comes over. Recommended read.