""She could look demure while behaving like an empress. Blonde, with eyes like pearls too big for her head, she was very striking, but marginally pretty and certainly not beautiful . . . But it was her edge that made her memorable-her upstart superiority, her reluctance to pretend deference to others."" #xA0; Bette Davis was the commanding figure of the great era of Hollywood stardom, with a drive and energy that put her contemporaries in the shade. She played queens, jezebels, and bitches; she could out-talk any male costar; she warred with her studio, Warner Bros., worked like a demon, got through four husbands, was nominated for seven Oscars, and-no matter what-never gave up fighting. This is her story.
In the initial volumes of this new series, noted film critic/historian Thomson (The New Biographical Dictionary of Film) brings his opinions to bear on the lives and careers of four stars of the golden age of American cinema, all of whom remained active until their deaths. With classic films such as Jezebel, Dark Victory, and Now, Voyager, Bette Davis was the premiere leading lady at Warner Brothers for some 17 years. Gary Cooper (High Noon) became a star with the introduction of talking pictures and remained one, albeit somewhat diminished, to the end of his life. After being frequently cast as the snarling petty crook, Humphrey Bogart played a series of distinguished roles, climaxing with his Oscar-winning triumph in The African Queen. Ingrid Bergman's roles in Casablanca, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and Gaslight seemed to presage a lengthy stardom, but the scandal concerning her affair with director Roberto Rossellini stalled her in the late 1940s. Thomson presents little more than a brief overview of each star's career but discusses what he considers their best films in somewhat more detail. His look at the actors' personal lives includes his quirky suppositions about their sex lives, and he often writes as if speaking, sometimes quite disconcertingly, directly to the reader. Verdict These books seem intended primarily for film buffs with limited knowledge of these particular stars as well as curious general readers.-Roy Liebman, formerly with California State Univ., Los Angeles (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Faber & Faber
January 05, 2010
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