A Year in Books/Day 226: The Decline of Sentiment

  • Title: The Decline of Sentiment American Film in the 1920s
  • Author: Lea Jacobs
  • Year Published: 2008 (University of California Press)
  • Year Purchased: 2011
  • Source: Half Price Books
  • About: I like film criticism that comes with a healthy side of broader cultural and intellectual analysis. It is, admittedly, how I approach the subject, and view the world in general. Before proceeding, know that this review comes with a Warning. Lea Jacobs’ writing is from the crumbling cracker school: dry and without any excess flavour. If you cannot reconcile yourself to the mere thought of reading 313 pages of humourless but acutely insightful commentary, or this review about it, then move on with your bad self. No, really. I won’t be offended. As long as you promise to come back for #227. We’re still cool, right? For the 3 of you left, where were we? Ah, yes. Her writing. If you’re passionate or curious about silent cinema, The Decline of Sentiment is worth your time. Your head will eventually fall into rhythm with her writing style, and by the end of the book you will have a more comprehensive view of the subject even if, like me, you have studied and written about it for years. Continue reading

A Year in Books/Day 223: Swanson on Swanson

  • Title: Swanson on Swanson
  • Author: Gloria Swanson
  • Year Published: 1980/This Edition: 1981 (Random House/Pocket Books)
  • Year Purchased: Mid-1990s
  • Source: Antique Barn, Ohio State Fair
  • About: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”-George Bernard Shaw. Every Hollywood memoir should come with the preceding GBS quote as a disclaimer. That, or the generic perception is reality. Either will do. With that out of the way, we could get down to the important business of enjoying good Tinseltown autobiographies for what they are: damn fun entertainment. Underneath the ego and the stage-managed pathos, these one-person exercises in reputation preservation usually contain heaping amounts of self-deprecation, humor, and memorable industry anecdotes, with the self-subjects somehow, through a strange, magical process, coming across as down-to-earth and larger than life; normal and privileged; lucky and talented; flawed and beautiful. Continue reading

A Year in Books/Day 181: Legends of the Silent Screen

  • Title: Legends of the Silent Screen A Collection of U.S. Postage Stamps
  • Authors: Charles Champlin and Linda Klinger (for the United States Postal Service)
  • Year Published: 1994 (U.S. Postal Service)
  • Year Purchased: 1994
  • Source: This was a gift from my mom, received after some pleading on my part.
  • About: In 1994, the U.S. Postal Service released a set of stamps commemorating ten of the silent screen’s greatest stars (which was, itself, part of a larger series dedicated to entertainers). This book was published as a companion piece, but is good enough to stand on its own merits. The detailed individual biographies are underpinned by amazing photographs and a time-line of the first 100 years of American film history. It’s a handsome volume, and the Al Hirschfeld caricatures commissioned for the stamps render the subjects instantly recognizable. The stars covered in this volume are: Rudolph Valentino; Clara Bow; Charlie Chaplin; Lon Chaney; John Gilbert; ZaSu Pitts; Theda Bara; the Keystone Cops; Harold Lloyd; and Buster Keaton.
  • Motivation: I was already totally captivated with silent films, even at a relatively young age.
  • Times Read: A few
  • Random Excerpt/Page 39: “Film historians note that (Theda) Bara’s producer actually cast her in quite a few sympathetic-not evil-roles, knowing that after her vamp image had been accepted, the public would continue to read treachery into all her characters, regardless of their motivations.”
  • Happiness Scale: 10

    Bara in the title role as Cleopatra (1917)

    Bara in the title role as Cleopatra (1917) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Year in Books/Day 13: The Hulton Getty Picture Collection 1920s

  • Title: The Hulton Getty Picture Collection 1920s
  • Author: Nick Yapp
  • Year Published: 1998 (Könemann)
  • Year Purchased: 2005
  • Source: Barnes & Noble clearance rack
  • About: A photographic stroll through the 1920s, with enlightening chapter introductions and detailed captions.
  • Motivation: I’m mad for history; I write extensively on Jazz Age subjects, including silent cinema, dead writers and flappers.
  • Times Read: 2
  • Random Excerpt/Page 206:”The ‘hands on knees crossover’ step from the most famous and enduring dance of the Twenties-the Charleston. The monkey was not obligatory.”
  • Happiness Scale: 10
    English: Violet Romer in flapper dress

    Image via Wikipedia