Since this blog obviously can’t tell you everything you need to know about movies (although we will try our darndest), I thought I’d give my personal recommendations of some books you may want to check out. I know what you’re thinking: “Wait a second, you can watch movies and read books? There’s a world beyond the silver screen?” Yes, it’s true movie lovers. You can do both. As long as the books are, well, you know, about movies.
1. Vanity Fair’s Tales of Hollywood edited by Graydon Carter
If you want a little behind the scenes peek at 13 different films from the 1940s through the 1970s, Vanity Fair’s Tales of Hollywood is a fantastic read. (I just finished it, so I feel confident in my recommendation.) Through various articles, we learn about the films that turned into disasters and the ones that seemed like disasters, yet became unexpected hits. Check out the article on Cleopatra. Everything that could go wrong, did—including the almost-death of its star (Elizabeth Taylor). The article on The Graduate is also interesting. Robert Redford was originally considered for the role of Benjamin Braddock, before Mike Nichols took a chance and lobbied for Dustin Hoffman. (Even Hoffman thought he was completely wrong for the role!)
2. The Star Machine by Jeanine Basinger
A fascinating look at the studio era of movies (the 1930s through 1950s), where stars were literally born. It delves into the careers of Errol Flynn, Lana Turner, Tyrone Power, Loretta Young and others, shows how they were “manufactured,” and the different paths they took once they reached stardom.
3. When Blanche Met Brando by Sam Staggs
One of my favorite books about one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s the entire behind-the-scenes story of A Streetcar Named Desire. The best parts describe Marlon Brando’s antics/genius contributions on set. For a scene where his character is supposed to be drunk, Brando thought it’d be a good idea to really get drunk. Yeah, not so much. He was too drunk to act and they had to film the scene again later. Gotta love Brando.
4. Live Fast, Die Young: The Wild Ride of Making Rebel Without a Cause by Lawrence Frascella and Al Weisel
A detailed account of the on-and-off the set happenings during the filming of Rebel Without a Cause. You’ll learn a lot. Such as, 16-year-old star Natalie Wood had affairs with her 43-year-old director Nicholas Ray and young co-star Dennis Hopper (that little minx!) and Sal Mineo had a big ol’ crush on James Dean. Juicy stuff!