Thursday, February 26, 2009


ESCAPE ARTIST: THE LIFE AND FILMS OF JOHN STURGES by Glenn Lovell.  Finished this gem of a book weeks ago....a very quick and enjoyable read.  Sturges is one of my favorite directors of all time and, hopefully, with this book he will finally get the respect and admiration long due him. Lovell not only goes into anecdotes about the making of Sturges's films but also, with the cooperation of friends and family, delves into Sturge's private life, especially his rampant alcoholism.  Interesting tidbits about the making of BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, THE GREAT ESCAPE (his best known works) and some of his lesser known films.  It's interesting to compare Lovell's version of how TMS came to fruition with Eli Wallach's (THE GOOD, THE BAD AND ME) and producer Walter Mirisch's (I THOUGHT WE WERE MAKING MOVIES, NOT HISTORY...which, by the way, is a quote Mirisch took from Sturges....and a very, very good account by a Hollywood insider of making movies in the 50's and 60's.)  Lovell talks about how Sturges quickly adapted to making movies in "CinemaScope" vs the old screen ratio and how his framing and use of the widescreen influenced other film makers, often without acknowledgement.

FIASCO: A HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD'S ICONIC FLOPS by James Robert Parrish (HOLLYWOOD DIVAS: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE FABULOUS....there's that play on titles/words again! & IT'S GOOD TO BE THE KING: THE SERIOUSLY FUNNY LIFE OF MEL BROOKS.)  Some of the movies dealt with are THE CHASE (with Brando, Redford and Fonda), POPEYE, THE COTTON CLUB, ISHTAR (my most hated and despised movie of all time), SHOWGIRLS, WATERWORLD (failed as a movie but made a great action and stunt laden attraction at Universal Studios), BATTLEFIELD EARTH (what in the world was John Travolta thinking?  hmmm....was he kind of pushed into doing it?) and PAINT YOUR WAGON (with Clint and Lee....a movie before one cent was spent was already thought of as being a loser) Who was director Joshua Logan (totally and I mean totally the wrong director from the get-go) talking about when he made this famous rant, "Not since Atilla the Hun swept across Europe leaving 500 years of total blackness has there been a man like ________?"  Why our beloved Lee Marvin, that's who!  And the bad experience on this movie, with its extravagantly wasteful excesses, is credited with giving Clint a valuable lesson in what not to do on a movie, and is one of the reasons why he always brings his films in on time and on budget.  A lot of the anecdotes from the making of these various films I have already heard....but there are some new ones too!

1 comment:

Chris Casey said...

Can't wait to read the Sturges book, as he is one of my all-time favorite directors, too!