Tag Archives: Book Excerpt

Giveaway Spotlight – OLIVIDA DE HAVILLAND

Olivia de Havlland

We’re giving a book away this week! One lucky reader will win a book of their choice, choosing from seven of our newest titles. From now until Sunday, July 21, we will spotlight one of the books up for grabs on our blog. Answer our questions in the comments or on social media, and you’ll be entered into the drawing! For more details on the giveaway, CLICK HERE

Today’s feature title is Olivia de Havilland: Lady Triumphant. Legendary actress and two-time Academy Award winner Olivia de Havilland, best known for her role as Melanie Wilkes in Gone with the Wind (1939), portrayed elegant and refined characters. At the same time, de Havilland herself was a survivor with a fierce desire to direct her own destiny on and off the screen. She fought and won a lawsuit against Warner Bros. over a contract dispute that changed the studio contract system forever. From her iconic romance with James Stewart to her unending feud with Joan Fontaine, this work offers unprecedented access to the world behind the Hollywood screen and is a tribute to  one of Hollywood’s greatest legends.

Author Victoria Amador corresponded with de Havilland for forty years! They even met multiple times in the actress’s Paris home. We hope you’ll enjoy the story of how these two met, shared by the author below from the book’s introduction.

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Happy 100th Birthday to Kirk Douglas!

One of the original leading men, Kirk Douglas came along in the final days of the major studio system, and he was one of the first box office stars to take charge of his own destiny by  becoming involved in the production and marketing of the films in which he appeared.

He was a vital force in such classics as Out of the Past (1947), Champion (1949), Detective Story (1951), Ace in the Hole (1951), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), and Lust for Life (1956). He formed his own company, Bryna, and made such major films as Paths of Glory (1957), Spartacus (1960), Lonely Are the Brave (1962), and Seven Days in May (1964).

Along the way, he distinguished himself in a number of westerns, including The Big Sky (1952), Man without a Star (1955), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), and The War Wagon (1967), while also tackling several action roles in historical period pictures like 20,000 Leagues under the Sea (1954), Ulysses (1955), and The Vikings (1958).

conversations_with_classic_film_stars_coverRenowned for his support of liberal causes, Douglas is often credited with helping break down the dreaded Hollywood anti-Communist “blacklist” by hiring blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo (who also celebrates a birthday today!) to write the screenplay for Spartacus.
In a conversation with Douglas in conjunction with Draw!, a 1984 HBO TV western, Ronald Miller asked the iconic actor about his work with other leading actors and actresses, antiheroes, and working within the studio system. You can find a full transcript of their conversation in Conversations with Classic Film Stars—a perfect gift for the film buff this holiday season.

In the excerpt below, Miller and Douglas discuss the unique art of filmmaking, and its pitfalls, as well as Douglas’s involvement in the Oscar-winning, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Excerpted from Conversations with Classic Film Stars:

Miller: You’ve worked with every kind of movie director and you don’t have a reputation for getting into disputes with them, but you are known for demanding a collaborative atmosphere on the set. Explain that.

Douglas: I’ve worked with [Joseph] Mankiewicz, [Howard] Hawks, [Elia] Kazan, [William] Wyler, [Billy] Wilder. I’ve been very fortunate. All of them work differently. I’ve even directed a couple of pictures, so I have respect for the work. But no matter what anyone says, it’s a collaborative art form. No matter how much one person is a binding force, it’s still a collaboration.

I think the problem today is that we’ve been contaminated by the European concept of the auteur system. I’ve had movies where I bought the book, developed the script, and cast the whole picture, but then the director walks in and says, “It must be a John Smith film!” I think sometimes we emphasize that too much.

Miller: Though you’ve avoided big hassles with your directors, you’ve had a few disputes with studio managements, haven’t you?

Douglas: Let me give you an example of that: Lonely Are the Brave. You need the proper selling of a picture like that. I thought Universal just threw it away. They didn’t give it a chance. They took it out of circulation. Then there were all those great reviews and people said, “Where’s the picture?” Their ego prevented them from making a different campaign for the picture. The longer I’m in this business, the more amazed I am that a movie can be made, good or bad.

Miller: You’ve taken lots of chances in your career, but I imagine one of your greatest frustrations was not being able to play McMurphy on the big screen in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest after acquiring the rights to the book from Ken Kesey and playing the part on the stage in New York.

douglas-kirk_03Douglas: It was way ahead of its time. When I took it to Broadway, the critics didn’t know what to make of it. The audience loved it, but it didn’t do very well. I tried for nearly twelve years to make it as a movie. I took it to every studio. But they wouldn’t do it, even with a limited budget. Finally, I went into partnership with my son, Michael, and we were able to find somebody outside of the industry to put up the money and we made a little picture that I never predicted would be a hit. So it did over $200 million! Nobody knows what will really be successful.

Miller: What do you think of Michael as a producer?

Douglas: I told him, “Michael, you’re the kind of producer I’d like to work with because you give everything to the other person even when you’re in the movie.” He did that in Romancing the Stone [1984]. He focused all the attention on the girl [Kathleen Turner]. I haven’t been that generous. I’ve been a producer, but I find a product like Spartacus or The Vikings or Seven Days in May or Paths of Glory and somehow there always seems to be a good part for me.

Coming Spring 2015: MELLENCAMP: AMERICAN TROUBADOUR by David Masciotra

It’s Friday everybody! We’ve been working hard here at the press on our upcoming books and we just couldn’t wait to share one of them with you!

Mellencamp_final.inddThis post features one of our new favorites, Mellencamp: American Troubadour by David Masciotra. This book gives you an insider’s perspective on the life and music career of John Mellencamp and his path to fame. This book is an absolute must-read for music enthusiasts who are interested in the development of roots rock and Americana music.

We’ve including an excerpt here at the bottom for you to check out and tell us your thoughts. Don’t forget to check out the rest of our music related posts we’ve been doing all week, and we’ll see you back here tomorrow.

You can order the book here. Have a great weekend!

Introduction: No Pop Singer

From the American heartland came a voice as strong and restless as a tornadic
wind blowing up dust devils on a wide open prairie. In the beginning
that voice was given the unfortunate moniker of Johnny Cougar, and
its possessor would spend nearly a decade, from the late 1970s to the late
1980s, fighting to define himself as a man and as an artist, crawling out
of the shadow of his record company’s limited vision for his talent. His
manager and record company—Tony DeFries of MainMan Management,
which had a close relationship with MCA Records—found a brash, handsome,
and hungry young man from Indiana and offered him a record
contract because they liked his demo, but first and foremost because they
liked the way he looked. They envisioned a pop star brat who would make
girls swoon with his James Dean swagger and cause radios to light up
with the sonic styling of another Neil Diamond. When the record company
executives told the young man their plans and punctuated it with the
demand that he change his performance name from John Mellencamp,
his birth name, to Johnny Cougar, he protested. “No one’s ever called me
Johnny in my life,” he said before addressing the humiliation of a tag like
“Cougar.” The conversation ended abruptly when an executive brought his gavel down on the table: “You can be Johnny Cougar or you can go back to
Indiana and do whatever it was you were doing there.” What Mellencamp
was doing was making minimum wage working for the phone company in
his hometown of Seymour, Indiana. He’d come to New York City to get a
record contract and, in the spirit and tradition of the explorer, adventurer,
and artist, he was determined to meet the challenge of the task—a challenge
that ends with many people forced, without ceremony or even farewell,
to return to their hometowns to do whatever it was they were doing
there. Mellencamp signed the deal, and Johnny Cougar was born.
Fourteen years later, in 1989, after selling millions of albums and scoring
several top ten hits as both John Cougar (Johnny became John by the
early 1980s) and John Cougar Mellencamp (his surname first appeared
on a record in 1983), Mellencamp released a single called “Pop Singer.”
The song is a stimulative and hypnotic blend of funk and folk—the funk
foaming from a Sly Stone bass line and a Stax sisterhood of backup vocalists,
and the folk fomenting from the fiddle, imported from Ireland, and a
beach accordion. Mellencamp’s voice—car wheels on a gravel road of confidence—
begins a biography and commences a confession:
Never wanted to be no pop singer
Never wanted to write no pop songs.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Just wanted to make it real
Good, bad, or indifferent
That’s the way that I live and the way that I’ll die, as a
Pop singer

Wah Wah Jones (1926 – 2014)

Wah Wah JonesWallace “Wah Wah” Jones, the last surviving member of the University of Kentucky “Fabulous Five” basketball team, died this past weekend at the age of 88.

The UK legend, and only athlete in the school’s history to have had his jersey retired in both basketball and football, played under both coaches Adolph Rupp and Bear Bryant while in school. Besides winning an NCAA basketball championship in 1948 and 1949, Jones also won a gold medal in basketball for the U.S. at the 1948 London Olympics.

In tribute to this unforgettable player, we’re sharing an excerpt from the forthcoming book, Wildcat Memories by Doug Brunk; Wah Wah’s chapter may be the last interview he ever gave. Already cemented in the storied history of UK athletics, the Harlan native shared his remembrances and passion for his teams.

from Wildcat Memories: Inside Stories of Kentucky Basketball Greats by Doug Brunk:

I had dreamed about playing basketball at the University of Kentucky for many, many years. When I was growing up in Harlan in the 1940s, our family didn’t have a television set. We had a radio, but the reception on that was not reliable. Sometimes we’d get reception in the attic of our house, but often we’d pile in the car and drive into the nearby mountains to listen to UK basketball games on the car radio.

I was lucky to have been part of a winning basketball program at Harlan High School. Our team went to the state tournament four years in a row (1942 to 1945), and in 1944 our team won the state championship title. At the end of my high school career I had scored 2,398 points, which at the time was the highest total by a single high school player in the United States.

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Splendor in the Hollywood Hills

Tomorrow marks what would have been actress Natalie Wood’s 75th birthday. Beloved and celebrated for her roles in films such as Miracle on 34th Street, Splendor in the Grass, West Side Story, and Rebel Without a Cause, her life was cut tragically short at age 43 during a boating incident that remains a mystery to this day.

Natalie’s long-time friend, writer-director-producer Tom Mankiewicz, wrote a touching tribute in his autobiography My Life as a Mankiewicz: An Insider’s Journey Through Hollywood. Remembered by Mankiewicz as “fiercely loyal to her friends,” his memoir tells stories from happier times, like parties on New Year’s Eve, her love of Mel Brooks’ 2000 Year Old Man, and finding her lost dog, Cricket, in Bel Air.

Life Magazine has released a series of never-before-published photos of the star, a few of which you can see below. You can also read an excerpt on Natalie Wood from My Life as a Mankiewicz after the jump.

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