Summer Reading Challenge: The Mark Hellinger Story: A Biography of Broadway and Hollywood – Jim Bishop

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The Mark Hellinger Story: A Biography of Broadway and Hollywood – Jim Bishop
Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1952
Hardcover, 368 pages (no index)

Besides hardcore film noir fans, most people have probably never heard of Mark Hellinger, yet in the 1930s and 40s, Hellinger’s name was known by millions from coast to coast as the writer of a famous newspaper column covering all the news of Broadway. After reaching the top of his game in the newspaper business, Hellinger made the audacious move to Hollywood where he hoped to become not a writer, but a movie producer.

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Summer Reading Challenge: Black & White Cinema: A Short History – Wheeler Winston Dixon

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Black & White Cinema: A Short History – Wheeler Winston Dixon
Rutgers University Press, 2015
Paperback, 220 pages plus works cited, index
ISBN 9780813572413

“To shoot a film is to organize an entire universe.” – Ingmar Bergman

So here’s an entire book about a method of photographing movies that’s been largely unused and ignored for at least 50 years. No one shoots movies in black-and-white anymore and if you say, “Hey, wait a minute! Nebraska and The Artist were filmed in black-and-white,” you’re wrong. (They were filmed in color and desaturated to black-and-white. Read the book to find out more.) Even if you wanted to shoot a film in black-and-white, the film stock is scarce and costly. Color has ruled at the movies for decades. So why should you care about a book on black-and-white cinema?

Because that’s where the magic is.

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Junior Bonner (1972) Sam Peckinpah

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Junior Bonner (1972)
Directed by Sam Peckinpah
Produced by Joe Wizan
Written by Jeb Rosebrook
Cinematography by Lucien Ballard
DVD – interlibrary loan (1:40)

“If this world’s all about winners, what’s for the losers?”

For someone like me who’s just beginning to explore the films of Sam Peckinpah, Junior Bonner is something of a head-scratcher. In the director’s filmography, it falls between Straw Dogs (1971) and The Getaway (1972), films that contain ruthless characters as well as ruthless violence. It almost seems that with Junior Bonner Peckinpah was taking a nap.

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Summer Reading Challenge: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Originally published by J.B. Lippincott & Co. in 1960
Hardcover and paperback, 300 pages (editions vary)

Full disclosure: I read To Kill a Mockingbird for the Guys Book Club, a group I founded and lead at the Severna Park (Maryland) Library where I work. We have a system in the club of alternating who picks the books each month: they pick one, I pick one. I picked this one, but must give credit to one of our members, Paul S., who suggested it. We discussed the book two days ago.

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Blind Spot Series 2017: Peeping Tom (1960)

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Peeping Tom (1960)
Produced and directed by Michael Powell
Written by Leo Marks
Cinematography by Otto Heller
Edited by Noreen Ackland
Music by Brian Easdale
Studio Canal Vintage Classics/Optimum Home Entertainment 50th Anniversary Blu-ray (1:41)

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(For more on the Blind Spot Series, please visit The Matinee.)

For many years, perhaps even as a child, I had heard of Peeping Tom discussed in hushed whispers among a handful of adults, although I’m not sure if any of them had actually seen the film, certainly not in central Mississippi where I grew up. It was never a film I had rigorously sought out, but the title (apart from the cultural phrase itself) drifted through the air from time to time, landing on my adolescent ears. Otherwise I knew little about the film, who starred in it, when it was released, and especially (to my disappointment) at what level of salaciousness it operated.

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Underworld, U.S.A. (1961) Samuel Fuller

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Underworld, U.S.A. (1961)
Written, produced and directed by Samuel Fuller
Based on articles in The Saturday Evening Post 1956 by Joseph F. Dinneen
Cinematography by Hal Mohr
Filmstruck (1:39)

“We’ve got a right to climb out of the sewer and live like other people.”

The filmography of Samuel Fuller isn’t exactly a blind spot for me, but rather a blurry one. I have seen only five of Fuller’s films and although I’ve found them all interesting, I’m not quite sure what it is about his work that makes them so different and compelling. Maybe I’ll discover that as I’m exploring Underworld, U.S.A.

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