Previous On the Bedside Table Entries

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John Wayne, The Life and Legend by Scott Eymann. Not surprisingly, noted film author Scott Eymann turn in another near epic work, this one focussing on John Wayne. It makes a strong bookend to his earlier work on director John Ford and does a fine job illustrating the man, with a deft approach to balancing his film career against his personal life. Woven throughout, but not obtrusively so, are wonderful insights which illuminate the man himself, from his epic greatness to his stoic belief system and all that falls between. Eymann avoids falling into some of the potential pitfalls of tackling Wayne, namely the nearly guaranteed quagmires that are The Alamo and The Green Berets. Even casual fans will find this a book you simply can’t put down.Final Score: A. (Review October 9, 2014)

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By Myself and then Some. by Lauren Bacall. Strangely I began reading this a few days before Ms. Bacall’s passing based on further interest after finishing up the fine Bogart biography. Bacall is always honest and at her best when relating memories of her early years, which for this reader end with Bogie’s passing. Up through a particularly powerful (and disturbing) recounting of his illness and ultimate demise the book simply cannot be put down. However, after that the book looses much of its punch and almost feels like it is following an outline, hitting moments in her life like stops on a book tour. The “And Then Some” portion of the book, even though written over twenty years after the first, sadly continues the theme. With her work coming sporadically, the added piece becomes and almost macabre recounting of the passing of many of her longtime friends, including Gregory Peck, John Gielgud, and Alec Guinness. In spite of that, the sheer excellence of the first half of the book (through the end of her first marriage) makes it a must read.Final Score: A-. (Review September 5, 2014)

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Bogart. by A.M. Sperber and Eric Lax. There isn’t much to say about this wonderful narrative on the life and work of Humphrey Bogart. This is filled with details of primarily his early life and his various marriages, thankfully including those prior to his final one to Lauren Bacall. (Not that I mind her, but to me that part of his life has been well documented.) The only criticism I have is that I found the HUAC portions mind-numbingly tedious, but not sure how the authors could have gotten around that.  Some of the anecdotal stories of this great star’s life alon make this worth the price of admission.  Best highlight of the book is actually a (paraphrased) quote by George Raft on seeing The Maltese Falcon, which he had turned down.  Said Raft, “There but for the grace of Me, go I.”  Good stuff. Final Score: A+. (Review April 26, 2014)

Learning-to-Live-Out-Loud-COVERLearning to Live Out Loud by Piper Laurie (Nov 1, 2011). Two and a half years after being gifted a copy, I finally got around to cracking this one and was pleasantly surprised. Candidly, I am not overly familiar with Ms. Laurie’s work so by no means would I consider myself an informed fan. That said, I learned quite a bit through this short book, and found it a nice blend of both her professional and personal lives.  As a curious reader you are met with tasteful recounting of some of her loves (Ronald Reagan and John Frankenheimer among them) and also insights on how she has approached her roles.  It come across as a very honest and unadulterated accounting. Perhaps what makes this so interesting is the almost casual writing style that comes along for the ride. The results make it an engaging and extremely likable read! Though not quite on the same level as John Huston’s An Open Book, this ranks as one of the better star autobiographies out there.  Highly recommended.  Final Score: A.  (Review April 26, 2014)

peter lorreThe Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre by Youngkin, Stephen D. (Sep 30, 2005).  I was truly excited to crack this tome open- and it truly is a tome.  I would be hard pressed to say that there could ever be a more exhaustive volume on the star- and given the dedication in collecting some many first-hand interviews from those who knew Lorre this becomes the de facto resource on the subject.  That said, I left feeling like perhaps I didn’t really get to know the man.  What made him tick?  He is remembered today as one of the great character actors of his (or any) day.  But Youngkin hints to why his stardom stalled, yet fails to take a stand on any hard theory.  Rather, he presents a mishmash of potential reasons.  Perhaps it was his numerous addictions.  Perhaps he could never live up to the high level of M, one of his first films.  Or it could have been the rise of Hitler.  The Lost One comes with great potential, but for this reader failed to deliver the knock-out blow.  Final Score:  B+. (Review March 30, 2014)

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