Roger Ebert's Book of Film: From Tolstoy to Tarantino, the Finest Writing from a Century of Film


Thumbs up for the most lavish and entertaining anthology of writing on film ever, assembled by America's best known and most trusted movie critic. If going to the movies has been the twentieth century's most popular source of artistic pleasure, reading about the movies may not be far behind.
For this delicious, instructive, and vastly enjoyable anthology, Roger Ebert has selected and introduced an international treasury of more than 100 selections that touch on every aspect of ...

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Thumbs up for the most lavish and entertaining anthology of writing on film ever, assembled by America's best known and most trusted movie critic. If going to the movies has been the twentieth century's most popular source of artistic pleasure, reading about the movies may not be far behind.
For this delicious, instructive, and vastly enjoyable anthology, Roger Ebert has selected and introduced an international treasury of more than 100 selections that touch on every aspect of filmmaking and filmgoing. Here are the stars (Truman Capote on Marilyn Monroe, Joan Didion on John Wayne, Tom Wolfe on Cary Grant, Lauren Bacall on herself), the directors (John Houseman on Orson Welles, Kenneth Tynan on Mel Brooks, John Huston on himself), the makers and shakers (producer Julia Phillips, mogul Daryll F. Zanuck, stuntman Joe Bonomo), and the critics and theorists (Pauline Kael, Graham Greene, Andrew Sarris, Susan Sontag). Here as well are the novelists who have indelibly captured the experience of moviegoing in our lives (Walker Percy, James Agee, Larry McMurtry) and the culture of the movie business (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Budd Schulberg, Nathanael West). Here is a book to get lost in and return to time and time againat once a history, an anatomy, and a loving appreciation of the central art form of our time.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
From one of the country's most popular movie reviewers comes this exhaustive and pleasingly eclectic selection of articles on film and filmmaking. Designed for selective browsing, the book contains a treasure-chest of fine works, and only the occasional well-meaning clunker. On the fictional side, the strange nature of fame and star identification is subtly exposed in a short excerpt from Walker Percy's The Moviegoer, while novelists Elmore Leonard and Michael Tolkin both cut deeply and satirically into the odious nature of the moviemaking business. While John Updike is coolly humbled by Doris Day, Norman Mailer complains he could have used a whole lot more sex in Last Tango. Surprisingly, a few genuine geniuses come across a little stiffly, notably Alfred Hitchcock and Buster Keaton. But happily, light relief is close at hand: join John Waters for a gutter-level saunter through Hollywoodland, or thrill to Kenneth Anger's refined sleazoid take on the slew of tabloid-ready deaths the movie business has produced over the years, among them Lupe Velez in 1944 and Robert Walker in 1951. Elsewhere Terry McMillan compares her native Michigan to Dorothy's Oz and Kansas, Joan Didion finds much to admire in John Wayne and the incomparable Libby Gelman-Waxner from Premiere magazine disses film noir in her own catty fashion. A wealth of lore and legend is provided. (Nov.)
Library Journal
No, it's not a collection of the film critic's musings but a revival of a long dormant genre: the anthology of writing about film. Ebert arranges over 100 piecesmany of them book excerptsinto categories (Movie Stars, The Business, Early Days, Genres, etc.) and provides a brief introduction to each. The range is astonishing, from H.L. Mencken writing about Valentino to an excerpt from a web site devoted to Quentin Tarantino. Even novels that capture the moviegoing experience of the movie business have been excerpted. It's a first-rate collection that will stimulate interest in both the movies mentioned and the authors anthologized. One quibble: Ebert doesn't always provide publication dates. Still, this is an invaluable single source, appropriate for all libraries.Thomas J. Wiener, "Satellite DIRECT," Washington, D.C.
Kirkus Reviews
TV film maven and Chicago Tribune columnist Ebert (A Kiss Is Still a Kiss, 1984) gathers 100 pieces in belated tribute to the first century of the movies.

In attempting to create an anthology of outstanding film writing that would reflect film's multifaceted nature—at once art and aphrodisiac, entertainment and commerce, myth and industrial product—Ebert has stumbled a bit; the book suffers from a jury-rigged structure that mainly illuminates the arbitrariness of Ebert's choices. The pieces he has assembled are wildly uneven, although many do shine. The overwhelming majority of the collection consists of excerpts from longer works, some of which don't entirely make sense out of context. For example, the passages from Larry McMurtry's novel The Last Picture Show, while evocative, seem unduly skeletal when stripped from the heart of the novel. Moreover, although Ebert's attempt to represent the widest possible range of writing about film is admirable, with almost no writer represented by more than one piece, does anyone believe that a piece from a Web site devoted to Quentin Tarantino, an excerpt from Janet Leigh's pedestrian little book on the making of Psycho, snatches of Mario Puzo's The Godfather, and Charles Bukowski's musings on film represent the best writing available on the medium? Too many of the directors' entries are self-aggrandizing, the mix of fiction and nonfiction is awkward, and sudden shifts, such as the one from a chronological grouping on silent films to a handful of essays on genre, are unhelpful. On the other hand, Ebert has drawn from some unjustly forgotten books, such as Jonathan Rosenbaum's elegiac and rigorous Moving Places, and Christopher Isherwood's delicate and charming Prater Violet.

An entertaining hodgepodge, but a hodgepodge all the same.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393040005
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/25/1996
  • Pages: 800
  • Sales rank: 946,934
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 1.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Roger Ebert
Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert is the Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times. His reviews are syndicated to some 200 newspapers in the United States and Canada. He lives in Chicago.
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Table of Contents

From A Death in the Family 17
"In Dreams Begin Responsibilities" 20
From The Bachelor of Arts 27
"The Wizard of Oz" 30
From Another Day of Life 38
From The Moviegoer 40
From Moving Places 43
From The Last Picture Show 50
From The Phantom Empire 60
Rudolph Valentino 71
Greta Garbo 74
"They Can't Take That Away from Me" 78
From W. C. Fields: His Follies and Fortunes 82
From The Road to Hollywood 86
From By Myself 88
"Bogie in Excelsis" 92
From Suspects 104
James Dean 110
From The Films of My Life 116
"Ava: Life in the Afternoon" 126
From Selected Letters 133
"John Wayne: A Love Song" 137
"Loverboy of the Bourgeoisie" 144
"Setsuko Hara" 149
"Suzie Creamcheese Speaks" 152
"A Beautiful Child" 161
From Notes 173
"Lee Marvin" 179
From Kinski Uncut 187
John Belushi 195
"The Wahoo Boy" 203
"The Island of Hollywood" 216
From Flying through Hollywood by the Seat of My Pants 232
From Step Right Up 237
From Picture 242
From Get Shorty 249
From The Player 257
From Wannabe 260
"Mae West" 271
From Hollywood Babylon 286
"The Awful Fate of the Sex Goddess" 291
"Blue Notes" 297
"Last Tango in Paris" 307
"Tango, Last Tango" 314
From The Godfather 323
"Edison's Vitascope Cheered" 339
"The Great Train Robbery" 339
Lumiere 342
A Conversation on Film with Leo Tolstoy 345
"The Nickelodeons" 347
"The Photoplay of Action" 355
From My Autobiography 359
John Bunny 362
"Pabst and Lulu" 366
Mary Pickford 373
Gloria Swanson 377
"Keaton at Venice" 379
"I'm Sorry I Made Me Cry" 388
"Minnie and Mickey" 397
"The Western: or the American Film par Excellence" 400
"The Gangster as Tragic Hero" 407
"Underground Films" 412
"The Imagination of Disaster" 423
"Libby 'Noir'" 436
From My Last Sigh 441
From The Magic Lantern 444
"My Own Methods" 447
From A Life in Movies 453
From Run-through 457
From Preston Sturges on Preston Sturges 463
"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" 470
From An Open Book 473
From My Life and My Films 479
From Something Like an Autobiography 482
Stanley Kubrick 489
"A Long Time on the Little Road" 493
From Fellini on Fellini 498
From One Man Tango 502
Mel Brooks 511
From POPism 518
From Sculpting in Time 527
From Scorsese on Scorsese 531
From Do the Right Thing 536
"Frequently Asked Questions about Quentin Tarantino" 548
From A Child of the Century 555
"Who Makes the Movies?" 569
From Prater Violet 581
From Selected Letters 594
From Hollywood 597
"Memories of a Film Critic" 611
From On Movies 619
From Confessions of a Cultist 623
"Why I'm Not Bored" 628
From How to Go to the Movies
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