Warning Shadows: Home Alone with Classic Cinema

Overview

A brilliantly insightful and witty examination of beloved and little-known films, directors, and stars by one of America’s most esteemed critics.
In his illuminating new work, Gary Giddins explores the evolution of film, from the first moving pictures and peepshows to the digital era of DVDs and online video-streaming. New technologies have changed our experience of cinema forever; we have peeled away from the crowded theater to be home alone with classic cinema. Recounting the ...

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Warning Shadows: Home Alone with Classic Cinema

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Overview

A brilliantly insightful and witty examination of beloved and little-known films, directors, and stars by one of America’s most esteemed critics.
In his illuminating new work, Gary Giddins explores the evolution of film, from the first moving pictures and peepshows to the digital era of DVDs and online video-streaming. New technologies have changed our experience of cinema forever; we have peeled away from the crowded theater to be home alone with classic cinema. Recounting the technological developments that films have undergone, Warning Shadows travels through time and across genres to explore the impact of the industry’s most famous classics and forgotten gems. Essays such as “Houdini Escapes! From the Vaults! Of the Past!,” “Edward G. Robinson, See,” and “Prestige and Pretension (Pride and Prejudice)” capture the wit and magic of classic cinema. Each chapter—ranging from the horror films of Hitchcock to the fantastical frames of Disney—provides readers with engaging analyses of influential films and the directors and actors who made them possible.

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Editorial Reviews

VanityFair.com
[S]hould be in the knapsack or survival kit of every Golden Age Hollywood enthusiast/amateur scholar/completist queen as a standby Bible for instruction, inspiration, and succor.— James Wolcott
Los Angeles Times
Witty, informed, insightful...Warning Shadows makes me want to watch or re-watch nearly every movie [Giddins] discusses.— Lawrence Levi
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Most film fanatics I know keep several film guides within arm's reach of their home cinemas, then use supplementary texts by such writers as Peter Bogdanovich, Gerald Mast and Ephraim Katz. To this batch on my shelf, I have added Warning Shadows.— William Kist
San Francisco Chronicle
Giddins writes with empathy and insight on such cinematic icons as Edward G. Robinson and Joan Crawford, paying close attention to the meanings of their mannerisms and their enduring fascination as creators of quirky behavior. The essays on directors Samuel Fuller and Sidney Lumet are shrewd appreciations of their cinematic styles; unlike most film reviewers, Giddins knows his way around visual language and uses his jazzy sense of verbal style to zero in on cinematic touches that convey a vision of the world.— Joseph McBride
Columbia Journalism Review
[Giddins'] first book wholly devoted to movies is the real deal, a deeply reflective work bristling with the kind of scholarship that also feels spontaneous.... Giddins’s headlong sentences and rapid-fire associations sometimes remind me of Preston Sturges: the apparent chaos is under total control.— Tim Appelo
James Wolcott - VanityFair.com
“[S]hould be in the knapsack or survival kit of every Golden Age Hollywood enthusiast/amateur scholar/completist queen as a standby Bible for instruction, inspiration, and succor.”
Lawrence Levi - Los Angeles Times
“Witty, informed, insightful...Warning Shadows makes me want to watch or re-watch nearly every movie [Giddins] discusses.”
William Kist - Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Most film fanatics I know keep several film guides within arm's reach of their home cinemas, then use supplementary texts by such writers as Peter Bogdanovich, Gerald Mast and Ephraim Katz. To this batch on my shelf, I have added Warning Shadows.”
Joseph McBride - San Francisco Chronicle
“Giddins writes with empathy and insight on such cinematic icons as Edward G. Robinson and Joan Crawford, paying close attention to the meanings of their mannerisms and their enduring fascination as creators of quirky behavior. The essays on directors Samuel Fuller and Sidney Lumet are shrewd appreciations of their cinematic styles; unlike most film reviewers, Giddins knows his way around visual language and uses his jazzy sense of verbal style to zero in on cinematic touches that convey a vision of the world.”
Tim Appelo - Columbia Journalism Review
“[Giddins'] first book wholly devoted to movies is the real deal, a deeply reflective work bristling with the kind of scholarship that also feels spontaneous.... Giddins’s headlong sentences and rapid-fire associations sometimes remind me of Preston Sturges: the apparent chaos is under total control.”
Dave Kehr
…an anthology of informed, engaged, illuminating writings, mainly concerned with American movies of the '30s, '40s and '50s…over all this is a graceful and stimulating book, one that opens a door on an art that is, like jazz, both popular and esoteric, collective and intensely personal, immediately accessible and endlessly intricate.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Critic Giddins (Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Miracles) gleans fresh insights from novel juxtapositions in these essays drawn from his newspaper reviews of DVD collections. The DVD collection’s raison d’etre is to group movies around organizing principles, which here run the gamut from Hitchcock retrospectives to Disney nature docs to Hollywood literary adaptations to charming oddities like a collection of silents starring Harry Houdini. The downside to reviewing them is that Giddins must glance at lesser works with little to recommend them, though he’ll often notice a fine performance, catchy score or radiant lighting scheme gleaming through the dross. The payoff is the themes that emerge as he sifts a wealth of comparisons and contrasts. These range from the failings of Rodgers and Hammerstein (The Sound of Music is “the happiest of all musicals involving Nazis”) to keen evocations of a movie star’s aura, the “casually authoritative stance” of an Edward G. Robinson or the “mulish twisting between bashful affability and cries de coeur” of a Jimmy Stewart. Giddins is the ideal couch companion, erudite but relaxed and witty; his perceptive commentary shows that it’s not what you watch, it’s how you watch it. (Apr.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393337921
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/19/2010
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary Giddins is the Executive Director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the City University of New York. He was the Village Voice jazz columnist for over 30 years and remains a preeminent jazz critic who received the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award, and the Bell Atlantic Award for Visions of Jazz: The First Century in 1998. His other books include Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams: The Early Years, 1903–1940, which won the Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award and the ARSC Award for Excellence in Historical Sound Research; Weatherbird: Jazz at the Dawn of Its Second Century; Faces in the Crowd; Natural Selection; Warning Shadows; and biographies of Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker. He has won an unparalleled six ASCAP–Deems Taylor Awards, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Peabody Award in Broadcasting.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 13

Part 1 Home Alone With Classic Cinema 15

You Pays Your Money 17

Peeping 18

Screening 21

Televising 24

Digitizing 26

Laughter and Tears 29

Part 2 Directors and Stars 35

1 Touched Ernst Lubitsch 37

2 The John Ford Code 42

Ford at War 42

Ford at Fox 48

3 Three Howard Hawks 52

4 Frank Capra, True Believer 57

5 Guilty: Alfred Hitchcock 63

6 That Wild So-and-So William A. Wellman 69

7 The Orson Welles Dilemma 74

After Kane 74

The Trouble Mr. Arkadin 78

Dark Knight 82

8 John Brahm: The Evil That Men Do 86

9 Michael Curtiz's Doris Day Period 90

10 Anthony Mann of the West 94

11 Sam Fuller's Pulp Cinema 101

12 Akira Kurosawa's Deep Focus 106

Olympian 106

Red Harvests 110

13 Medieval Ingmar Bergman: God Is in the House, Maybe 114

14 Sergio Leone: Heroes, Villains, and Idiots 122

15 Sidney Lumet's Family Plots 127

16 The Magical Unreality of Lech Majewski 135

17 Edward Yang's Family Ties 140

18 Houdini Escapes! From the Vaults! Of the Past! 144

19 Joan Crawford Is Dangerous 148

20 Bette Davis, Bigger Than Life 152

21 The Serenity of Alice Faye 156

22 Edward G. Robinson, See 161

23 Humphrey Bogart: Falcons and Fascists 167

24 Let's Be Frank 171

25 James Stewart: No More Mr. Nice Guy 176

26 Boris Karloff: He's Alive! 180

Part 3 Movies by Genre 185

Biopics 187

27 A Legend in His Own Mind (El Cid) 187

28 Lust for Lives (Young Mr. Lincoln/Lust for Life) 192

29 Felonious Munch (Edvard Munch) 197

30 Hitler's Magic Flute (Hamsun Hunger) 202

Fantasy/Horror 206

31 Early German Psychos (German Expressionism Collection) 206

32 It Wasn't Beauty Killed the Beast (King Kong/Grass/Chang) 210

33 Masters and Grandmasters (The Thief of Bagdad/Icons of Adventure) 214

34 Urban Legend (Blade Runner) 218

35 Carnivores (Dark Sky Films) 222

Comedy 226

36 Running for a Train (The General) 226

37 Road Warrior (Trafic) 230

Literary Adaptations 234

38 Prestige and Pretense (Pride and Prejudice) 234

39 An Unhappy Film in Its Own Way (Anna Karenina) 238

40 Classics and Semi-Classics Illustrated (Literary Classics Collection) 242

41 A Rosetta Stone for the 1950s (Ben-Hur/The Man Who Fell to Earth/Bad Timing) 246

42 John Huston's Novel Approach (Under the Volcano) 250

43 Lights! Camera! Talk! (Tennessee Williams) 254

44 Maxiseries (A Dance to the Music of Time/Fabio Montale) 259

Musicals 263

45 Who's Afraid of Al Jolson? (The Jazz Singer) 263

46 Pennies from Heaven (The Threepenny Opera) 267

47 Habit Forming (The Busby Berkeley Collection) 271

48 Smilin' Them to Death (Hallelujah/The Green Pastures/Cabin in the Sky) 275

49 Vaudeville (Bing Crosby: Screen Legend Collection) 279

50 Techni-glory (The Tales of Hoffman/Rodgers & Hammerstein/Gregory Hines) 282

51 Casting Doubts (Fiddler on the Roof/Presenting Lily Mars) 287

52 How Jazzed Can You Get? (Passing Through/A Great Day in Harlem/Blues in the Night/Pete Kelly's Blues) 291

The Scene 291

Lost and Found 295

Group Portrait 298

Mining the Misery 301

The Disney (And Anti-Disney) Version 304

53 Battling Nazis with Sambas (Saludos Amigos/The Three Caballeros) 304

54 Dog Days (Lady and the Tramp/Hayao Miyazaki/Max and Dave Fleischer) 308

55 Uncle Walt's Prairie Home Companion (True-Life Adventures) 314

Crime/Noir 318

56 Men Without Molls (Gangsters Collection, Vol. 3) 318

57 Elementary (Charlie Chan/Michael Shayne) 323

58 To Coin a Genre (Kino's Film Noir) 328

59 New Grubb Streets (Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 4) 333

60 The Deadly Forties (I Wake Up Screaming/When Strangers Marry) 337

61 Who Is Harry Lime? (The Third Man) 343

62 Joker (Ace in the Hole) 347

63 Salvage Jobs (Affair in Trinidad/The Garment Jungle) 351

64 Mob Mentality (Mafioso/Excellent Cadavers) 355

War/Agitprop 359

65 Wars to End Wars (All Quiet on the Western Front/49th Parallel) 359

66 Love the Warriors (Overlord/The Guns of Navarone/The Caine Mutiny) 363

67 Theater of the Absurd (Merrill's Marauders) 367

68 In Search of Lost Time (Muriel/La belle captive) 371

69 A Soviet Guide to Cuba (I Am Cuba) 375

70 The Redmen Are Coming (Indianerfilmes) 379

71 Recalling the Future of Nuclear War (The War Game/Culloden) 383

Index 387

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