Jun 3, 2006

Bogged Down in Bogdanovich

I usually don't take blog space to fill you in on a current read, but I am so bowled over by Peter Bogdanovich's comprehensive Who The Hell's in It: Portraits and Conversations that I feel I must scatter the seeds of recommendation far and wide. Knowing Peter solely from his turn as host of American Movie Classic's Sunday Morning Shootout, I was a touch hesitant to pull out the broad spine of the book bearing his name as I browsed a newly-discovered neighborhood library this week. But the book's jacket boasted intimate conversations with stars like Henry Fonda and Cary Grant, Jack Lemmon and John Wayne...how could I resist at least glancing over it?
Reading Bogdanovich's book is like finding a forgotten scrapbook with juicy clippings from old Photoplays, except the polish of reserved formal interviews and posed photographs doesn't exist here. Each chapter - they're arranged in the general order in which the author came to know and interview each celebrity - is more engrossing than that last, and Bogdanovich's narration allows for the reader ultimate voyeurism into the lives of these larger-than-life personalities we feel we know so well.

As a friend and business associate of the majority of the stars covered in his book, Peter is not only incredibly knowledgeable of the technical aspects of the studio era, but he generously indulges in his behind-the-scenes experiences with some of Hollywood's greatest icons. He dines with Jack Lemmon and wife Felicia Farr in Los Angeles in the 1960's; visits Jimmy Stewart at his home over the course of nearly forty years; shares a plane ride with Marlene Dietrich - his interaction with these icons is endless, and covers both personal and professional fronts, from private dinner parties to huge gala ceremonies. While Bogdanovich speaks reverently of each person he has written an engaging piece on, he also sheds a most humanizing light on each - his point of view is an alluring mixture of awestruck, devoted fan and respectful, artistic contemporary.

Whether you possess a stunning faculty of classic movie trivia or are the kind of person who "maybe saw Casablanca....a long time ago", Who The Hell's In It is a stellar selection for a poolside read this summer. Thank you, Peter!

Who The Hell's In It also features essays on legends like Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando, Charlie Chaplin, Audrey Hepburn, Jerry Lewis, and Sidney Poitier, among others.