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May 12, 2006

Callow on Welles; Server on Hayward

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Of the books on Orson Welles that I've been through, the standout (IMHO, of course) has been volume one of Simon Callow's biography of Welles. Callow dealt with Welles as a man, not a myth, and he cast a realistic yet appeciative eye on Welles' work as a performer and director. (As his classic biography of Charles Laughton confirms, Callow -- an actor himself -- is one of the best writers ever on acting.) Needless to say, the Welles cult rose up in outraged anger. Volume one, which covered Welles' life up through "Citizen Kane," was published 11 years ago. So I'm pleased to see that volume two has just come out in England. Philip French likes Callow's work as much as I do. (Link thanks to ALD.) The book will be published in the U.S. in September. Here's an amusing interview with Callow, who is quite the outsized personality himself.

Speaking of film biographies, have you bought your copy yet of Lee Server's "Ava Gardner"? FvB and I are both big fans of "Danger is My Business" and "Over My Dead Body," Server's books about pulp magazines and hard-boiled fiction. They're inspired blends of history and criticism: insightful about the fiction and the writers, yet wised-up and low-down about the business and the market. They're also fabulous and earthy introductions to a couple of key eras in American culture. Academic is one thing that Lee Server ain't. I can also recommend Server's first-class "Encyclopedia of Pulp Fiction Writers" and his magnificently tough-minded biography, "Robert Mitchum: Baby I Don't Care." As far as I'm concerned, Server is an ideal writer about popular culture -- responsive to its rough poetry, unafraid of (and even drawn to) the often-squalid, often-nutsy conditions it's born out of.

Here's a very likable interview with Lee Server. I'm pleased to note that Server and I share some tastes. He's a fan of some of the same crime writers I love most: Donald Westlake, Charles Willeford, and Patricia Highsmith. Here's Peter Bogdanovich raving about the Ava Gardner bio. Here's some colorful praise for the book by The Guardian's Carole Cadwalladr.



posted by Michael at May 12, 2006


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