Page 6, 31st January 1986

31st January 1986
Page 6
Page 6, 31st January 1986 — Addiction to icy blondes

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Organisations: Todd Drama School
Locations: Dublin, London, Paris, Stockholm


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Addiction to icy blondes


Hitchcock by Francois Truffaut (Heinemann, £18.00): Orson Wells by Barbara Learning (Weidenfeld): Money into Light: The Emerald Forest by John Boorman (Faber, £4.95): Where Have all the Bullets Gone by Spike Milligan (J M Hobbs, £9.95): Marlon Brando by Gary Carey (Dobson, £9.50): My Life in the Silver Screen by Gerald Kaufman (Faber, £9.95): All Those Tomorrows by Mai Zetterling (Jonathan Cape, £9.95): The MGM Girls by Peter Harry Brown & Pamela Ann Brown (Harrap, £5.95).

FANS, of course, were fanatics. I've never been quite clear when or why they became buffs, or of the precise meaning of the term. This cinema bookshelf is laden with works by, about or for persons dedicated to movies.

Leading the lot is the Truffaut-Hitchcock biography, the classic comprehensive study of the man generally acknowledged (especially by the French) to have been our foremost British director. It progresses in dialogue between Hitchcock himself and the latelamented popular French director of a new generation.

In the interview format, Hitchcock recollects to Truffaut's prompting his whole career, beginning with the early silent films and his pioneer work on the first British talkie

Blackmail. He admits his youthful fears, which probably

inspired the life-long series of thrillers with which he terrified audiences world-wide, up to his own favourite, the horrific Psycho.

The conversational form of the debate between the two directors over their respective styles sometimes smacks of the self-conscious: "Not a Hitchcockian actor" says Truffaut. ."Not my style" responds Hitchcock.

But they combine to achieve an acute analysis of Hitchcock's art, including his admitted preference for technique over content or theme.

There is candour about his mannerisms and his addictions to icy blondes, and a selection of his maxims for directors from the basic impossibility of making people feel something unless one has felt it oneself, to the cardinal rule that a director's job is not to tell people things, his job is to show them.

This revised edition is a splendid production although the superb illustrations which are as important as the text, and often include the familiar portly profile of the director.

After the adult genius of Hitchcock comes the youthful Orson Welles. When he first emerged with his sensational radio version of H G Wells's

War of the Worlds, and deceived America into believing in the invasion from space, Welles at 19 was hailed as a juvenile prodigy.

Perhaps his genius never fully matured but was also never in doubt from his aspiring youth at Todd Drama School, where he made his first Shakespearian essays, and his early Dublin triumph at the Gate.

After the death of his glamorous and brilliant mother

Beatrice, Welles lived and worked under a succession of mentors from Dadda Bernstein to Michael McLiammoir and President Roosevelt. Although he may never have made such a total success as in his first feature film Citizen Kane, he never outgrew his zest for movies of politics.

When he died this year BBC television repeated the programme in which he suggested that falling in love with movies had dispelled his obsession with the theatre. Neither Barbara Learning's thoroughly researched biography, nor Welles's public career makes this very plausible.

Philip French, in his Foreword to John Boorman's Journey into Light, quotes Cecilia Brady, narrator of Scott Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon, claiming that "not half a dozen men have ever been able to keep the whole equation of pictures in their heads". French comments that she was perhaps exaggerating the fewness of such people, but Boorman certainly belongs to this small group. The book is basically a vivid journal of the day-by-day adventure of directing his latest success The Emerald Forest.

Into a personal account as adventurous as a Werner Herzog excursion into deepest South America, Boorman has managed to incorporate the whole process of making a film, from treatment script and casting to final financing — the whole equation in fact packaged in a selection of maxims for directors by one of a younger generation than Hitchcock.

Spike Milligan is still my favourite Goon. I had not read his previous four war biographies. This fifth Where .have all the Bullets Gone takes Spike and his unit from Monte Cassino ("My God, they've bombed the monastery into rubble") and Caserta to postpeace concert parties in Palestine.

The rather brazen sub-title of Gary Carey's book on Marlon Brando — The Only Contender — might be justified by the brilliant opening and latter stages of his career from Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront to his milliondollar come-back in The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. In between come more mediocre experiments and visits to ex-wives settled in Pacific islands.

I have to confess ignorance in that I had not known that Gerald Kaufman had been a film critic (and of The Listener too) or anything but a Labour politician. But from My Life in the Silver Screen I was agreeably surprised to find him making much the same voyage of discovery as myself years earlier.

From her first success on British screens in Frenzy, Mai Zetterling became the English Swedeheart as she quotes with some distaste in Al! There Tomorrows. She went on to become a success on the London stage and also in Paris, and seems to have spent idyllic years in France followed by less than idyllic weeks in Hollywood costarring with Danny Kaye in Knock on Wood. Back in England she turned into an intelligent film director.

Her book is feminine in style but is absorbing personally and professionally, stressing both her Stockholm working-class background and her Swedish National Theatre training under Ingmar Bergman and Alf Sjoberg.

Anybody still living, well-read in the fan magazines of the

thirties, will recognise The MGM Girls, if not the indivichal stories and atmosphere of gossip

handed back and forth between

Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper, and the attempt to

create a legend for Louis B Meyer, the MGM boss and parttyrant, part-poppa.

Freda Bruce Lockhart

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