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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Cool Ass Cinema Book Reviews: Vintage Hollywood Movie Stills Edition!


By Joel Finler

Hardcover; 224 pages; B/W; editions: 1995, 2008, 2012

An incredible, sumptuously mounted endeavor, this book is essential for film lovers fascinated by not just the film stills and their background, but the intriguing and exciting stories that go along with them.

The various avenues of movie marketing are an essential and vital component in Hollywood's movie-making machine. While the actors are guided through their roles by the watchful eye of the director, another "movie" of sorts is documented by the stills photographer.

In charge of capturing the various performers, locations, sets, and other film related personnel at work, the stills photographer was a sadly overlooked, if vital aspect in the shaping, and marketing of a motion picture.

Joel Finler rectifies this oversight with his exhaustive, meticulously compiled historical account of this seemingly lost art form. This all new edition is expanded by over 30 pages and a hefty amount of additional photos.

Movie stills were just as integral to the success of a production and its stars as the film itself. Finler's book not only documents this unique photographic dimension of cinema, but the few hundred photos are generously complimented by an all encompassing text that leaves no stone unturned, no corner unexplored within the often surreal world of still photography.

Finler's book begins during the silent era and focuses primarily during that Golden Age period through the 1950s and into the early 1960s. He covers many prime filmmakers of the time including such early trendsetters and controversial hands as Cecil B. DeMille and D.W. Griffith respectively.

You'll see such fascinating, and candid images such as Alfred Hitchcock snoozing between takes on THE LADY VANISHES (1938); or Johnny Weissmuller giving Maureen O'Sullivan an indoor swimming lesson prior to shooting their then upcoming Tarzan movie. One of the most striking photos is an image showcasing the shooting and recording of the iconic MGM lion and its famous roar.

The posing, photographing and marketing of various major Hollywood stars and starlets is also vividly covered in both written and pictorial detail. These include such classic film performers Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe, Ingrid Bergman, Betty Davis, Clark Gable, Robert Mitchum, and Humphrey Bogart among dozens of others. We see the stills seizing the stars in behind the scenes moments, or out in public, at their homes, in the midst of filming, or publicity photos of various sorts including photos that have been touched up hiding any imperfection the camera may capture.

For genre and horror fans there's vintage photos of Lon Chaney Sr., Boris Karloff, Fay Wray and her KING KONG. There are also rare behind the scenes pics from sci-fi fare such as George Pal's DESTINATION MOON (1950), Edward L. Cahn's IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE (1958), or Roger Corman's THE LAST WOMAN ON EARTH (1960).

You'll also find Sean Connery trying to impress Ursula Andress between takes on DR. NO (1960), Charlton Heston having his picture taken by one of his ape captors during a break filming PLANET OF THE APES (1968) and Clint Eastwood in Italy casually reading the script for Sergio Leone's FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964).

If the entire historical perspective of the still photographers, the films, the stars, the directors, their triumphs, travails and the behind the scenes stories weren't enough, there's also a useful appendix and a thorough bibliography for devout cineastes seeking additional sources.

An incredible, sumptuously mounted endeavor, this book is essential for film lovers fascinated by not just the film stills and their background, but the intriguing and exciting stories that go along with them.

HOLLYWOOD FILM STILLS is out now from Titan Books. You can order it from amazon HERE.

For more information, or ordering straight from Titan Books, you can view this publication HERE.

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