Thursday, September 27, 2012

Five best books on Hollywood

Leo Braudy is among America's leading cultural historians and film critics. He currently is University Professor and Leo S. Bing Chair in English and American Literature at the University of Southern California. His books include The Hollywood Sign: Fantasy and Reality of an American Icon.

For the Wall Street Journal, Braudy named a five best list of books on Hollywood, including:
Easy Riders, Raging Bulls
by Peter Biskind (1998)

By the early 1970s, old Hollywood was moribund—the studio system had withered, unable anymore to connect with the mass audience of its golden years. Ticket sales had plummeted to 15.8 million in 1971 from 78.2 million in 1946, Peter Biskind says in "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls," his engrossing chronicle of what came next: an upheaval in the film business caused by an array of young filmmakers. Directors such as Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas and Martin Scorsese, allied with actors including Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman and Jack Nicholson, set about creating some of the decade's iconic films—"Star Wars," "Jaws," "Taxi Driver," "The Godfather," "Chinatown." We know the movies well; Biskind tells us what was going on behind the scenes. He chronicles the betrayals, hostilities, confusions, missteps and general pettiness that can bedevil any collective artistic venture, but he also artfully mixes in production details, biography and salacious gossip, creating a vivid portrait of a vibrant time. In the end, Biskind says, success spelled the end of the creative ferment. Describing Spielberg at a party teasing John Travolta for owning a lesser Learjet, the author notes: "Money was the solvent that dissolved the tissue of the '70s like acid on flesh."
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see Steven J. Ross's five best books on politics & the movie industryStefan Kanfer's five best books on remarkable Hollywood lives, and Jane Ciabattari's five best list of novels on Hollywood.

--Marshal Zeringue