Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Five of the best books on film directors

Director William Friedkin's two most famous films, The French Connection (1971) and The Exorcist (1973), both begin in a foreign country, in which something in that country is brought over to America and then dealt with by American "authorities" in that field. The French Connection has drugs coming from France and then dealt with by American narcotics officers; The Exorcist has a demonic presence (from an idol) coming from Iraq to America, and dealt with by American priests. Friedkin's memoir, The Friedkin Connection, has just been published.

One of his five best books on film directors, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
Elia Kazan: A Life
by Elia Kazan (1988)

This is a book I've read several times over many years—an inspiration to me in its frankness. Elia Kazan doesn't spare himself. After he directed his first feature, "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," he returned to New York: "I sat alone in my room in the Royalton Hotel . . . ," he writes, "and thought how worthless my life was. . . . It was just another movie. . . . It was mushy. . . . The whole thing was poverty all cleaned up." His confessions are those of a man who is both humble and arrogant: "I am a mediocre director except when a play or film touches a part of my life's experiences." From his apprenticeship as a shy jack-of-all-trades with the Group Theatre in the 1930s to his emergence in the 1940s and '50s as the leading director of Broadway plays, including "Death of a Salesman" and "A Streetcar Named Desire," he went on to direct some of the best American films: "On the Waterfront," "East of Eden," "A Face in the Crowd." His odyssey reads like an epic of the 20th century itself.
Read about the other books on Friedkin's list.

Elia Kazan: A Life is one of Stefan Kanfer's five best books on remarkable Hollywood lives and Richard Schickel's five best show-biz biographies.

--Marshal Zeringue