Friday, March 05, 2010

New Book: A Hundred or More Hidden Things: The Life and Films of Vincente Minnelli

I received my April edition of the Turner Classic Movies "Now Playing" guide today and noticed a new book on Vincente Minnelli featured in the "Book Corner" column. Mark Griffin's A HUNDRED OR MORE HIDDEN THINGS: THE LIFE AND FILMS OF VINCENTE MINNELLI has an official release date on March 9th. (Click the title of this post for an Amazon link.)

I happened to be in a Barnes & Noble this evening and they already had a few copies of the book on the shelf, which was something of a miracle given that this particular B&N has a very poor film book section. I immediately flipped to the chapter on the Minnelli film I watched most recently, THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (1952), and found it interesting enough I decided to purchase the book.

As MGM musical fans are aware, Minnelli directed many of the greatest films from the studio's Golden Era, including MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, THE BAND WAGON, and GIGI. He also directed one of my personal favorites, the often overlooked -- or outright disdained -- YOLANDA AND THE THIEF, one of the most visually dazzling movies MGM ever made.

The book is a softcover which is just under 450 pages including the footnotes and index. Most of Minnelli's films have their own chapter of roughly six to ten pages. The author conducted an impressive number of interviews and it thus appears the book has a great deal of fresh primary source research on its subject; for instance, the chapter on THE BAND WAGON has quotes from the author's interviews with James Mitchell and Nanette Fabray.

One minor drawback is that Minnelli was renowned for his brilliant use of color, and the book's fairly minimal photographs are in black and white; also, there are no glossy photo inserts, but instead the photos are printed directly on the page, which diminishes their quality. However, I have other books with color photographs from Minnelli films, and I'm sure the lack of glossy or color photos helped a great deal to keep the book at a very affordable price point. As a side note, given that MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS is one of my all-time favorite films, I was fascinated by a new-to-me photo of a deleted scene.

For those who are interested in reading more on Minnelli's career, I highly recommend Drew Casper's VINCENTE MINNELLI AND THE FILM MUSICAL (1977) and Stephen Harvey's DIRECTED BY VINCENTE MINNELLI (1989). Minnelli himself published his autobiography, I REMEMBER IT WELL (1974).

For more info on A HUNDRED OR MORE HIDDEN THINGS, see the book's official blog site.


Blogger mel said...

You are the only person I've ever come across who's raved about Yolanda And The Thief.

I'll have to pull out my DVD of it and take another look...

8:50 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Mel!

I think "Coffee Time," with Astaire and Bremer dancing on a swirling black and white floor, is one of the most sublime moments in all of MGM musical-dom.

The movie is worth watching for the set and costume design alone, but I also enjoy the story and actors. Lucille Bremer has been unfairly dissed by some over the years, but I really liked her in this, and she's gorgeous in Technicolor.

This is one of the films I would most like to own on DVD -- preferably with chapter selections so I can go straight to "Coffee Time" when I want to see it again (grin) -- in the meantime, I've got my tape recorded from Turner Classic Movies...

Hope you enjoy it!

Best wishes,

9:08 PM  
Blogger Moira Finnie said...

And I'm so glad to read that someone has finally approached the life and work of Vincente Minnelli by examining his films and his life. After reading last year's Emmanuel Levy's "Vincente Minnelli: Hollywood's Dark Dreamer" last year I found some of it quite enlightening, but it left me longing to know more about the real work and thought that the man put into each of his memorable movies. Thank you so much for bringing it to my attention.

Btw, I love Yolanda and the Thief myself. It may be Fred, Lucille Bremer or possibly my love of Ludwig Bemelmans and surrealism. I will try to get this book for sure.


5:56 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm delighted to know you love YOLANDA as well, Moira! I find it such an interesting film on many levels. Vis-a-vis Bemelmans, the schoolgirls in the story make me think of MADELINE. :)

I'd be curious to know more of your thoughts on the DARK DREAMER book. I was a bit dubious about it based on some reviews and didn't get that one. I'm glad I could bring this new book to your attention and hope you enjoy it too. I'm finding it an enjoyable way to spend part of a rainy weekend.

Best wishes,

7:16 PM  

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