Gene Kelly, Shirley Temple, and Lana Turner were among my favorite entries in the Pyramid Illustrated History of the Movies, and since that time I've enjoyed other Basinger books including THE STAR MACHINE and A WOMAN'S VIEW. Needless to say, I was thus very happy to receive an advance review copy of her latest book, I DO AND I DON'T: A HISTORY OF MARRIAGE IN THE MOVIES.
Basinger set out to examine marriage in the movies and was somewhat surprised to discover that relatively few films focus directly on the marital relationship. Movies often cover romance and courtship, but don't focus deeply on the "happily ever after," or whatever else may happen after marriage. Many films, of course, feature married couples, but Basinger found many of those movie marriages incidental to other, more dominant storylines.
THE TWO MRS. CARROLLS (1947), CAUSE FOR ALARM! (1951), and JULIE (1956).
One of the things I most enjoy about Basinger's books is her chatty, conversational tone; when I read one of her books I almost feel as though I'm enjoying a discussion about films we both love. Indeed, her style is captured by a line in her Author's Note: "It's a book for people who like movies and want to share a conversation about them." Many of the films she writes about are familiar to me, so her comments cause me to reflect back on those titles as I consider her insights, and after reading her books I also invariably end up with a list of never-seen movies to track down!
THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (1944), which starred Dennis Morgan and Eleanor Parker. She also looks at interesting but obscure films such as IN THE MEANTIME, DARLING (1944), MARRIAGE IS A PRIVATE AFFAIR (1944), and OVER 21 (1945). It's refreshing to read a serious, appreciative discussion of films which were doubtless significant to their wartime audiences but have received little attention from film historians in the years since. Basinger's books help open the door to what I hope will be future efforts by other historians to explore the American cinema to a much fuller extent, looking beyond top-shelf classics and best-known directors for the hidden gems, while also examining in greater detail the full spectrum of films available to the moviegoing public in decades past; that's something I attempt to do with the variety of films I write about here at my blog.
FULL OF LIFE (1956), which broke new ground with its relatively realistic treatment of pregnancy. Since movies up to that time tended to cut from a woman with a flat stomach announcing happy news to the end result, a newborn baby, it was a shock for audiences when the camera pulled back in the opening scene to reveal the very, very pregnant Judy Holliday; Basinger, who worked as a theater usher as a young woman, writes that "Audiences actually gasped in the theater I worked in at the time."
I DO AND I DON'T was published at the end of January. It's 384 pages and is illustrated with black and white photographs. The review copy didn't include an index, but the table of contents and a blank end page titled Index indicate one was planned; I have found an index essential in her other books for revisiting comments on movies months and years later!
In addition to the hardcover copy, I DO AND I DON'T is available in a Kindle edition.
Links to reviews of I DO AND I DON'T by other writers: Susan King in the Los Angeles Times, who also interviewed the author; Raquel at Out of the Past; and Aubyn at The Girl With the White Parasol.
My sincere thanks to Alfred A. Knopf for providing me with a review copy of the book.