2013 Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge at Out of the Past to come to a close.
When I started the challenge, I was very uncertain I'd actually have the time to make it through the six books on my Summer Reading List by September 15th. I love to read, but since I do a lot of reading for my business, pleasure reading sometimes is deferred in favor of other things. I'm very appreciative of Raquel's challenge, as it spurred me to make a real effort to get through several books in my "to be read" stack in a period of weeks, and that's definitely been an enriching experience.
ROMANTIC COMEDY IN HOLLYWOOD: FROM LUBITSCH TO STURGES. It's a 1987 book which Da Capo Press republished in 1998.
ROMANTIC COMEDY IN HOLLYWOOD is a whopping 716 pages, including the index; that's over 250 pages more than the other Harvey book I read this summer, MOVIE LOVE IN THE FIFTIES.
This is probably a good place to also mention that, like MOVIE LOVE IN THE FIFTIES, the detailed analyses of this book are not for those avoiding key movie plot spoilers. Viewers for whom that might be an issue may want to jot down the titles mentioned in each chapter, watch the movies, and then read up on them chapter by chapter!
Author Harvey excels with his descriptions, causing the reader to want to take a fresh look at each film described and view it with new insights. For my part the book had me immediately delving into my Criterion set of Lubitsch musical comedies, enjoying THE LOVE PARADE (1929) and ONE HOUR WITH YOU (1932) for the first time in many years. Watching films in conjunction with reading this book provides a first class course in romantic comedy.
The book is divided into three sections, beginning with the Lubitsch era, including non-Lubitsch films of the early '30s; then a section focusing on the directors and stars of films from 1934-1939, including Lombard, Arthur, Dunne, Colbert, and more; and finally "The Sturges Era" of 1940 to 1948. George Stevens and Howard Hawks receive close attention in this last section, along with several chapters on Sturges. An appendix includes a transcript of an interview with Irene Dunne.
As far as any negatives about the book, the author did manage to annoy me at times. I don't mind when he has a differing opinion on a movie or actor, as comparing notes is always thought-provoking and fun for film fans -- though I confess I remain befuddled by the occasional random comment such as stating that Lombard and MacMurray "were almost no one's idea...of a good match-up." Seriously?
What does bother me on occasion is the disdain the author expresses for what might be called traditional values or patriotism; he has deep negative feelings on the film industry from the WWII era onward, complaining of movies being "more provincial, more smugly and narrowly 'American,'" and so on. It's a theme he spends quite a bit of time on in MOVIE LOVE IN THE FIFTIES. I think it's a short-sighted view and he's fitting data into his preconceived biases, but that's an argument for another time! I'll add here that the author throws in completely gratuitous, uninformed snark about things such as President Reagan's intelligence, demonstrating an unbecoming silliness and lack of self-restraint.
These quibbles, however, are with relatively short sections in a huge book. Since the author for the most part likes the time period and the movies he's writing about in ROMANTIC COMEDY IN HOLLYWOOD, covering the late '20s to the late '40s, the overall tone was much more positive than he conveyed in MOVIE LOVE IN THE FIFTIES, and the films are discussed with a great deal of care and affection.
ROMANTIC COMEDY IN HOLLYWOOD is very rewarding reading which also deepens enjoyment and appreciation of countless films. Recommended.