Sunday, September 27, 2015

Book Review: Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide (3rd Edition)

Leonard Maltin's movie guides have been an indispensable part of my library for decades now. I first started reading and using what I called his "rating book" when I was young, not long after he started writing them! As a teen I would actually sit and read his guides page by page, not simply looking up titles, and I'd make notes of films which sounded interesting. It was a special part of my education in classic movies.

In this age of the Internet and IMDb, I continue to refer to Maltin's guides multiple times a week; in fact, multiple times per day is probably more accurate!

I don't always agree with the ratings -- which over the years I've found particularly lacking when it comes to mid-range Westerns -- but it's interesting to check out another opinion, and the factual information is invaluable. In addition to the information on individual movies, I love things such as the Widescreen Glossary at the front of the book; whether you want to know the ratio of Naturama, Technirama, or Tohoscope, it's all right there on one handy page.

I have particularly appreciated Maltin's CLASSIC MOVIE GUIDE, which focuses solely on films "From the Silent Era Through 1965," as the subtitle reads. I bought the 1st Edition a decade ago, followed by the 2nd Edition five years ago.

I just received the 3rd (and Final) Edition, which is officially titled TCM PRESENTS LEONARD MALTIN'S CLASSIC MOVIE GUIDE.

This new edition includes reviews of over 300 additional films. According to Maltin's introduction, these include not only brand-new reviews, but reviews of older films which were cut out of his original guide in the past for space reasons.

Maltin announced at his site that he'll be on Turner Classic Movies Monday evening, September 28th, to showcase some of the titles just added to his book. They include Colleen Moore in WHY BE GOOD? (1928), one of the hits of this year's TCM Classic Film Festival.

Maltin mentions in the forward to the new book that in addition to new reviews, some older reviews and ratings have been revised; he cites as an example the MacDonald-Eddy film NAUGHTY MARIETTA (1935), which was upped from 2-1/2 stars to 3 in the new book. I immediately checked on WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954), but alas, it's still mired at 2 stars, which is a rating I'll never understand!

It would be fun for film fans such as myself if a complete list of the new and restored reviews could be published so we could check them out! When the 2nd Edition was released, I randomly checked 21 titles which had been shown on TCM but which weren't in the 1st Edition. At that time I found nine of the 21 titles had been added to the 2nd Edition.

This weekend I went back to the dozen titles from that list which weren't in the 2nd Edition and found that three more were included in the 3rd Edition: THE AFFAIRS OF MARTHA, AND SO THEY WERE MARRIED, and TEAR GAS SQUAD. That makes a total of 12 out of the 21 titles on my list which have been added since the 1st Edition came out in 2005. Check out my 2010 review for the complete list of films I checked out.

The 2nd Edition contained a list at the front of the book of "25 Vintage Movies You Really Shouldn't Miss," including some lesser-known but truly wonderful films such as THE VANISHING VIRGINIAN (1942) and SO DEAR TO MY HEART (1948); Maltin introduced the latter to a very warm reception at the TCM Classic Film Festival last April.

This time around that list has been replaced by "Memorable Performances A to Z," an interesting roster which includes Errol Flynn in GENTLEMAN JIM (1942), Nina Foch in MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS (1945), and Rex Ingram in SAHARA (1943).

A closing note: When I met my husband and discovered he had his own Maltin book, which he has always jokingly referred to as "The Book of Leonard," that was one clue among many that he might be the right guy for me. Many thanks from both of us to Mr. Maltin for all his hard work providing these books over the years, which have been such an important part of our daily lives.

Sincere thanks to Penguin Random House and Turner Classic Movies for providing a review copy of this book.


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