Sunday, November 08, 2020

Book Review: The Essentials Vol. 2: 52 More Must-See Movies and Why They Matter

A beautiful new book by Jeremy Arnold, The Essentials Vol. 2: 52 More Must-See Movies and Why They Matter, has just been published by Running Press and Turner Classic Movies.

The book is a follow-up to Volume 1, also written by Arnold, and is as much of a pleasure to read and to look at as the earlier edition.  I enjoyed this new book so much that I'm rather hoping he'll write a third volume in a few years!

TCM's "The Essentials" franchise highlights some of the greatest films ever made, and in his books Arnold has selected a variety of "Essentials" titles which he felt were a good representation of the series.  

Each film in this new book has a spread of five or six pages containing the film's significant credits, historical and critical thoughts from the author, and gorgeous photographs in both color and black and white.

Arnold describes why each film is "essential" and in a "what to look for" section describes a key scene or notable background about each film.  Some films also have a brief quote from an Essentials host, including the late Robert Osborne, describing what makes a film special.

I was interested to note that I've reviewed close to half of the titles here at my blog, and I've seen many more.  The book discusses some longtime favorite films of mine, including THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938), LAURA (1944), NOTORIOUS (1946), THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR (1947), and THE QUIET MAN (1952).

Some of the worthy films discussed which I've become acquainted with in the last few years include SUNRISE (1927),  CAT PEOPLE (1942), MILDRED PIERCE (1945), and SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (1957).

I would have liked to see greater representation of Westerns and musicals, as they're among my favorite genres, but that's a personal quibble, especially as the book tries to include a little bit of everything moviewise.  

A handful of titles released from the mid-'60s on mostly leave me cold, as that's not an era I particularly enjoy, but such debates are part of the fun of a book such as this -- and that said, I heartily endorse Arnold's inclusion of FIELD OF DREAMS (1989), which has stood up to several rewatches over the years.

An especially nice extra for classic film fans is the inclusion of a list of all films shown on TCM's "The Essentials" series to date, with "Vol. I" and "Vol. 2" following those titles included in one of Arnold's books for easy reference.

A bibliography of several pages is also included.  I spotted some intriguing titles which went on my list for future follow-up reading.

This is a quality book which I believe will appeal to a variety of classic film fans.  Those who are relatively new to classic movies will learn a great deal and have their appetite whetted to see unfamiliar titles; longtime film lovers such as myself will be entertained by interesting factoids --  for instance, I learned that Franchot Tone landed his Oscar-nominated role in MUTINY IN THE BOUNTY (1935) when Robert Montgomery and Cary Grant were unavailable -- and enjoy revisiting favorite films via Arnold's descriptions and the marvelous images.  

A bonus is that I could hear Robert Osborne's voice in my head when reading his quotes on various movies, and I quite enjoyed that! He says of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD "This has to be one of my favorite movies of all time," to which I say "Mine too!" 

THE ESSENTIALS VOL. 2: 52 MORE MUST-SEE MOVIES AND WHY THEY MATTER was published by Running Press in collaboration with Turner Classic Movies.  It's 312 pages including the index and bibliography, as well as a foreword by TCM's Ben Mankiewicz.  The book is printed on heavy, glossy paper with beautifully selected and reproduced photographs on almost every page.

Thanks to Jeremy Arnold, TCM, and Running Press for providing a review copy of this book.


Blogger DKoren said...

That sounds like a fantastic book! But um... Cary Grant and Robert Montgomery in Mutiny on the Bounty? Much as I love those two, I am very glad that fell through!

7:23 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Deb! I really enjoyed it.

Wasn't that interesting about MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY? I can kind of imagine Montgomery in the role...but I'm glad Franchot Tone played it.

Best wishes,

11:16 PM  

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