Friday, January 12, 2018

Book Review: Ten Movies at a Time

Over the last few years I've enjoyed several books by John DiLeo, including SCREEN SAVERS, SCREEN SAVERS II, and TENNESSEE WILLIAMS AND COMPANY: HIS ESSENTIAL SCREEN ACTORS.

All were excellent reads, and I particularly liked the SCREEN SAVERS books which were essays on lesser-known films, many of which are my own personal favorites. Since I first read the SCREEN SAVERS books in 2010 and 2012, I've had the chance to see numerous additional films which were recommended by DiLeo in these volumes and I enjoyed them also. Our tastes in films are often similar so if he recommends a movie, I take note.


This new book is a unique look at the history of Hollywood and the United States, accomplished in 35 chapters, each surveying, as the title says, "ten movies at a time." Each chapter has an introduction of two or three pages, setting the scene for that particular time in Hollywood, after which we dive into a discussion of the films.

The themes are grouped chronologically, beginning with "Our Jazzy Joan," a look at ten Joan Crawford films in 1930-32. The topics are fun and diverse, ranging from "Neglected Comedy Gems of the Early Sound Era" to "The Post-War Appetite for Fantasy," from Civil War Westerns to 1950s remakes of 1930s films, perfectly titled "What's Dunne is Done (Again)." (As I've written before, at least 10 films starring Irene Dunne were remade!)

While many of the movies are recommended by the author, he also includes some films which are good illustrations of a movie trend, even if they aren't very good. There are also a number of titles mentioned which I liked much more than he did (he didn't like NO MAN OF HER OWN?!); in that case I hope a reader might try some of them out anyway, and perhaps they'll find them as enjoyable as I did!

That said, perhaps I should have read the chapter on the worst films of that golden year, 1939, before watching IT'S A WONDERFUL WORLD (1939) a few days ago!

The chapter on Civil War Westerns is a great example of what I love about the book: On the one hand it makes me want to watch unseen films such as TWO FLAGS WEST (1950) and ROCKY MOUNTAIN (1950), while I also enjoyed revisiting titles like ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO (1953) and THE PROUD REBEL (1958) in my mind's eye.

I especially love that DiLeo doesn't go for the obvious choices; for instance, this Civil War Westerns chapter also salutes minor favorites of mine such as ESCORT WEST (1958) and BORDER RIVER (1954).

I've reviewed most of the titles in his chapter on Communism on film; here again, another title I just watched, THE WOMAN ON PIER 13 (1949), aka I MARRIED A COMMUNIST, pops up -- he didn't think any more of it than I did -- along with another title I'll be reviewing soon, THE RED DANUBE (1949). Another personal favorite of mine, NEVER LET ME GO (1953), is discussed, and he includes BIG JIM MCLAIN (1952) despite finding it a bad movie. (Personally I really enjoy that one!)

The author has the same commitment to exploring and championing lesser-known films as I hope to accomplish here at my blog, and I hope that those who read this book will be inspired to try some of the titles he discusses. Other terrific films which come up for discussion in the book are FOLLOW THRU (1930), STATE FAIR (1933), IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK (1935) (seen below), HOMECOMING (1948), THE RECKLESS MOMENT (1949), WESTWARD THE WOMEN (1951), MY SISTER EILEEN (1955), RIDE LONESOME (1959), and so many more...350 titles total, to be exact!

Through it all DiLeo also helps keep our eye on changing trends in films and the country, from pre-Codes to film noir and beyond.  It's highly readable and enjoyable, whether you're agreeing with his take, mentally arguing with him, or jotting down titles to watch soon.

TEN MOVIES AT A TIME is a softcover book which is 407 pages including index. There are roughly three dozen photos scattered throughout the book; though printed directly on the non-glossy pages, the reproduction quality is good.

For those who might like to learn more, the author did a 30-minute interview which is available on YouTube.

Thanks to John DiLeo and Hansen Publishing Group for providing a review copy of this book.


Blogger Vienna said...

Sounds great .Must get it! Thanks for recommending .

12:36 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I think you would really enjoy it, Vienna. So many of the types of films we each enjoy watching are discussed in it.

Best wishes,

4:07 PM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Sounds like an interesting concept and well done. I think I'll put it on my birthday list.

I don't expect everyone to like No Man of Her Own, but how can you not like No Man of Her Own?!

4:46 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Caftan Woman, since our tastes are so similar I think you'll really enjoy the types of movies he writes about.

But I KNOW, how can you not like NO MAN OF HER OWN? LOL. When I saw it for a second time, on a big screen, it hit me even more powerfully than the first viewing. Ah well...

Best wishes,

11:10 PM  

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