Looking over some of the film books released in 2011, it's striking how many of the best of them -- or at least the most compelling and interesting of them -- are biographies, memoirs, or biographical career studies. If you have an interest in film or film history, there is something about the life story of an actor or director that makes for good reading -- especially if that story is well told or even groundbreaking.
Here are 10 compelling film books published this year, listed alphabetically by title. Admittedly, I love old movies and classic Hollywood -- and this list reflects that preference. One might ask, "Are these the best film books of the year?" I think so. The annotated slide show which accompanies this piece also includes five additional titles -- including a couple of books which are not strictly film biographies. Each is also recommended and makes for great reading for those who love the movies.
Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital, 1928-1937, by Darrell Rooney and Mark A. Vieira (Angel City Press)
John Huston: Courage and Art, by Jeffrey Meyers (Crown Archetype)
Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood, by Emily W. Leider (University of California Press)
Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark, by Brian Kellow (Viking)
Raoul Walsh: The True Adventures of Hollywood's Legendary Director, by Marilyn Ann Moss (University Press of Kentucky)
The Rise and Fall of Lou-Tellegen, by David W. Menefee (Menefee Publishing)
Spencer Tracy: A Biography, by James Curtis (Knopf)
Syd Chaplin: A Biography, by Lisa K. Stein (McFarland)
Thomas Ince: Hollywood's Independent Pioneer, by Brian Taves (University Press of Kentucky)
Wally: The True Wallace Reid Story, by David W. Menefee (BearManor Media)
Also just out, and so new there hasn't been time to review it is Francis X. Bushman: In His Own Words, a two-disc audio documentary based on the 2009 book King of the Movies: Francis X. Bushman by Lon and Debra Davis. The silent screen legend (the original Massala in the original Ben Hur) speaks volumes in this new audio-only release. Bushman's most revealing anecdotes have been culled from a several-hour interview he gave at his home in 1957. With enthusiasm, the then 74-year-old actor tells his own story, from his colorful childhood in Baltimore, Maryland, to his meteoric rise and cataclysmic fall as one of the movies' first superstars.
Thomas Gladysz is an arts journalist and early film buff, and the Director of the Louise Brooks Society, an internet-based archive and international fan club devoted to the legendary silent film star. Gladysz has contributed to books, organized exhibits, appeared on television and radio, and introduced the actress' films around the world. Last year, he edited and wrote the introduction to the "Louise Brooks Edition" of Margarete Bohme's The Diary of a Lost Girl. He loved Hugo, and has The Artist at the top of his list of new movies to see.