You Oughta See the Pictures
New film books
Watch Me: A Memoirby Anjelica Huston
Scribner, 400pp., $27.99
How's this for a time capsule: "I was eager to buy some marabou bedroom stilettos to match the pink swan's-down-trimmed negligee that Cici had generously just given me." In this follow-up to her 2013 memoir about growing up in Ireland with (and frequently without) her filmmaker father John Huston, Anjelica Huston chronicles her faltering first years in Hollywood and the eventual flowering of her career both in front of and behind the camera. The first third of the book, which recounts her 20s and 30s, is the most evocative, with its rich detailing of Studio 54-era New York and a bygone Hollywood, when the old guard drank convivially with the upstarts, and Groucho Marx and Huey Newton both tried to get fresh with her. There's also a delicious parade of Halston dresses and exotically named models, some of whom she'd later discover were balling her then-boyfriend, Jack Nicholson. Huston is candid about the many tears she shed over Nicholson throughout their 17-years-long off-and-on, if not super-dishy; perhaps the biggest revelation is how uncertain Huston – such a formidable onscreen presence – has sometimes been of her own worthiness. The rest of the book is devoted to the death of her titanic father and her loving marriage to the sculptor Robert Graham, who passed in 2008, as well as amusing if insubstantial anecdotes from her many films, including The Grifters, Ever After, and The Royal Tenenbaums. Of the latter: Wes Anderson fans will get a laugh when she recounts Gene Hackman's exhortation to his director to "pull up your pants and act like a man." – Kimberley Jones
Further Peeks Inside the Industry
De Niro: A Life by Shawn Levy (Crown Archetype, 608pp., $32.50). The former film critic for The Oregonian, Levy drills deep into the life of the strenuously private actor. How deep? Levy excavates the Good Fella's roots in medieval France.
Hope: Entertainer of the Century by Richard Zoglin (Simon & Schuster, 576pp., $30). This is the first major biography of the storied showman (and skirt chaser!).
Even This I Get to Experience by Norman Lear (Penguin Press, 464pp., $32.95). The legendary writer and producer behind such trailblazing television shows as All in the Family and The Jeffersons shares stories from his five decades in the business.
Bettie Page: Queen of CurvesPhotographs by Bunny Yeager, text by Petra Mason
Rizzoli, 256pp., $50
Photographer Bunny Yeager called Bettie Page the perfectly proportioned pinup model. But it wasn't just numbers and ratios: It was the look, her look, the way she looked through the camera, that made Page a legend. Goofy and glamorous, coy and sensual, kitten and tiger at the same time. Yeager discovered Page in 1954, and 60 years later, their work together remains a sinful glimpse into the innocent sexuality of the cheesecake era, collated here by Mason. A respected photographer in her own right, her previous collaboration with the legendary glamour photographer, 2012's Bunny Yeager's Darkroom, gave a tease of Page, while giving other, lesser-known models a chance to titillate. This time, it's just the nine groundbreaking photo shoots the pair did together, amplified by period quotes with Yeager about her vision of the female form. A closing interview with Pageologist Jim Linderman makes passing nods to the fetish photography Page did with Irving Klaw, and grumpy reference to her earlier work for New York's salacious camera clubs. But the body of the book represents two women who brought out the best in each other, creatively. Yeager never found another muse quite like Page, who could project her vision so stunningly and naturally. But then Yeager gave Page her most enduring images: the (now culturally insensitive) jungle girl, the devil onesie, and that famous lace lingerie set, perched on a stool. Often imitated, never equaled. – Richard Whittaker
More Coffeetable Books
Hollywood Frame by Frame: The Unseen Silver Screen in Contact Sheets, 1951-1997 by Karina Longworth (Princeton Architectural Press, 208pp., $30). The before and after of those classic promo shots.
Alien the Archive (Titan, 320pp., $50). The sci-fi horror franchise's four core films (no predators or Prometheus) dissected as a bloody whole.
Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy by J. W. Rinzler (Harry N. Abrams, 352pp., $40). Every single storyboard from the three original films, including Ralph McQuarrie's never-before-seen The Empire Strikes Back sketches.
Boyhood: Twelve Years on Film, Photographs by Matt Lankes (Boyhood, Inc./IFC Productions, 200pp., $50). A behind-the-scenes peek at Richard Linklater's intimate tale of Texas life, snapped over a decade, just like the film.
The Art of Frozen by Charles Solomon (Chronicle, 168pp., $40). Disney's newest classic, taken back to its enchanting designs.
Of All the Gin Joints: Stumbling Through Hollywood Historyby Mark Bailey, illustrated by Edward Hemingway
Algonquin Books, 336pp., $21.95
This breezy compendium of boozy bad behavior is best consumed in moderation. Read it straight through and you're liable to turn teetotaler; what other lesson to take from so many antics that inevitably concluded in liver failure and emphysema, good looks lost and deaths that came too early? But in sensible pours, Of All the Gin Joints is a kick for armchair inebriates and deviants. It skims between trim actor profiles (from Fatty Arbuckle to Natalie Wood, no happy endings there); paeans to legendary Hollywood haunts like Musso & Frank's, the Brown Derby, and Chateau Marmont; and vivid set visits to especially wet pictures like John Huston's 1964 film Night of the Iguana. Story goes, just before production started in a remote village near Puerto Vallarta, director John Huston gifted each of his leads – Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, Sue Lyon, and Richard Burton (plus Burton's inamorata, Elizabeth Taylor, tagging along) – a gold-plated pistol and a box of bullets engraved with the names of the other actors. It's a miracle everyone survived – and, indeed, that the film industry at large thrived with so many of its major players permanently blotto. (Dean Martin: "You're not too drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on.") The book also chronicles 40 cocktail recipes, from the classic to the stomach-churning, including John Ford's Prohibition-era Torpedo Juice (foraged from the Navy's supply of grain alcohol). Meanwhile that famous last call from the self-described "ambisextrous" Tallulah Bankhead – "codeine! bourbon!" – requires no recipe at all. – K.J.
William Shakespeare's Star Wars Trilogy: The Royal Imperial Boxed Set (Quirk Books, 510pp., $44.85). The outfit behind Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, among other defilements, plants a flag in Alderaan-upon-Avon with parodies Verily, A New Hope, The Empire Striketh Back, and The Jedi Doth Return.
Vintage Movie Classics series (Vintage Books). The Random House backlist is put to good use with these paperback re-releases of novels that made the leap to screen, including Edna Ferber's Cimarron and Show Boat and R.A. Dick's entrancing The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.
Criterion Designs (The Criterion Collection, 306pp., $99.95). Criterion doesn't just put out the best reissues of classic, arthouse, and world cinema; it puts out the best-looking packaging, too. Available Nov. 25, this hefty art book (4.5 pounds) collects cover designs, concept art, and more for cinephiles to swoon over.