|by Charles Tatum
I recently reviewed the nightmarish book from Santa Monica Press entitled "Guide to Home Video and Movies" by someone named Ryan Reed. This self-proclaimed ultimate video guide was full of misspellings and absent films, and an embarrassment to all the better video guides out there. At the same thrift store where I picked up that tome, I found "Famous Movie Stars and Directors" by Joseph Stewart. Also from Santa Monica Press, also exactly 128 pages, this sad book did not have as many misspellings, but the factual errors alone make it an awful choice for anyone out there writing a film studies paper, interested in movies, or just looking for a brief read.
The book is a collection of one and a half page profiles of well-known performers and directors- at least well-known when this was published in 1993. I decided to bring up some of the glaring errors from the Actor section only because if I corrected everything here, I would have enough material for a book of my own. I will mention that Faye Dunaway has been rechristened Faye "Dunawaye" every time she is written about, including the table of contents and her own profile.
From Dustin Hoffman's entry: "Hoffman has been nominated for four Academy Awards, for his performances as Ben Braddock in The Graduate (1967), Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy (1969), Lenny Bruce in Lenny (1974), and Raymond in Rain Man (1988). He finally won for this last film..." Good for Dustin, except he won his first Oscar for 1979's "Kramer vs. Kramer", and was also nominated for "Tootsie".
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone each get just one page for their entries. The longest entry is Bette Davis, who gets a whopping two and a half pages. Burt Reynolds' page and a half has only one of his films mentioned- "Deliverance."
After naming James Stewart's films "Bell, Book, and Candle" and "Anatomy of a Murder," author Stewart writes "Arguably, he has not had a significant role since these films..." Pardon me while I get arguable, but did our author simply forget about "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," "How the West Was Won," "Shenandoah," "The Flight of the Phoenix," "The Shootist," and "Airport '77," or did he not possess the simplest film reference book?
Finally, he gets John Wayne (one of my favorite actors) all wrong. Back to the work: "Throughout the 1940's, he appeared in several uninspired movies, mostly Westerns and war films." While most of Wayne's output in the 1940's was Westerns and war films, see if you recognize some of the titles of these "uninspired" flicks: "Flying Tigers," "They Were Expendable," "Angel and the Badman," "Fort Apache," "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," and his uninspired Oscar nominated role in the uninspired "Sands of Iwo Jima." Whether a Wayne fan or not, you have to agree that Joseph Stewart has no idea what he is talking about.
So what should I do with these horrible reads? I thought about donating them to the local library, but they might be sold at their annual book sale, and ruin the days of another film fan. Toss them in the garbage? I only spent a quarter for each book, but the landfill may be too good for this stuff. I think I will put them back on my bookshelf, in the film books section. They can serve as a reminder of what can happen when you approach a writing project half-assed, and inspire me to come up with that one good video guide idea someday. In the meantime, Santa Monica Press, you are to printing what Digiview Productions is to video distribution...you suck.
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originally posted: 08/01/10 09:18:03
last updated: 08/01/10 09:20:18