Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


A TALENT FOR TROUBLE: The Life of Hollywood's Most Acclaimed Director, WILLIAM WYLER. Jan Herman. Putnam's; 1995.

This memorable biography of the great director looks at his private life; his work during the war making documentaries which often put him into dangerous situations; and the wonderful movies he made, including The Heiress, The Letter, The Good Fairy, Ben-Hur, The Big Country, The Children's Hour, These Three, Carrie, Dodsworth, Jezebel, Detective Story, and many, many others, most of which are certified masterpieces. Herman not only examines the director's private life, but shows what made him great by examining his movies (although Herman is not enamored of everything). Wyler got his start directing quickie silent westerns, but it was clear that there were much greater things in store for him. He directed Dead End, a stand-alone picture that became the first of many Eastside Kids films; directed Bette Davis in some of her best roles (and had an affair with her); survived the communist scare of the fifties and stood up for blacklisted individuals; introduced Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday; and remained married to actress Margaret Tallichet for many years. The book goes behind the scenes of virtually all of the movies, with comments from his fellow actors and others, as well as from his wife. Wyler was a superb director, my favorite after the perhaps showier and more publicity-driven Hitchcock, and it's very good that he's been given his due in this fine biography.

Verdict: Excellent biography of a gifted artist. ***1/2.

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