Natural Born Thrillers

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Unlike the French film director and arch-cinephile François Truffaut, who was a critic for Cahiers du cinéma in the 1950s, Quentin Tarantino has never been a professional critic. Instead of attending film school he spent five years in a clerking job at Video Archives in Manhattan Beach, California. However, this collection of eighteen critical essays […]

LA Confidential

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Compressing all of Hollywood history into a single volume is a daunting task, but Jeanine Basinger and Sam Wasson think they’ve found a way to do it, not by using their own words but by using the words of the people who lived through it. In their new book, Hollywood: The Oral History, they draw […]

Brood on the Tracks

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Once upon a time, when a downy-cheeked Bob Dylan had but lately arrived in Greenwich Village from the Midwest, he wandered into a deserted bar and found jazz innovator Thelonious Monk doodling alone at the piano. They chatted. Dylan volunteered that he was playing folk music in a club down the road. Monk replied, ‘We […]

Miles from Nowhere

Posted on by David Gelber

Several full-length biographies of Miles Davis have been published since his death in 1991. Davis’s album Kind of Blue, recorded in 1959, still sells five thousand copies a month in the United States alone. He is the one modern jazz musician likely to be represented on the meagre jazz shelves of shops; in amongst the […]

Like No Business I Know

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

LOUIS B ARFE WAS born in 1973, the year in which The Sweet, Mud, and Peters and Lee had their finest hours. It doesn’t seem right that he should have such a grip on, and enthusiasm for, the entire history of the record industry when his formative years must have been dominated by Duran Duran […]

An Icon Examined

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

HOW MANY LIVES of Marilyn Monroe do we actually need? On my shelves alone there are six major biographies, not counting books entirely devoted to the rumours surrounding her death; and now, opening on Broadway this season, comes a play by her last husband, Arthur Miller, about the catastrophic 1961 filming of The Misfits, which […]

A Man Between

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

JOHN SCHLESINGER, WHO died last year at seventy-seven, was one of the most interesting British film directors, and certainly achieved more than his best-known contemporaries – Tony Richardson, Karel Reisz, Lindsay Anderson and Jack Clayton. He was also one of the few Brits to have made a reasonable career in America, though all his best […]

The Show Must Go On

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

One of the most poignant moments in Anthony Powell’s twelve-volume novel sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time, comes in the last few pages of Temporary Kings (1973) when the narrator, Nicholas Jenkins, goes to visit his friend the composer Hugh Moreland in St Thomas’ Hospital. ‘That morning was the last time I saw […]

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Go, Gadget

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

To his intimates Elia Kazan was ‘Gadg’, short for ‘Gadget’ – a small thingamajig that fixes things. He came to hate the nickname, but ruefully conceded its appropriateness. He was born Elia Kazanjioglou in Constantinople in 1909 to Anatolian-Greek parents. It was a bad time to be that ethnic mix in that place. The family […]

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Cold Comforts

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

A few years back when reviewing for this magazine Ian Bostridge’s A Singer’s Notebook – a collection of his occasional essays and passing reflections – I expressed the hope that such an intellectually distinguished classical tenor would attempt something more coherent and ambitious.

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Grizzled Man

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Werner Herzog is much more than just a filmmaker. He is an adventurer, an explorer, an athlete, a guru, a daredevil man of action, a pilgrim, a keen football player and cook, a curmudgeon and a crank. He is, possibly, a complete maniac. The great Pauline Kael, in an enviably apt phrase, called him a […]

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Only Connect

Posted on by Tom Fleming

List books! Huh! Good God, y’all, what are they good for? If they’re of the ‘1,000 Varieties of Potatoes You Absolutely Must Eat Before You Die’ variety – bought but never read and almost invariably dumped into charity shops by their ungrateful recipients – the answer is undoubtedly, to quote Edwin Starr, ‘absolutely nothing’. Ditto […]

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The Pearl of Paris

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Three opera composers of the highest class died before they were forty. Mozart’s oeuvre is so rich in variety and accomplished in technique that one could not wish for more: his achievement seems miraculously complete. But Bellini and Bizet each left only one outright masterpiece – Norma and Carmen respectively – alongside a pile of […]

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Don’t Look Now

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Kim Newman is a phenomenon; maybe not a supernatural one, but the possibility should not be ruled out. As anyone who has read his previous books will be aware, Newman must know more about the cinema of terror than just about anyone in the United Kingdom, and perhaps the world, since the movie waterfronts he […]

The Player King

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

I was fifteen when I first saw John Gielgud on stage, in a special matinee performance for London schoolchildren of the then rarely produced Much Ado About Nothing. He remains the most consummate of all the Benedicks I have seen since. At one point in the afternoon, Gielgud stopped the audience’s laughter with the raising […]

Pas De Deux

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Mahler and Strauss, Strauss and Mahler: the twin peaks of late, post-Wagnerian musical romanticism. That, at least, is how many people would see (and hear) them, and with justification. Of all the leading composers who emerged in the German-speaking world in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, none holds the attention to this day […]

Secrets and Lyres

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Ann Wroe’s favourite activity, it seems, is to plunge into the lacunae between myth and reality, history and fable. As she proved by her lively descant on Pontius Pilate (who she dared to suggest might have been born in Britain), she has a flighty capacity to spin webs of words, anchored in myth and anecdote, […]

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Still Making Our Day

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

He rides into town on a mule and the local heavies start poking fun at him. He asks them to be nice, but they start shooting. So he puts them right. He’s dining out when a bunch of hoodlums burst in to the restaurant and start demanding money. He offers some polite advice about their […]

A Kind Of Blues

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Veils of cigarette smoke frequently cloud the faces of the jazz musicians framed by Herman Leonard’s camera. A dozen of Leonard’s celebrated photographs appear in the pages of Jazz, a new history by Gary Giddins and Scott DeVeaux, yet the task these authors have set themselves is precisely to demystify a musical genre seen by […]

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Brodsky Before Brodsky

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Joseph Brodsky was generous in his praise of those poets he saw as predecessors – most notably, Donne, Pushkin and Auden (‘the greatest mind of the twentieth century’). And in the fourteen years since his death, aged fifty-five, he has received grateful tribute in his turn. A varied group of poets, including Derek Walcott, Adam […]

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