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Biographical Dictionary of Film Paperback – November 1, 1994


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 3 edition (November 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679755640
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679755647
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 2.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,704,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The latest edition of Thomson's guide contains 1000 entries on leading international directors, actors, and producers, living and dead, including 200 entries added since the publication of the second edition in 1981. A critic for Film Comment and Movieline, among other venues, Thomson balances often acidic critiques with brief biographical data, giving the reader an opportunity to pause for reflection. Coverage is relatively broad, ranging from Federico Fellini to James Coburn, thus giving the casual browser a feel for the breadth of cinema. A few significant personalities (e.g., James Spader) could have replaced others (e.g., Molly Ringwald) of lesser merit, but that is a quibble. Unique in size and scope, Thomson's work is a fitting companion to Halliwell's Filmgoer's and Video Viewer's Companion (HarperPerennial, 1993. 10th ed.). An excellent, highly recommended compact sourcebook for all film collections.
Anthony J. Adam, Prairie View A&M Univ. Tex.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

Revised, updated, and expanded, here is the indispensable reference for passionate filmgoers. Each of the 1,000 entries on leading international actors, directors, and producers is a carefully considered, perceptive, often provocative essay. As a result, the book is a major work of film criticism of the most informative and entertaining kind.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Robert Hauser on August 10, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book is not encyclopedic; personal favs like Donald Pleasence and John Carradine are omitted despite hundreds of credits. Thomson apparently wrote about just those who interested him. He expresses himself beautifully. He has a real gift for finding just the right words to convey his ideas. As always with critics, one remembers the opinions that seem loopy because he differs with everyone else. The revered directors like Kubrick he hates. The veteran actors I like he dismisses. His weird essays on comedians in which he treats being funny as of secondary importance. But he is always entertaining, and I found his attacks on some of my favorite actors (George Raft, Anthony Quinn) hilarious. Highly recommended.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Simon Morgan on September 3, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The author seems to me the greatest writer on film (and just about anything else that interests him). What makes Thomson so good is the style in which he writes is so succinct that even if (like me) at first you disagree, given time you soon come round to his opinion. Why? Because you realise he is a master - hes tough, independant, superbly knowledgable and educates you on what is GOOD and what isnt, based on admirable opinions of art and expression. More than anything this book is a wonderful education.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey S. Ignatius on October 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
Thomson's gifts seem to elude many... No, this is not the foundation for a film library; it's a wholly biased supplement...)
Thomson is first and foremost the densest writer about film out there; his economy is unparalleled, and it often takes two or three readings just to figure out how much he's saying in a single sentence. Most people won't agree with Thomson often, but that's the point: He's provocative, contrary, and dogmatic, the latter characteristics redeemed by his incisiveness. The challenge is to read him openly, consider his analyses fully, and form an opinion only then.
It's easy to fault Thomson for his selectivity, and the lapses between editions of his Biographical Dictionary of Film. But that's akin to criticizing your favorite author for not writing enough books. Thomson should be treasured for what he does offer; the world of film criticism would be a far poorer place without him.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Atlas Groaned on August 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Not your typical film encyclopedia. Instead of general-information blurbs, Thomson offers a critical assesment of the actors, directors, producers and other filmic figures he references. The best entries attempt to come to terms with their subject's meaning, his or her importance to the development of cinema as an international and a local/national artform -- and this describes virtually every entry in the book. Be aware, Thomson has very definite opinions and no fear of sharing them, but don't let that turn you off. Even if you disagree with his appraisals, his criticism is founded on sound reasoning, and presented in dense, articulate prose. The book does have its faults, of course; Thomson offers only a cursory treatment of contemporary cinema -- he has substantive comments for Tom Cruise and Speilberg, but other contemporary figures receive little more than a filmography. Still, this book should be useful to anyone interested in film history and criticism, or arts criticism in general.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
RE: Previous review stating "Thomson is also not bashful about leaving out important contributors to cinema to include seasonal celebrities that were mostly popular in the early nineties". This title was originally published in 1975, then reprinted in the U.S, as hardback in 1976 and paperback - 1979. One should hardly fault the author for not including personalities who would experience their fame 10-20 years into the future.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Pamela Wells on February 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you love good, pointed writing, writing that really goes to the heart of what we see on the big screen when we see certain film actors, this is your book. Really well-written, certainly opinionated (but justifiably, in all cases), thoughtful, insightful, amusing, witty. As you read each entry, you'll be saying to yourself, "That's EXACTLY how I feel about SoAndSo!," because the author expresses each film person's essence so aptly. The author has apparently known and/or met many of the entries, so is able to add personal experience with these people to his vast historical knowledge of their work. A wonderful work.
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Format: Hardcover
More than 1000 entries dealing with directors, producers and actors, with dates and times, and title/backgrounds of the productions. This is a must for students and filmgoers and will save so much time in research and background for stories. It's true that much of this is available on the internet, but the book makes it so conveniently packaged in this Third Edition of 1994.....enjoyable and a valuable resource.
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