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Five Easy Decades: How Jack Nicholson Became the Biggest Movie Star in Modern Times Hardcover – October 19, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Taking on not just a legendary subject, but a legendarily private subject-refusing biographers and TV personalities, Nicholson prefers "the occasional magazine Q&A or quickie newspaper interview"-author and New York Times film writer McDougal (Privileged Son) has turned out a model biography: exhaustive, full of action, and startlingly illuminating. Nicholson-flamboyant yet guarded, outrageous yet articulate, charming yet polarizing-has marched to his own drummer for 50 years, heading up a parade of celebrated films and famous women, eliciting strong opinions in just about everyone; as such, McDougal presents an engrossing showcase of big films and bigger personalities. Following a modest, fatherless New Jersey childhood, Nicholson set out on a California odyssey that would require stamina, guts and luck, as "eking out a living" in the early sixties gave way to the career-making premier of Easy Rider: " 'I had been around long enough to know while sitting in that audience, I had become a movie star.' " Los Angeles plays a starring role, giving Nicholson his wild lifestyle, a loyal, eclectic roster of friends and a long-time neighbor in Marlon Brando. Digging up as many roles offstage as on-hardheaded businessman, softhearted friend, master of rude rejoinders, fanatical sports fan and poetic philosopher-McDougal makes Nicholson's everyday life just as fascinating as his films, which also get considerable, thoughtful attention; in fact, McDougal's research is so deep and detailed, his extensive chapter notes could make a fine book of their own.
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"Dennis McDougal has captured the spirit of the infamously unconventional Hollywood legend" (Daily Express, January 16th 2009) "McDougal does a great job" (Independent, January 23rd 2009) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (October 19, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471722464
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471722465
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #863,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

With the publication of "Dylan: A Biography" (Turner Publishing, May, 2014), Dennis McDougal has authored a total of eleven books and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles in a career that has spanned over 40 years. Currently, he is working on "The Acid Chronicles," a book and documentary film about the renaissance of LSD as a powerful tool in the treatment of mental illness.

Before he began covering movies and media for the Los Angeles Times in 1983 and, more recently, the New York Times, McDougal worked as a staff writer at dailies in Riverside and Long Beach, California. A UCLA graduate, McDougal holds a Bachelor's in English and a Master's in Journalism. He was awarded a John S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford University and spent a year teaching and studying in Palo Alto, Japan and Canada. Over the years, his journalism has won over 50 honors, including the National Headliners and George Peabody Award. He was a producer for CNN during the O.J. Simpson murder trial and co-produced "Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times" (2009) for PBS.

A contributing writer with TV Guide, McDougal has also written for Los Angeles Magazine, Premiere, and the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine.

McDougal has lectured in journalism and creative writing at UCLA, Stanford, and the California State Universities at Fullerton and Long Beach. He and his wife, Sharon, live near Memphis, Tennessee, have five children, and 14 grandchildren.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Steve Dossey on May 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you have read previous Nicholson biographies I would recommend you do not spend your money on this one. What's new?: Jack's injuries/illness and movies that go up to The Bucket List. If you haven't read any biographies on Jack, this is not a bad read. The book's major themes are Jack's screen and personal personas (as they can be divined), his involvement with money- particularly how much he gets paid a movie, his off screen relationships and the issue of his paternity. As with most of Nicholson's biographys this is not authorized and thus relies on press and ex- associates/"friends" accounts of who Nicholson is..The author does attempt to present a balanced picture and has noted Nicholson's generosity as well as his "mean spirited" dealings with money. This reads on the side of a "pop" biography as opposed to a serious biography. I suppose we are not going to get a decent biography until Jack agrees to authorize one. The language in this book is at times crass: "codfish Jack", Warhol is a "pop art twit", Jack's collection of record albums makes him a "pop music nerd", "born a bastard", "horn dog hedonist", "obeying his gonads" etc. The themes that get overstated are Jack's paternity and his demands for getting paid for his movies....There are minor inaccuracies which makes you wonder about perhaps other substantive ones?..: Bob Dylan was not on the Easy Rider soundtrack (two of his songs were-but not him); Hunter S.Read more ›
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By MORTY S. TASHMAN on March 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The author of this bio meticulously researched his subject (notes and bibliographies attest to this) but you'd never know it by reading the text. There are a lot of mistakes in this overly written book i.e. KEITH Carradine not DAVID Carradine starred in Pretty Baby, Al Jolson made the line "you ain't seen nothin' yet" famous NOT Jackie Gleason . . there are a lot more examples but that's not the real problem with the book. For an author who's jacket blurb claims he is such an experienced investigative journalist he wastes an awful lot of time detailing Jack Nicholson's sex life (Does anybody really need to know the shape of Nicholson's penis???) and how much money he has (Exacting figures on how much he was paid for EVERY film). This makes much of the book read like a tawdry tabloid and less like an insightful life story.
It starts great and is quite incisive in some parts but the title is misleading: The author never explains or says how Nicholson became the biggest movie star in modern times. The audiences' ability to live vicariously through Nicholson's on and off screen escapades is the key to the man's appeal and yet it's never explored or even stated! Go figure.
The book does have my favorite typo I've seen in some time (There are many, leading the reader to wonder if anybody proofed the manuscript). On page 251 the author recounts and anecdote from screenwriter Ned Wynn concerning the way Nicholson used to ski without turning: "Jack remembered slipping over the edge and zipping straight down Aspen Mountain right beside Jack, who tucked and picked up speed." I guess being beside himself is Nicholson's favorite position.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michael OConnor TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Having dutifully slogged through Dennis McDougal's warts-and-all biography of "the biggest movie star of all time," I couldn't help thinking: Great actor, Sometimes! Great Human Being, Nope! McDougal's 484-page dissection of Nicholson left me with a sense of "too much info" on a person I liked less and less as the chapters rolled on. After FIVE EASY DECADES, I really don't want or need any more info on JN, thank you very much!

I had several problems with McDougal's book. Like most movie viewers, I had a vague interest in Nicholson. With his cobra smile and arching eyebrows, he seemed a cool dude. Yet, as revealed in McDougal's book, for all Nicholson's acting ability, the man isn't a role model for anything but self-absorption and hedonism. Nicholson has had it all - women, money, privilege, drugs, etc. but how he handled much of that was often appalling which McDougal records in endless detail. While you have to give McDougal credit for all his research, he could have been more selective in his use of material. As is, the book too often sinks to trash tabloid level.

McDougal's writing style grated on my nerves. In the Acknowledgements, he thanks his wife for helping eliminate "the more dreadful examples of my alliterative pompous purple prose" from the book. Sorry to say, she should have pushed for even more cuts of the pseudo-hip/chic, juvenile "purple prose" McDougal seems to love.

In short, Nicholson certainly deserves a comprehensive, insightful biography but I don't think FIVE EASY DECADES is that book. Methinks an optional purchase.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Fuzzy Lizard on December 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Five Easy Decades goes through all of Jack Nicholson's films. The blockbusters as well as the ones that tanked. You also learn a bit about Jack's Mother, sisters, 1/2 siblings, his many girlfriends + many kids.
This book was an interesting read. I learned some facts about Jack I didn't know. Also the book lets you know how each movie came to be. Behind the scenes stuff.
Some of the chapters are bit dragged out and too much trivial information is given, but overall a good read for any Jack fan.
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