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No Minor Chords: My Days in Hollywood Hardcover – October 1, 1991

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Academy Award-winning composer Previn's ( Music Face to Face ) story of his career in movies is sweet music for enthusiasts of Hollywood's golden years. He reveals, for instance, that Fred Astaire was as elegant and enchanting a person as he was a dancer, that Gene Kelly was "extremely private" and so sensitive about his singing ability that he had the vocals removed from his personal collection of his filmed dance numbers. Previn charms with telling anecdotes: he once heard Sam Goldwyn say, "My wife's hands are so beautiful I think I'll have a bust made out of them"; a memo he received from Irving Thalberg read: "No music in an MGM film is to contain a minor chord." Consistently clear and lively writing as well as several pages of interesting photos make Previn's fourth literary opus a completely satisfying experience.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Previn, now a symphony orchestra conductor of some renown, was 18 when he began his music career working for MGM as an arranger. During the course of his 16 years with various studios, he progressed to composing and conducting, and ultimately won four Academy Awards. In many ways his rise typified the American immigrant dream, his German-Jewish family having fled the Nazis. Anyone who worked within the Hollywood studio system for as many years as Previn did is bound to have a large fund of stories, and his are wittily, at times hilariously, related. Although his attempts to amuse are occasionally too clever and his habit of directly addressing the reader can be disconcerting, this slim volume makes one anticipate a full autobiography. For general collections.
- Roy Liebman, California State Univ. Lib., Los Angeles
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 145 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (October 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385413416
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385413411
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #921,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mark Swinton on September 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In this autobiography, Andre Previn takes you on a candid and entertaining journey through his years working as composer, arranger, conductor and accompanist in the undoubted film capital of the world, Hollywood.
It is fascinating and funny all at once. The American film institution has always been admired and criticised, and Previn details some of the high and low points of being a part of it: the fact that musicians in Hollywood are a long-suffering breed at the hands of actors, producers and directors who haven't got a clue about music; the accounts of film personnel as seen at work and away from the glamour that publicly accompanies them; stories of wildly extravagant experiences that make up the off-hours and nightlife of the Hollywood populace. Previn also has plenty of musical experiences to relate: studying with Pierre Monteaux (conductor of the premiere of "The Rite of Spring"), playing Stravinsky's piano music and receiving the composer's comment afterwards, rubbing shoulders with other members of the Screen Composers Guild including William Walton, playing snooker with Schoenberg and consulting Shostakovich (via an interpreter) for information about his string quartets. We learn some remarkable things about a bygone era in cinema history, as well as a few home truths about living and working in Hollywood's incomparable atmosphere. All in all, it is a very amusing tale.
Previn reveals himself to be a great storyteller: his tone of writing is friendly and hands-on, and fans of Bill Bryson may recognise in Previn the same kind of bemused wit. For musicians, this is certainly an enjoyable account. For the casual reader, this is a good way to spend a few hours at home, on the train or in the air. My copy is much-thumbed, I can tell you...
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lev Zhurbin on July 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book as a young classically-trained composer who is interested in writing music for film (or, more precisely, collaborating with filmmakers), hoping to gain some insights into Andre Previn's early career and why he chose not to continue on that path after about a decade.
The book consists of many charming anecdotes about the long-gone era of the big Hollywood studios, where most of the cast and crew were under long-term contract. Many luminaries of that day are charmingly profiled, from Fred Astaire to Busby Berkeley to Billy Wilder, to prominent musicians like Heifetz, Max Steiner, Bernard Hermann and others. Several tales in the book relate
instances of Previn working with ignorant or unprofessional
superiors/leading-ladies/producers/etc. and dealing with their egos, mostly in a gently submissive manner.
Previn also takes time to talk about his days as a jazz musician, which he remembers with great fondness.
In the final chapter, Previn mentions his main reasons for leaving Hollywood. Somewhere between winning four Oscars and contributing to nearly fifty films, he no longer felt challenged. "Since leaving Hollywood, I have had the healthy and sobering experience of constantly working with music that is invariably better than any performance of it can be." He also tells a great story about visiting Jeffrey Katzenberg about a proposed "Fantasia" sequel.
Virtually nothing in this book is of any great "technical" use to budding film-composers or conductors. However, the social anectodes are many and make for a pleasant read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Keith Otis Edwards on September 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the most amusing books that I own, and I just finished reading it again for about the fifth time since it was published. You already know that it consists of Previn's memoirs of his days in Hollywood as a contract composer and arranger, but classical giants such as Shostakovich, Schoenberg, Stravinsky and Pierre Monteux also have walk-on roles. (I believe that the answer to the question Monteux asks is *B-flat.*)

There seems to be an inverse correlation, at all times and everywhere, between someone's gift for music and his corresponding talent with words, and those who are finicky about writing might grumble over Previn's style. I have never before seen some of the words he uses -- *naiver, extravertism, orchestrally* -- nor does my spelling checker recognize them, and some of the writing lapses into the Wagnerian.

Never mind! None of that will stop you from enjoying this book, because every few pages there is an anecdote so funny that it will induce an audible response -- at least a snort. The tales may not be suitable for telling at social gatherings, not because they're off-color, but because they're unbelievable. How could the people who run milti-million-dollar firms be such oafs? Unbelievable!

The book is not all horror stories about the moguls, though, as Previn is highly complimentary about his fellow composers, almost to a fulsome degree. This makes for a different reading experience today, because I can now consult Amazon as to how the music he mentions sounds.

The most important feature of this short book, however, is that it helps to explain why why classical music now amounts to only about two percent of total music sales.
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