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O.K. You Mugs: Writers on Movie Actors Hardcover – September 28, 1999

3.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

O.K. You Mugs is an unusual collection of essays--a book full of writers writing about actors without once making cracks about their relative intelligence. It is a wildly varied collection that jams deadly serious film critiques up against swoops of poetry, but all the pieces are united by a genuine love of cinema--be it Dave Hickey's ode to Robert Mitchum's eternal cool or Manny Farber's bracingly crabby essay on the death of real acting in movies. In a refreshing change of pace, character actors are given just as much space as leads, if not more. Homage is paid to both to Thelma Ritter's solid but always welcome screen persona and the quiet genius of Margaret Dumont, the remarkably dignified dowager in the Marx Brothers movies. The best pieces will send you straight to the video store--Greil Marcus's essay on the chameleonic evil of J.T. Walsh will have you eagerly rewatching a half-dozen terrific oh-he-was-THAT-guy! performances with renewed appreciation. John Updike's "Suzie Creamcheese Speaks" is also a revelation, exploring the surprisingly tough and pragmatic private persona of screen good girl Doris Day. An entertaining and thought-provoking collection for actors and movie fans alike. --Ali Davis

From Publishers Weekly

With few exceptions, the 26 essays in this intermittently engaging collection shed less light on the lives of the actors who are its ostensible subject than on the imaginations of the writers who have penned themAan eclectic group that includes John Updike, Geoffrey O'Brien, Dave Hickey and David Hajdu. But Sante (The Factory of Facts) and Pierson (The Perfect Vehicle) have performed a useful service for film buffs by amassing a dossier of mostly original writing on the brilliant but often neglected careers of such character actors as Warren Oates, Robert Carlyle and Margaret Dumont, and some of the writing sparkles. Among the highlights are "Suzie Creamcheese Speaks," John Updike's classic 1983 appreciation of Doris Day (although her inclusion as a character actress is questionable); Linda Yablonsky on Thelma Ritter, best known for roles in such films as All About Eve and Pickup on South Street ("She remained the quintessential trouper, proof that character parts are essentially temp jobs, written out of a movie early on"); and Robert Polito's haunting, noirish memoir of ghostwriting a sex-filled autobiography with actress-turned-prostitute Barbara Payton for Holloway House. But more than a few essays are marred by show-offy prose that attempts to steal the spotlight from the actors themselves: Siri Hustvedt writes of Franklin Pangborn, "I like his name. It combines the elevated connotations of Franklin, as in Ben and Roosevelt, with the pathos of 'pang,' and the fact that this 'pang' is married to 'born' delights me with its Dickensian aptness." Few readers will find such comments apt in any way. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1 edition (September 28, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375401016
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375401015
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,742,045 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Having read the posted reviews,I began to challenge my own previous judgment about this book.It's hard to disagree with the criticisms---maybe I'm just a soft touch for this sort of writing.The way I figure it--if there's one really outstanding essay among the bunch--my money spent will have been justified.So--did this book deliver? I say yes---no regrets on my part for having bought it.You're not likely to go for all 26 entries(I didn't),for it's all a matter of taste in the end.The Barbara Payton piece alone covered the cost for me.It's an up-close memoir of a kid growing up among the sleazy environs of a Sunset Blvd. dive where he encountered,and was befriended, by the notorious actress turned hooker-and-dipso---a priceless recollection of the Hollywood community and it's fading stars in free-fall.The Mitchum piece was fine by me---I've read other latter-day hep-cat appreciations of Mitch,and this one is as good as any---if the actor had not survived to enjoy(?) such a disreputable old age,he might have become a genuine cult immortal.John Updike on Doris Day is outstanding---even if you're only a casual viewer(or listener)of her work.I thought "Rogue's Gallery" was just great---Luc Sante should do an expanded version of this with profiles of more actors---his insights are flat on the money."Warner Bros.'Fat Men" gives us Sydney Greenstreet and Eugene Pallette---Hey,those two guys are worth my $18 anyday.Then there's Angelo Rossitto(excellent)and a neat piece of detective work wherein Stuart Klawans tracks down the "shoe-shine" man from the arcade number in "The Bandwagon"---the idea itself is inspired,and the execution lives up to it.Those are my favorites,but there is other good stuff---if you like offbeat essays on underappreciated film players,you'll be well rewarded here.
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By A Customer on October 28, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is a highfalutin version of what is sometimes called a "bathroom book." Lots of brief, easily, uh, digestible essays on actors, from mainstream superstars to barely remembered character people and cult and camp figures. The book has the feel of something thrown together within a couple of weeks of securing the book contract. There are some nice pieces here, like Manny Farber on movie acting, Geoffrey O'Brien on Dana Andrews, Updike on Doris Day, Michael Weldon's heartfelt if dully written rundown on Angelo Rossitto. But then there's the unbearably precious or preening pieces like one where the author is pretending to be Timothy Carey, and worst of all a laughably self-absorbed "tribute to Robert Mitchum" by an art critic who thinks he probably would have become Robert Mitchum's cool best friendor something if only he had ever met him but he didn't meet him, see, because he was afraid Mitchum would disappoint him. One cringes at the un-coolness of it. Overall, editor Sante might have been better off looking for pieces by more learned film writers rather than using some of the wispy contributions in this medium-grade collection.
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Format: Paperback
Arguably, a good book with a tantalizing premise. Great?
By definition, cannot rise above B-grade. But hey, maybe
we'll just cheat around this next curve.

Now there's this list, see, you keep it in your head, see?
For those times, and there's a lot more of them now, when
you're just sitting around...some randomly acquired extras
in your trailer, waiting for the next casting call and these
new pals start jaw-jacking, always it's the GREAT character
actors who come up after the third beer.

It's when Strother Martin's name comes up. Always.
Question: why there is no Strother Martin Lifetime
Achievement Award at the Oscars? It is v. much a mystery,
a la those giant figures hacked into the Peruvian stonescape,
visible only from the Great Wall.

Why put a foot on the brakes if I'm going all the way?
Here's who was left out:

Gabby Hayes....(inventor of Western gibberish)
Slim Pickens...(heads and shoulders in the oater department)
Whit Bissell...(in uniform or out...the non-noir fifties grey flannel man)
Trey Wilson....(before his time, went across the picket line in the sky)
Nicky Katt.....(don't get mad, Nick, it's about time someone said it)
Bill Duke .....(stole a whole movie away from Terence Stamp, Peter Fonda and
Soderburgh in "The Limey." If he'd run for governor somewhere,
he'd be the third guy from Predator's cast to become governor.)
Steve Hahn........(could've been the next Viggo Mortensen but funnier)
Viggo Mortensen...(Witness, American Yakuza, etc. Could've been the next
Steve Zahn but not as funny)
Michael Lonsdale..(my all-time favorite...Day of the Jackal, Ronin, Munich,
Enigma. I know, not an American, but hey, it's the movies.)

This product does not cause lung cancer in laboratory animals...yet.
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Format: Hardcover
Several writers wrote essays on famous (and not so famous) actors. They talk about what makes the actor special, what works what doesn't. The famed writer Luc Sante heads the gang. It's a wild read that's written well. I had never heard of it and a friend gave me one, "you have to read this." I did and love it. If you love Hollywood and the behind the scenes stuff pick this book up.
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