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.)
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