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Von Sternberg (Screen Classics) [Kindle Edition]

John Baxter
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Belligerent and evasive, Josef von Sternberg chose to ignore his illegitimate birth in Austria, deprived New York childhood, abusive father, and lack of education. The director who strutted onto the set in a turban, riding breeches, or a silk robe embraced his new persona as a world traveller, collected modern art, drove a Rolls Royce, and earned three times as much as the president. Von Sternberg traces the choices that carried the unique director from poverty in Vienna to power in Hollywood, including his eventual ostracism in Japan. Historian John Baxter reveals an artist few people knew: the aesthete who transformed Marlene Dietrich into an international star whose ambivalent sexuality and contradictory allure on-screen reflected an off-screen romance with the director.

In his classic films The Blue Angel (1930), Morocco (1930), and Blonde Venus (1932), von Sternberg showcased his trademark visual style and revolutionary representations of sexuality. Drawing on firsthand conversations with von Sternberg and his son, Von Sternberg breaks past the classic Hollywood caricature to demystify and humanize this legendary director.



Editorial Reviews

Review

""The ego has landed. The most indefatigable self-glorifier in US cinema (born plain Joe Sternberg and affecting the "von") gets thoroughgoing, perceptive and even sympathetic treatment from a veteran biographer. The maker of The Blue Angel, Morocco, Blonde Venus and The Scarlet Empress deserves no less." -- Financial Times" --

About the Author

John Baxter, codirector of the annual Paris Writers Workshop, is the author of Immovable Feast: A Paris Christmas and We'll Always Have Paris: Sex and Love in the City of Light, as well as biographies of many Hollywood luminaries including Federico Fellini, Luis Buñuel, Steven Spielberg, Ken Russell, George Lucas, Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick, and Robert DeNiro. He lives in Paris, France.


Product Details

  • File Size: 3809 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: The University Press of Kentucky (September 23, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004LQ1ZP8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,243,100 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Josef von Sternberg (1894-1969) was seldom comfortable working within the Hollywood studio system, but he nonetheless directed some extraordinary motion pictures. (Stop me if you've heard that one before.) In his heyday (roughly 1925-1935), Von Sternberg developed a very personal visual style, then discovered the actress - Marlene Dietrich - who personified his vision of the uberfrau who bedazzles men through her sheer femininity and beauty. His six films with Dietrich - among them MOROCCO and SHANGHAI EXPRESS, plus the German and English-language versions of THE BLUE ANGEL - are among the masterpieces of cinema's early sound years, and Von Sternberg created other interesting films from the late silent era (THE LAST COMMAND, UNDERWORLD, THE DOCKS OF NEW YORK) through his last film, ANA-TA-HAN, made in Japan in 1953.

Baxter's critical biography of Von Sternberg is a good one, likely the most complete and thorough assessment of the director that we will see for the next several years (unless one of the director's lost silent films is resurrected). The Australian-born critic has done his research and gives a solid account of Von Sternberg's life - including a great deal of information about his early years, which were often fictionalized by Von Sternberg and his employers, as well as a good account of the man's later life when he found it virtually impossible to get work in Hollywood or elsewhere. There are also some amusing descriptions of Baxter's own encounters with Von Sternberg. Into this biographical information, Baxter has woven his valid assessments of all the films. Baxter is highly readable and his judgments are forthright. There is also a good selection of photographs.

I have not read Baxter's much earlier volume, THE FILMS OF JOSEF VON STERNBERG (1971), but unless you're a fanatic on the subject, I can't imagine that this more recent biography will not satisfy your curiosity about Von Sternberg and his art. See the movies, too, of course.
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More About the Author

John Baxter was born in Sydney, Australia, but raised in a small country town called Junee. With little else to do, he went to the movies three times a week for most of his adolescence, which provided an instant education in Hollywood movies with which he was often able to embarrass film celebrities ("You SAW that thing?")
His second interest, however, was science fiction, which he began writing in his late teens. He sold stories to the same British and American magazines as J.G. Ballard and Thomas M. Disch, and in 1966 his first sf novel, THE GOD KILLERS, was published in both the US and Britain. He also edited the first-ever anthologies of Australian science fiction, and wrote the first history of the Australian cinema.
In 1969, he came to Europe, settled in London, and began writing books on the cinema, including a biography of the director Ken Russell, and studies of John Ford, Josef von Sternberg and the gangster and science fiction film genres, and working as an arts journalist for various magazines, and for BBC radio. He also served on the juries of European film festivals.
In 1974 he was invited to become visiting professor at Hollins College in Virginia, USA, where he remained for two years. While in America, he collaborated with Thomas Atkins on THE FIRE CAME BY; THE GREAT SIBERIAN EXPLOSION OF 1908,and wrote a study of director King Vidor, as well as completing two novels, THE HERMES FALL and BIDDING.
Returning to London, he published the technological thriller THE BLACK YACHT. In 1979 he moved to Ireland, and the following year returned to Australia, where he co-scripted the 1988 science fiction film THE TIME GUARDIAN, starring Carrie Fisher and Dean Stockwell. He also wrote and presented three TV series on the cinema, and produced and presented the ABC radio programme BOOKS AND WRITING.
In 1989 he moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a screenwriter and film journalist. The following year, he met his present wife, Marie-Dominique Montel, and re-located in Paris.
After moving to France, John published biographies of Federico Fellini, Luis Bunuel, Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick, George Lucas and Robert De Niro, as well as five books of autobiography, A POUND OF PAPER: CONFESSIONS OF A BOOK ADDICT, dealing with his fascination for collecting books, WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS: SEX AND LOVE IN THE CITY OF LIGHT, of which the SUNDAY TIMES of London wrote "it towers above most recent memoirs of life abroad," IMMOVEABLE FEAST: A PARIS CHRISTMAS, THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WALK IN THE WORLD: A PEDESTRIAN IN PARIS, and THE PERFECT MEAL. IN SEARCH OF THE LOST TASTES OF FRANCE.
John has co-directed the annual Paris Writers Workshop and is a frequent lecturer and public speaker. His hobbies are cooking and book collecting. He has a major collection of modern first editions. When not writing, he can be found prowling the bouquinistes along the Seine or cruising the Internet in search of new acquisitions.



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