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Steven Spielberg: A Biography, Second Edition Paperback – January 4, 2011

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Editorial Reviews Review

Writing a biography is tough enough when the subject is dead and the biographer must rely on a paper trail and recollections of contemporaries to relate the essence of the man or woman's life. When the subject still lives--and especially when he is as powerful as Steven Spielberg--a whole new set of problems emerge. For one thing, it's difficult to find anyone willing to criticize a man who pulls as many strings in the film industry as Spielberg; for another, how does one evaluate a career that is still in progress? If the definitive Spielberg biography cannot yet be written, Joseph McBride's Steven Spielberg: A Biography will suffice in the interim. Though certainly affected by the aforementioned constraints, McBride still creates an impressive portrait of the man behind Schindler's List, E.T., Jurassic Park, and many, many more.

McBride is especially effective at limning the contours of Spielberg's childhood. Born in 1946 to Arnold and Leah Spielberg, the young Steven endured both frequent moves and his parents' unhappy domestic life. These factors, combined with the anti-Semitism he encountered as a teenager, drove the introverted Spielberg to seek approval through filmmaking. In addition to exploring Spielberg's private life, McBride offers some perceptive criticism of his work. Anyone interested in the film industry and Spielberg's place in it will find Joseph McBride's Steven Spielberg a valuable resource. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This is the first in-depth biography of the film director whose works?E.T., Jaws, Jurassic Park, and Schindler's List among them?need no introduction to anyone with the slightest awareness of popular culture. Veteran Hollywood observer McBride (Frank Capra, LJ 5/1/91) has interviewed hundreds of the subject's colleagues, relatives, and friends, though Spielberg and most of his inner circle declined to cooperate. McBride attempts to correct what he sees as a strong bias among many film critics against Spielberg as a "child-man...incapable of dealing with the darker side of life." This leads to more analysis and defense of Spielberg's work than seems necessary, but, overall, this is a solid book that should be in every collection.?Thomas J. Wiener, "Satellite DIRECT"
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi; 2 edition (January 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1604738367
  • ISBN-13: 978-1604738360
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #820,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joseph McBride is an American film historian, biographer, screenwriter, and professor in the Cinema Department at San Francisco State University. McBride has published seventeen books since 1968, including acclaimed biographies of Steven Spielberg, Frank Capra, and John Ford. His most recent work is Into the Nightmare: My Search for the Killers of President John F. Kennedy and Officer J. D. Tippit, published in June 2013; this book, both epic and intimately personal, is the result of McBride's thirty-one-year investigation of the case. It contains many fresh revelations from McBride's rare interviews with people in Dallas, archival discoveries, and what novelist Thomas Flanagan, in The New York Review of Books, called McBride's "wide knowledge of American social history."

Before Into the Nightmare, McBride published Writing in Pictures: Screenwriting Made (Mostly) Painless (2012) and updated editions of his 1997 book Steven Spielberg: A Biography in 2011 and 2012. The American second edition of the Spielberg book was published by the University Press of Mississippi, which also reprinted his biographies Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success (1992; 2000) and Searching for John Ford (2001). McBride's other books include: Orson Welles (1972; 1996), Hawks on Hawks (1982), The Book of Movie Lists: An Offbeat, Provocative Collection of the Best and Worst of Everything in Movies (1999), and What Ever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career (2006).

His screenwriting credits include the movies Rock 'n' Roll High School and Blood and Guts and five American Film Institute Life Achievement Award specials on CBS-TV dealing with Fred Astaire, Frank Capra, Lillian Gish, John Huston, and James Stewart. He also was cowriter of the United States Information Agency worldwide live TV special Let Poland Be Poland (1982). McBride plays a film critic, Mr. Pister, in the legendary unfinished Orson Welles feature The Other Side of the Wind (1970-76). McBride is also the coproducer of the documentaries Obsessed with "Vertigo": New Life for Hitchcock's Masterpiece (1997) and John Ford Goes to War (2002).

McBride received the Writers Guild of America Award for cowriting The American Film Institute Salute to John Huston (1983). He has also received four other WGA nominations two Emmy nominations, and a Canadian Film Awards nomination. The French edition of Searching for John Ford, A la Recherche de John Ford, published in 2007, was chosen the Best Foreign Film Book of the Year by the French film critics' association, le Syndicat Français de la Critique de Cinéma.

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, McBride grew up in the suburb of Wauwatosa. He attended Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, where he received a National Merit Scholarship, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and worked as a reporter for The Wisconsin State Journal in Madison before departing for California in 1973. A documentary feature on McBride's life and work, Behind the Curtain: Joseph McBride on Writing Film History, written and directed by Hart Perez, had its world debut in 2011 at the Tiburon International Film Festival in Tiburon, Marin County, CA, and was released on DVD in 2012.

Customer Reviews

The book gives you most of the detailed information about Steven Spielberg.
Henry Sze (
I wish to emphasise this point because I really did not enjoy reading it, and that came down to my expectations: I wanted the celebration.
McBride also doesn't really do justice to either Minority Report or Munich, films which he likes but doesn't seem to love much.
Adam Zanzie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I've now read about five or six biographies of Steven Spielberg and all vary in depth and quality. However Joseph McBride book can only be described as THE most in-depth account of Spielberg's fascinating life. You simply won't read a more well-researched account of Spielberg's life unless the great man writes his autobiography. Don't be put off by the fact that Spielberg didn't co-operate with this book, virtually everyone else did including, most surprisingly, his father. A terrific read from start to finish.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Judy Schavrien on February 6, 2011
Format: Paperback
It is no surprise that McBride by now is the consultant critic on a host of DVDs and repeatedly recognized, especially in Europe, as a top-notch biographer. It is no surprise either that he is my favorite; I wouldn't pretend to have a final insight into a director without having read his "last word" on that person. Somehow he sees his directors in the round, covering everything from their visuals to their politics, and he sees them in psychological depth. His portrait of Spielberg is no exception. He shows movingly how Spielberg used filmmaking to compensate for his feelings of exclusion and the abuse he suffered as a Jewish kid who spent much of his youth in largely gentile neighborhoods. Spielberg needed friendship and popularity, and making films was his way of getting them. It is no insult to say that Spielberg became a great popular artist--who, however, also went beyond this: McBride captures the gist, especially in this second edition, by comparing him with Charles Dickens. Chesterton wrote that Dickens felt as one with the common people and in his work poured out his feelings for them without condescension.

Today there is no doubt about Dickens but some still cast doubt upon Spielberg's artistic status. McBride charts Spielberg's progress from that of a director characterized by critics as little more than a polished entertainer to a filmmaker of stature: Spielberg's work has grappled with subjects from the Holocaust to slavery, civil liberties, and terrorism, and handled the themes with seriousness and maturity. Like Dickens, Spielberg is an artist with a burning passion for social justice.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 1, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Impressive, insightful, clever (and sometimes critical) description of the first 51 years in the life of a cinematic genius. Every page is a delight. You feel like an insider in Spielbergland. It's an amazing amount of work (more than 300 interviews). Do not hesitate.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Steven Spielberg: The most famous film director ever. Anybody knows the name, even small children. He's directed Hook for the younger ones, and Saving Private Ryan for those of us that are older. There is so many films that I could list, I won't even try. But this book isn't just about his movies. They're mentioned quite often, but the truly great thing about this book is the detail.
You learn so much about his family that you could almost be part of it. After reading this book, you could very well know more about his great grandparents than you do about your own. You learn of his childhood and how he made movies when he was young, to how he matured into making great films that we all know and love.
It's a long book, and now you know why. It gives you plenty of reading, and it'll keep you interested. It's also got pictures of him working on movies like E.T. and even him directing other thirteen year olds when he was a child. If you're considering purchasing this book, don't wait any longer. Once you sit down and begin reading, you won't know why you waited in the first place.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Craig MACKINNON on August 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
I want to give this book 4 stars, but I just can't bring myself to do it. This book is certainly an impressive scholarly work - well researched, reasonably well referenced, and when there is analysis offered, it is thorough and insightful.
Unfortunately, the analysis is also my major complaint with the book. McBride seems to haphazardly pick pictures to analyse, while ignoring others. What possessed him to give devote more pages to 1941 than all the Indiana Jones movies combined? Further, he has a tendency to focus too much on the story of the movie - I submit that most people reading this book have seen these movies and can draw their own conclusions about the significance of the story. We'd rather hear about how they were made, etc. That is, more facts and less analysis would would make this a better book.
The first half of the book is very good, because the author takes his time explaining family connections, his amateur films, etc. It is a little repetitive (how often does McBride feel he has to tell us that Spielberg felt like an outsider growing up?), but the detail and narrative flow are very good, telling us a lot about the man behind the movies. Especially interesting is the information on S's TV work.
The second half of the book rapidly degenerates into a shallow overview of things we already know about Spielberg, and is very disappointing. It's almost like McBride had a page limit, and after spending so much time on S's childhood, he had to rush through the remaining material, save for sections on Schindler's List and Colour Purple (both deserving movies, of course).
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