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Steven Spielberg: The Unauthorized Biography Hardcover – May, 1997

6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Steven Spielberg is pretty much America's official dream merchant, building upon the legacy of previous cultural fantasists such as Frank Capra and Walt Disney. "The first appeal of [an American popular artwork] is, and must be," says Baxter, "commonplace delight," at which Spielberg excels. "His films . . . are machines for delighting us," Baxter continues and then tells us how those machines are put together. Exploring the filmmaking, a portrait of the filmmaker emerges. Spielberg, notably comfortable with the idea that a hiqh-quality motion picture can be entertaining and vice versa, has met with so much commercial success that his artistic successes may be overlooked. Examining Spielberg's career film by film, Baxter redresses any lack of appreciation for the man's artistry and produces an excellent book about the contemporary director who just may have the best cumulative record of achievement to stand upon in public and declare himself to be "king of the world" --of popular culture, that is. Mike Tribby --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Kirkus Reviews

A slight biography of Spielberg, perhaps the most successful filmmaker of all time. Attempting a biography of an artist at mid-career is always a daunting task, but the remarkable success of director Spielberg (Jaws, Jurassic Park, Schindler's List, etc.) makes such a book inevitable. Unfortunately, Spielberg would not be interviewed for the book. Thus Baxter (Fellini, 1994, etc.) is left with already- published reports and new interviews with co-workers. So while he describes the making of each film and probes the differences between the childlike visionary perceived by the public and the driven, often prickly director and businessman who operates behind the scenes, Baxter never finds the key to the unique personality and talent of this quixotic artist, nor does he get beyond the now- familiar story of Spielberg's evolution from film-obsessed child to filmmaker-phenomenon. Baxter also comes to his subject with the thesis, hardly original, that the superficial plot lines and comic- book mise-en-scŠnes of Spielberg's films have led to the decline of the narrative film as an art form. But because Baxter never seems to grasp the nature of Spielberg's dazzling style (which at its peak, in thrillers like Jaws and Jurassic Park, involved rigorously planned camera angles and deftly timed editing), he fails to adequately define how that style might have been misused (in more character-driven films such as The Color Purple). In addition, Baxter's credentials as biographer and critic are undermined by mistakes any freshman film student could have corrected (Frank Capra's remake of Lady for a Day is Pocketful of Miracles, not A Hole in the Head, Fran‡ois Truffaut's The Green Room is far from his ``last'' film, Broadcast News was directed by James L. Brooks, not Albert Brooks, etc.). Despite some entertaining behind-the-scenes gossip, Baxter's biography is ultimately as superficial as he accuses Spielberg's films of being. (24 pages b&w photos) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 457 pages
  • Publisher: Harpercollins (May 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002555875
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002555876
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.2 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,406,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Paul Major on February 20, 2007
Format: Paperback
As someone relatively young, born and raised when Spielberg was already popular for Jaws, I've always found him an iconic figure but have never exactly been a fan-boy. Enjoyed the movies, but never really succumbed to worship. That said...

Mr. Baxter's attempt seems admirable on sight alone -- it's a large book -- but while reading I couldn't help but take issue with his tone and perspective. Rather than acknowledging the obvious talent it takes to craft the stories the way Spielberg does, the author focuses on an idea that Spielberg is more manipulative businessman than creative force. A simple viewing of even some of his earliest work, like Jaws, diminishes Mr. Baxter's point considerably.

Let's talk about the creative process and how he's able to visualize and achieve what he has; his business acumen at a young age just seems too obvious a point to harp on.

This book has plenty of interesting anecodotes and armchair-psychology ideas. But I'm struggling to get to page 200, don't feel compelled to finish and don't feel I've gleaned much as to HOW Spielberg gets things done as a director. I understand that biographers probably often feel the need to develop a strong point-of-view; maybe Mr. Baxter's attempt just missed the mark (for me).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
The book only scrathes the surface of this splendid director. Several chapters on the directors movies are simply to "thin". There's no information that we haven't heard of before. Instead read the book on GEORGE LUCAS by same auther. It's much better.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 27, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Despite its respectable cover this is only slightly more serious than the celebrity tell-alls of recent months. Incidentally it also has at least a couple of factual flaws even mild Internet research could have corrected
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