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Tough as Nails: The Life and Films of Richard Brooks (Wisconsin Film Studies) Paperback – April 8, 2011
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A "very welcome biography ... I liked Richard Brooks a great deal, and I like Mr. Daniel's biography so much that I wish there were more of it." --Scott Eyman, The Wall Street Journal
“Reads like a wonderful movie. Richard Brooks’s story is feisty, opinionated, emotional, heartfelt, bitter, angry, warmhearted, and even funny. I loved Richard Brooks and I love this wonderful book.”—Paul Mazursky, Academy Award–nominated filmmaker
“Mr. Daniel has captured the essence of the artist known as Richard Brooks. The struggle of the Outsider who became an Insider in Hollywood in spite of being a ruffian cannot be put down. I admired Mr. Brooks when I worked with him and through this wonderful book I grew to love him.”—Shirley Knight, actress
“Douglass Daniel has nailed Richard Brooks. It is high time for this engrossing and revelatory account of his life, his work and his creative drive. This places Brooks where he rightfully belongs, among the greats of cinema history.”—Scott Wilson, actor who portrayed Dick Hickock in In Cold Blood
“In recent years writer-director Richard Brooks has been making frequent, noisy walk-on appearances in other people’s biographies, picking fights, yelling, being fantastically rude and abrasive, and prompting this reader many times to think, ‘Wow, I want to read his biography.’ Well, here it is, and it delivers. Not only do we get the very best/worst of Brooks’ incredibly irascible on-set personality, we get to see beyond the barking autocrat and observe what several friends and co-workers call ‘the mischievous twinkle in his eye,’ which suggested that the other stuff was maybe all a nervous put-on. More important, author Douglass K. Daniel is cleareyed in his assessment of the enduring value and power of Brooks’ best work.”—The DGA Quarterly
Called “God’s angry man” for his unyielding demands in pursuit of personal and artistic freedom, Oscar-winning filmmaker Richard Brooks brought us some of the mid-twentieth century’s most iconic films, including Blackboard Jungle, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Elmer Gantry, In Cold Blood, and Looking for Mr. Goodbar. “The important thing,” he once remarked, “is to write your story, to make it believable, to make it live.” His own life story has never been fully chronicled, until now.
More About the Author
That would make an interesting threesome to meet over lunch: Lou Grant, the tough but lovable city editor; Harry Reasoner, the exceedingly smart and witty writer and broadcaster; and Richard Brooks, himself once a reporter and later a novelist and screenwriter who turned to directing. I doubt I could get in a word -- and probably wouldn't want to do much but listen anyway.
Richard Brooks -- "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "Elmer Gantry" and "In Cold Blood" are among his two dozen films -- was a great subject for a biography. First of all, no one has written about his life until now. I interviewed nearly forty people who knew him, worked in his films, loved him and at times hated the guy. I also reviewed his papers, at the motion picture academy archive, and files from MGM, 20th Century-Fox and other studios. Mr. Brooks lived according to his rules -- and his rules included decency and truth but also toughness and hard work.
Putting together the puzzle that was Richard Brooks' life challenged me as a writer and as a researcher. I've been writing since I attended journalism school at Kansas State University and worked on the K-State Collegian. In the years since, I have worked mainly for The Associated Press as a writer and editor. For several years I taught journalism at Kansas State and my other alma mater, Ohio University. Today, I'm back with the AP, in the Washington bureau.
Writing more than the day's news allows me a chance to be creative. I suppose nonfiction sets up familiar boundaries -- facts, you could call them -- and gives me a direction to follow. I admire novelists for their ability to create a world that can operate according to their imaginations. But nonfiction has its creative elements, too, and I am trying to master them.
Top Customer Reviews
Ever since I was a teenager I've read whatever I could find on Brooks, which has not been much. He was very controlling of his work, not even giving his scripts to his actors to know the movie they were working on.
I never understood why no one had ever written a biography on Brooks before -- and still don't. But I'm very grateful to have this book now.
Author Douglass K. Daniel has spent years researching Brooks life and uncovering information that even actress Jean Simmons, Brooks' wife of twenty years, didn't know. Fascinating and page-turning. I only wish that it was two or three times longer.
Daniel also doesn't spare any punches. He writes of how salty and difficult Brooks could be, sometimes unwarranted. But his actors and crew still rallied around him because they knew that he stood out from the pack.
His passion for the written word and protecting the words that he wrote, the biggest reason he became a producer-director, is on every page.
I inhaled this book when it arrived in the mail last week and am now going through it again and more thoroughly. As well as piling a stack of DVDs of Richard Brooks' by the TV to go through again.
Every time I watch a Richard Brooks film it makes me want to write. Reading Douglass K. Daniel's insightful glimpse into Brooks' life inspires me to want to open up my laptop and start pounding the keys.
If anyone is thinking of buying this book -- then stop. Buy it! Then start savoring the pages for yourself. You won't be disappointed.
Many, many, many thanks. It's been worth the wait.
Therefore, as much as I don't like saying it, this objective and dispassionate biography doesn't show us the life of a particularly happy or talented man. He was brutal in handling his crew and some of his actors. Evidently, if he was pleased with their work he ignored them. That was about all you could expect. And unlike, say, John Ford, his anger -- well, his outrage really -- grew worse as he aged and there was no sign of any leavening humor. Ford at least appreciate a joke or a gag and would get drunk from time to time. Brooks grew so nearly paranoid that he wouldn't even let the actors see their lines except one page at a time, always worried that something would be stolen. There were four marriages.
Brooks fought his way to the top, born poor in Philadelphia, working through a desk job in the Marine Corps and newspaper stories and columns. He was careful to avoid controversy. He was both a writer and director but there wasn't a peep out of him during the House Unamerican Activities Committee hunts for commies under every bed.
Daniel hasn't done a hatchet job. Don't get me wrong. The prose is reportorial rather than editorial. Here is Richard Brooks, warts and all.
"Actors, studio executives, and journalists had been telling the same stories about Richard for years. He dressed like a bum. He kept his script under wraps. He passed up offers to direct top movies (in 1979, "The Godfather, Part II," after reading a treatment.) He accepted the guild minimums to write and direct a movie his way.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
very fine copy. received as described. clean pages, strong spine. no superfluous markings.Published 4 months ago by Kenneth Borbet
I found this a fascinating read. I have loved about a half dozen of his films and admired even more. Read morePublished on November 19, 2013 by Robert Harmon
Informative, but uninspired biography. Short of pungent life stories, so much a litany of films. To its credit, it does capture a long missed piece of a significant director.Published on August 12, 2013 by John S. Young