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Vincente Minnelli: Hollywood's Dark Dreamer Hardcover – April 14, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Former Variety critic Levy has written nine books on film, including All About Oscar and John Wayne. In the first full-length comprehensive biography of film director Minnelli (1903–1986), Levy unveils a compelling portrait. A lonely, awkward, painfully shy boy, Minnelli was born into show business because his father and uncle operated a touring theater company. In New York, during the 1930s, Minnelli graduated from costume and set designs to directing. After a decade on Broadway, he was sent by producer Arthur Freed to MGM, where Minnellis stylish and exuberant élan captivated audiences for the next 25 years. Meet Me in St. Louis became a huge WWII home-front hit, establishing Minnelli as a major Tinseltown talent. Levy delivers an outstanding chapter on the making of that film and how it brought Minnelli and Judy Garland together: Judy could never separate professional from emotional relationships, and that kind of blend—or confusion, if you will—was at the very foundation of her marriage to Minnelli. Levys exhaustive research taps into three key sources: the Special Minnelli Collection at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; letters and documents kept by Minnellis widow, Lee Anderson Minnelli; and various drafts of Minnellis 1974 memoir, I Remember It Well. Along with coverage of memorable musical and nonmusical films, the work tells Minnellis personal life with illuminating insight. Levy captures the color, verve and panache of the directors life and legacy in high-gloss Hollywood. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

Vincente Minnelli is best known for directing some of Hollywood’s greatest musicals, such as An American in Paris and Meet Me in St. Louis, but cinephiles also laud him for such melodramatic masterworks as The Bad and the Beautiful and Some Came Running. A number of books have discussed his work, but he hasn’t previously been the subject of a biography. Relying mostly on secondary sources, Levy traces his career from early days as a stage designer in New York to arrival at MGM and his most fruitful period, the 1950s, when his films were box office and critical successes, to his frustrating final decades after the collapse of the studio system. Levy is perhaps more successful at limning Minnelli’s career than at accounting for his problematic personal life: a semicloseted homosexual, Minnelli essayed four marriages, including a famously fractious union with Judy Garland. Despite pallid readings of the films, Levy provides some valuable insight into the life of a genuine artist who struggled—frequently successfully—to inject a higher aesthetic into popular entertainment. --Gordon Flagg
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312329253
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312329259
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #781,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This book is a MUST for those that love Minnelli's movies and for those who love movies in general.
S. Main
Levy's analyses of individual films are often sketchy, and he does not always convincingly justify his preference for certain films over others.
Richard Kukan
Although there is interesting information on the making of some of the films, there is very little personal information.
Marcus A. Astafan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Woodman on June 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Fascinating subject -- dreadful execution.

I was really looking forward to reading this book, and began by glancing through the photos. When I noticed all the aforementioned mis-captioned pictures I thought, "Uh-oh, this does not bode well."

I won't repeat here the examples of factual errors that are apparent even to a casual scholar of Hollywood's Golden Age. What I find staggering is the combination of inaccuracies, repetitions, omissions, and completely fatuous observations. ("Another brother, Willie, curiously bearing the same name as the dying son in 'East Lynne,' a play in which Minnelli would later perform, died when he was an infant.")

As Dana Stevens observed in a New York Times book review, "...details pop up throughout the book in sudden, impenetrable clumps. Yet elsewhere, information that would be crucial for comprehending the significance of a story is mysteriously absent." That, combined with some truly bad writing, make this a non-starter.

Given the subject matter, I'll probably slog through some more of it (perhaps using the index in the back to jump to the areas of greatest interest to me) before I give it to the local library and take a $37.95 tax deduction.

I Remember It Well
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Early on May 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Have never done a review for Amazon-- but this time felt strongly I should!! This book is reprehensible...
So many factual errs-- Ones I picked up on had to do with first wife the great Judy Garland. Picture insert -- clearly a shot from "Boy Next Door" number from "Meet Me In St Louis" states that she is in position for her christmas song.... Says a sequence from, "Babes on Broadway' (1941) is from, "Strike Up The Band" (1940)--
informs the reader that her third husbands name was, "Mickey" and that Liza stayed with them in London for a time circa... 1964-- Must mean 5th husband Mickey Deans whom she married in 1969-- plus tawdry details of their sex life (Garland and Minnelli...) Book jacket says they met on the set of MMISL-- and on and on.... This talented artist deserves better!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on October 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
A much needed book that explores in a cohesive way the ups and downs of the studio system and how they came to bear on the career of an under=appreciated auteur.

First, the shortcomings. They begin during the acknowledgments, during which we read that Levy spent years and years on this book, aided by the kindness of Minnelli's widow, Lee Anderson. I'm assuming that he also spent some time with "Tina Nina," the wretchedly named "other daughter" of Minnelli. In all those years of work, though, did he ever stir himself to interview any living person outside of the fourth wife and second daughter? It's hard to tell; there are no notes and the critical apparatus makes it impossible to tell where Levy or his research assistants uncovered any particular bit of information. The story reads smoothly but at crucial junctures one wonders how many opportunities were squandered to interview X or Y who have since passed on. I would estimate there must be literally dozens of key personnel alive today who workd with Minnelli, and it would have been nice to hear their input.

If he had actually interviewed Zsa Zsa Gabor, for example, she might have saved him from his Gigi blooper by telling him, "No, dahlink, that was Eva in Gigi, not me."

Also, why does Denise Hale come off so badly? I can only think that the wife who succeeded her didn't care for her. Denise Hale just sounds like an ignorant, greedy user, and that's hardly a well-rounded picture.

That said, I admired the parallels Levy found in Minnelli's movies, the links between them, the way, for example, that Madame Bovary recapitulates the plot of The Pirate (though I would give higher marks to Jennifer Jones' performance than he does).
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Albanese VINE VOICE on April 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In HOLLYWOOD'S DARK DREAMER, author Emanuel Levy captures the true genius of film director Vincente Minnelli. Whether it is visionary powers or dedication to the arts, one must marvel at the wide and varied spectrum of films that Mr. Minnelli directed. Best known for the Freed musicals, the book accurately details them - both the hits (GiGi, An American In Paris) as well as the misses (Kismet, Brigadoon). Mr. Levy also details the comedies (The Long, Long Trailer, Designing Woman) and dramas (Some Came Running, Madame Bovary) that Minnelli gave the world.

HOLLYWOOD'S DARK DREAMER details all of Minnelli's life: his marriages, daughter LIza, troubled relationship with Judy Garland. As others have noted, the book should have been proofed better but what is a puzzlement is how Mr. Levy (obviously fascinated with Vinente Minnelli as a director and a person) seems to be reluctant to explore the man himself. Were his marriages a sham? What motivated him to be so dedicated to his profession? Continually, Levy touches on points (as an example: Minnelli's vast collection of art books which could be seen in the vivid tapestry his camera paints on screen) but, almost as if afraid of offending the man, he steps back or just drops the topic.

Still, he has written an extensive book that details Minnelli's work and life and for that he should be proud.
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