Andrew Sarris, the film critic who made the auteur
theory of the French cineastes
palatable to American sensibilities in The American Cinema
and thereby taught generations of filmgoers to regard films as the creative products of directors rather than vehicles for stars, introduces "You Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet"
by writing, "The first lesson one learns almost immediately after undertaking to write a comprehensive and critically weighed history of the American film is that one can never finish; one can only stop." But Sarris has managed to extend his meandering journey through the first two decades of American sound film to quite some length; film fans and readers may only feel regret that it must come to an end.
This is not so much a sustained historical argument as a series of reflections, primarily rooted in Sarris's reminiscences of roughly seven decades of film viewing and reviewing. Addressing broad categories (genres, directors, and actors), he zooms in for extended consideration of particular subjects (the Astaire-Rogers musicals, John Ford, and Vivien Leigh, among many others), creating intimately detailed miniature portraits that provide such studiously loving descriptions of classic scenes they may make the reader wish to hole up with a copy of the book and a VCR after having secured the services of a video store that makes deliveries. There is even a short final chapter in which Sarris discusses such "guilty pleasures" as My Foolish Heart, the only film ever made based on a J.D. Salinger story.
People who know movies, or think they do, will no doubt find something about which to disagree with Sarris. This is as it should be; "You Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet" is as much a commencement point as it is a summation.
"This valuable and engrossing work, like those fondly remembered columns, is learned, opinionated, informative, scholarly, personal...Sarris at his best reminds us how exciting it was to watch and read and write passionately about the movies back when movies still seemed worth caring about."--Los Angeles Daily News
"Notes and essays covering films examined by as significant and missionary a critic as we've got."--The New York Times Book Review
"Film historian Sarris brings a bit of everything to this enticing, encyclopedic book--political and social history, autobiography, psychology, formal sense, common sense."--Entertainment Weekly
"Sarris brings wisdom, wit, and love for the medium to this highly entertaining history of 'talkies'.... Sarris' writing, sparkling with original insights on every page, is warm and affectionate and wonderfully free of the academic jargoneering which disfigures so much film criticism. Highly recommended for the serious film buff, and the casual browser alike."--Amazon.com
"Well worth the wait. Part history, part meditation on the cinema's most transporting and intangible properties, Sarris' exegesis of the great films produced between the years 1929 and 1949 will surely become and indispesable reference on American movies."--The Baltimore Sun
"[Sarris'] enthusiasms have stood the test of time.... There are keen insights on studio style and genres of the '30s adn '40s.... His unchecked admiration for stars such as Greta Garbo and Margaret Sullavan and Myrna Loy makes you want to go back and see the performances he writes about."--The Washington Post Book World
"At the end of each piece we feel that we are firmly in possession of its topic. At the end of the book, we also feel that we are in possession of an accurate portrait of an era, selective yet aptly detailed and, above all, passionate in a way that most film history...are not.... We are talking the king of profoundly engaged, even romantically inflamed criticism any art requires if its traditions are to live on in ways that are useful and informative to the present--and to the future."--Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Even the snobbish sophisticate Waldo Lydecher (Clifton Webb) in the film classic 'Laura' would have approved of this profound, penetrating study by the highly regarded film critic...thoughtful, often amusing disertations on major stars...a treat for readers.... It reveals a time when American films appealed to the best in us rather than the beast in us."-- San Francisco Chronicle
"This book I cannot put down. It is informative, controversial, exciting. Andrew Sarris leads the way in the field of American cinema. He makes you rediscover films you already knew and, best of all, guides you to new discoveries in the treasure trove of the movies' Golden Age. I continue to admire his unique vision."--Martin Scorsese
"Sarris' generous essays overflow in quirky insight and loving appreciation."--Seattle Weekly