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"You Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet": The American Talking Film, History and Memory, 1927-1949 Hardcover – April 23, 1998


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"You Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet": The American Talking Film, History and Memory, 1927-1949 + The American Cinema: Directors And Directions 1929-1968
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (April 23, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195038835
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195038835
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,146,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

Review

"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

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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This is a book for film buffs.
Robert Morris
Reading the book I wish more modern film critics would look at the current era of film making in the way that Sarris looks at the masters.
Thomas Stamper
I don't mind a meandering style, but these essays seem barely planned.
William E. May

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 3, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Sarris, a writer for the Village Voice among other publications, brings wisdom, wit, and love for the medium to this highly entertaining history of "talkies" from their inception to the decline of the studio system.
After a brief survey of the major studios and an enlightening discussion of genres, the author focuses on the work of the great directors, and, of course, the stars; evaluated affectionately but not uncritically. His appreciation of Garbo alone is worth the price of admission. He concludes with a chapter on "Guilty Pleasures" in which he admits to his weakness for "culturally defenseless" pictures and figures. 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.

(The "score" rating is an ineradicable feature of the page. This reviewer does not "score" books.)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By P. Christie on April 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a magnificent book - Sarris' love for movies and his beautiful writing make reading it a joy. It is selective and very personal, and is filled with the authors reflections based on years of watching and rewatching old Hollywood movies.
The book should not be regarded as a complete survey of the talking film from 1927 to 1949. The early part of the book seems to have been pulled together from various other pieces Sarris has written, as there is repetition of information and key phrases. Some of the pieces seem sketchy or unresolved - for example, his piece on Vivien Leigh seems to be a juxtaposition of a brief glowing tribute and a review of Gone With the Wind - with little reference to her other movies. Sometimes his languange is a little opaque, or his interpretations occasionally seem tenuous. But despite these flaws, I give the book 5 stars for the richness of it's beautiful language and the wealth of fascinating information. This is a book to ignite a passion for old movies.
I only wish Sarris hadn't limited himself to the 1927-1949 period - in the section on the pantheon directors, I often wanted him to continue his survey into the 50s and beyond.
This guy is a treasure, and any of his books, including out of print ones, should be eagerly consumed by film buffs.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. Bowdoin Van Riper on March 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book is a delight for anyone who loves the films of Hollywood's studio-driven "golden age" of the 1930s and 40s. Reading Sarris's (mostly) short essays is like being walked through a film storage vault by a knowledgeable, opinionated old tour guide who's seen every picture and seemingly met everyone who helped to make them. You may not always agree with his take on the pictures you know well, but he's always worth listening to. And you finish the tour ready to spend the next several weekends watching all the great movies that he's pointed out to you.
Sarris's treatments of individual directors are, by a long shot, the best part of the book. His essays on actors, mostly shorter and less comprehensive, are also well worth the reading. The observations on genres and studios seem sketchy by comparison, especially by comparison with books like Ethan Mordden's _Hollywood Studios_. The essays stand well on their own, which makes the book ideal for reading in essay-at-a-time chunks, but keeps it from being a comprehensive introduction to the period.
If you want to read one and only one book on classic Hollywood movies, this isn't it. If you want to read, several, this should certainly be one of them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a book for film buffs. It is chock full of opinions, many of which you may disagree with. So what? Sarris examines a wide range of subjects (covering the 1927-1949 timeframe) which are organized within five chapters:
The Hollywood Studios ["The Golden Age" at MGM, Paramount, Warner Brothers, 20th-Century-Fox, RKO, Universal, and Columbia]
Genres [eg the musical, gangster film, the horror film, the screwball comedy, the western, the film noir, the war film]
Directors [eg Chaplin, Ford, Hitchcock, Hawks, Welles, Sturges, Wilder, Capra, and Stevens]
Actors and Actresses [eg Garbo, Cagney, Bogart, Davis, Grant, Bergman, Harlow, Fields, the Marx Brothers, Tracy and Hepburn, and Gable and Lombard]
Guilty Pleasures [eg the "B" picture]
Sarris then provides four appendices: Academy Award nominations and winners (1927-1949), New York Critics Circle Awards (1935-1949), Best Directors (1927-1949), and Best Performances (1929-1949). The various lists are interesting but the book's greatest appeal derives from the comprehensive coverage of 22 years of the American talking film's history in combination with Sarris' own opinions about most of those who created that history.
I highly recommend this book to film buffs, not as a definitive history of the period (there is none) nor as the single best source of film criticism (there is none); rather, as a collection of thoughtful, generally well-written essays which inform as well as entertain.
If you are a film buff and if, after reading this book you are motivated to see films you have not as yet seen or to see once again films you last saw years ago, Sarris will have achieved what seems to be his primary objective.
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