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Charles McGraw: Biography of a Film Noir Tough Guy
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Top Customer Reviews
Rode examines McGraw's lengthy acting career that began when he hitchhiked to New York at the height of the Great Depression and landed a key role in the hit play Golden Boy alongside such Group Theatre luminaries as Luther Adler, John Garfield and Elia Kazan.
With his rough hewn profile, stocky build and guttural growl, Rode explains how Charles McGraw's acting ushered in a new post war era of authentic screen toughness. After getting his big break from producer Mark Hellinger in The Killers (1946), McGraw parlayed subsequent roles into a starring contract at RKO in 1950.
Rode writes about the evolution of RKO Studios as the "Capital of Noir" dating back to Citizen Kane (1941), the Val Lewton pictures and other classic films including Crossfire, Out of the Past and Blood on the Moon. Rode explains that the distinctive RKO style was more the result of extraordinarily talented cinematographers, such as Nicholas Musaraca, and RKO craft department experts than any specific directorial auteur.
Rode also details the destruction of RKO Studios as a major filmmaking entity due to the bizarre behavior of Howard Hughes who bought the studio in 1948. Even though Charles McGraw would star in acclaimed second features such as The Threat, Armored Car Robbery and The Narrow Margin, and was hailed as the next Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, he was forced to vacate his contract in 1952 in order to find work as a freelance actor.Read more ›
Being an historian of Hollywood and films, I am always amazed when I run across a great read, as I recently did with McFarland Publishing's "Charles McGraw: Biography of a Film Noir Tough Guy." It was written by fellow historian of Hollywood and fellow author, Alan K. Rode (though I don't consider myself a writer in this man's league). The foreword was by Jim Steranko. Being an avid reader, I found myself engrossed in a story about a film tough guy that I had enjoyed in my youth. Being a fan of film noir, I cannot remember any actor who was cast so perfectly for this genre. And after reading this book, I cannot think of another author better prepared to write about McGraw.
Photo of Charles McGraw. Courtesy of Alan K. Rode.
My favorite McGraw film was "Blood on the Moon." Rode has a very extensive collection of photographs of the actor, both candid and action packed. I was pleased to see a still of the actor from this film. But reading the book, I found myself mystified by some of the new things that I learned about Charles McGraw. The word "spellbinding" is an appropriate way to describe the style of writing and the way Rode entices the reader to continue chapter after chapter.
McFarland Publishing always puts together great books for the educational oriented reader, but in hatching this story, they are now on a new publishing level. The iconic actor Charles McGraw appeared in over 140 roles on film and television, including the classic noir pictures "The Killers" 1946 and "The Narrow Margin" 1952. The man became an incredible presence on the screen whenever he was cast in a role and worked with some of the most beautiful ladies in Hollywood.Read more ›
Typecasting made McGraw an iconic Hollywood tough guy (Turner Classic Movies uses an artistic profile representation of McGraw as its logo). Alan K. Rode patiently picked through the studio biographies, press releases and publicity to reveal as much about the actual man, himself, as we are ever likely to know. McGraw was a private and enigmatic man. He frequently told columnists what they wanted to hear rather than the truth. His biographer does a good job of separating the facts from the fanciful boasts of an actor who reinvented himself, sometimes on a daily basis after drinks were served.
Upon his arrival in Hollywood after a stage apprenticeship, Charles Crisp Butters set out to make a name for himself in the motion picture industry. He promptly dropped his surname in favor of "McGraw" and went on to make an impression in a series of supporting roles, which included memorable performances in such noteworthy films as "The Killers," "Brute Force," and "T-Men." McGraw had a remarkable presence and a distinctive voice. He was also an actor who remembered his lines, hit his marks and showed up on time.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent bio of one of my fav noir or anything actor, jam packed with great tales and informative background of the times and the man. Great job Alan K Rode!Published 1 month ago by James Robson
Charles McGraw experienced his share of breaks getting to Hollywood and near stardom. He ran into some disappointments and industry upheavals that replaced stardom with steady... Read morePublished 5 months ago by WriterOfSongs
this is a wonderful combination of everything that can be found about "Charlie" McGraw weaved within the context of film noir. Read morePublished 12 months ago by rickk
If you are a film noir historian, student, or merely a fan like me you have to buy this book. The fact it is about the great Charles McGraw is just very sweet icing on the cake. Read morePublished on January 31, 2014 by sam
This is a very good biography of a fine actor. You can see the talent (always there); ambition (fading bit by bit); the life (deteriorating). Read morePublished on September 8, 2013 by Marylou
Rode's bio of Charles McGraw is first rate, insightful, and fun. Also, a pleasure to read about McGraw's world in Studio City, California and the working class movie people in the... Read morePublished on May 9, 2013 by Bruce M. Kerner
An interesting book relating the life of a recognizable actor of fim noir and TV of the 1950's-1960'. Throughly enjoyable.Published on September 21, 2012 by padreRichard