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Conversations with Classic Film Stars: Interviews from Hollywood's Golden Era (Screen Classics) Hardcover – February 17, 2016
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"Picking diligently through Conversations with Classic Film Stars, one catches a glimpse of a most human world indeed, as well as the qualities it took to stay afloat in it, let alone rise―some mixture of guts, talents, determination, outright lying, and the purest luck. For those who love classic movies, it's nirvana."
""[A] dazzlingly entertaining new book. . . a treasure trove of info, scintillating gossip and outright, downright dishing."―Liz Smith, New York Social Diary
"Conversations with Classic Film Stars serves as a significant portrait of Hollywood history. Highly recommended."―Library Journal
"It's utterly amazing how two men were able to sit down with so many legends, from Gloria Swanson to Cary Grant and Luise Rainier. . . . Conversations with Classic Film Stars is the de facto book for classic film fans. It's the closest many of us will ever come to sitting down with such legends and picking their brain. Bawden and Miller present a wide range of stars, big and small, but treats each subject with the magnanimity we'd expect to see."―Journeys in Classic Film
"Bawden and Miller offer a lively, informative set of interviews that they conducted originally over the years with an intriguing assortment of stars and leading (character) players from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Their interviews capture the flavor of the subjects and provide a sizable amount of useful information about the personalities themselves, their filmmaking, and life in Tinseltown."―James Robert Parish, author of more than one hundred books about show business and Hollywood celebrities
"Even if you're very familiar with the star being interviewed there is always some hidden jewel of information to discover. Conversations with Classic Film Stars was a quick enjoyable read. This book is perfect for someone who doesn't want to invest their time in full-scale biographies but still wants to learn something new and interesting about their favorite stars. . . . Conversations with Classic Film Stars would make a great gift for someone who is just starting to develop a love for old Hollywood or for someone who has had a lifelong passion for classic movies."―Out of the Past
"In Conversations with Classic Film Stars: Interviews from Hollywood''s Golden Era, journalists James Bawden and Ron Miller provide a fascinating collection of career reflections from many Tinseltown names."―Bay Area Reporter
"It's utterly amazing how two men were able to sit down with so many legends, from Gloria Swanson to Cary Grant and Luise Rainier."―Cinema Sentries
"It is truly a time capsule for film fans."―Louisville Courier-Journal
"[A] wonderful masterpiece."―The Southeastern Librarian
"Bawden and Miller's collection is a feast of nostalgia and insight into a never-to-be-repeated era of Hollywood history, and this book is a must for the bookshelf of any respecting film fan or potential Hollywood journalist."―Cinema Retro
About the Author
James Bawden, former TV columnist for the Toronto Star, is renowned for his distinguished profiles of movie stars and directors. He has written for Films in Review and numerous cinema magazines.
Ron Miller was TV editor of the San Jose Mercury News from 1977–1999 and a syndicated columnist for the Knight Ridder News Service. A former national president of the Television Critics Association and a recipient of the National Headliner Award, he is currently an instructor at the Academy for Lifelong Learning at Western Washington University.
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When I first received the book, I turned to my favorite star, Rosalind Russell, and began to read her interview. Almost immediately I was struck by the incongruity of the written language as compared with Russell’s own voice. Having read Russell’s biography, I was struck by vernacular expressions that hardly indicated a direct transcription, including terms such as “stay-at-home-mom” (which first appeared in print in the 1980’s, nearly a decade after the 1972 interview with Russell) and “serial killer,” (which did not initially become a term of usage until FBI profiler Robert Ressler used it in a lecture in 1974.) The anachronism of the language was jarring and the syntax and usage didn’t seem fitting to a classic star of Russell’s era. The preface of the book indicated the interviews were taken from direct transcripts of recordings, so I was a bit confused, but continued reading. However, on page 249 Bawden asks Russell a pointed question about her autobiography LIFE IS A BANQUET, published posthumously in February of 1977, five years after the interview supposedly took place. As her book was both unfinished and untitled at her death, the reader can come to one of two conclusions: either Bawden glimpsed a prescient foreshadowing of the content of her memoir years before Russell even wrote it, or this portion of their conversation is fictitious.
As I read other chapters filled with idiosyncrasies from celebrity interviews, I was struck by other factual errors. (Consider the story of Cary Grant’s telegram from the editor of Encyclopedia Brittanica—quite different from the story Grant himself relates in Nancy Sullivan’s book CONVERSATIONS WITH CARY GRANT, for one glaring example.) I was quite disappointed to discover that while some of the material may have been based on factual accounts, other examples were embellished or completely false, and certainly were not written in the language of the period or the style of the speakers. My concern for this lies in the fact that the subjects of this work have passed away, making it impossible for them to correct any potential falsehoods, and also that the purported veracity of the book has already yielded sales for the author and five star reader reviews on Amazon. Someone who picks up a book entitled CLASSIC CONVERSATIONS may indeed expect the subjects to have spoken these words, and the many blatant fabrications indicate that this is misleading.
My concern here is not just that reputations of the classic stars are being besmirched, (Bawden and Miller seem excited to have their interviewees “dish the dirt” on other classic stars in their narrative) but that someone is profiting financially from the falsehoods. If you are considering purchasing this work, just understand it might be more accurately labeled "Fictional Conversations with Classic Film Stars."