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A Hundred or More Hidden Things: The Life and Films of Vincente Minnelli Paperback – March 9, 2010

4.0 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This highly readable volume about Hollywood director Vincente Minnelli deftly balances Griffin’s strong emotional connection to Minnelli’s work, which he celebrates generally in the heartfelt introduction, and a scholarly desire to unearth the truth about the man and critically analyze the work. By turns gossipy and informative, catty and objective, Griffin is utterly fixated on questions of Minnelli’s not-well-closeted homosexuality and also fascinated by Minnelli’s ability to turn Hollywood straw into gold. As a biographer, Griffin reveals fascinating details of Minnelli’s early life and artistic development, including a formative friendship with “the Andy Warhol of his day,” mannequin designer Lester Gaba. On the cineast side, Griffin’s informative discussions of Minnelli’s masterpieces (among them Meet Me in St. Louis, An American in Paris, and Gigi) and misses (notably The Pirate) go a long way toward showing why Minnelli should be remembered for more than his ill-fated marriage to Judy Garland (and more successful fathering of Liza Minnelli). Griffin’s book will satisfy both readers hoping for Hollywood dirt and those hoping for a deeper appreciation of Minnelli’s work. --Jack Helbig

Review

Robert Hofler, author of Party Animals and The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson
“Finally, the definitive biography of Vincente Minnelli. Mark Griffin has put in the necessary leg work interviewing many of Minnelli’s colleagues, and as a result, A Hundred or More Hidden Things is much more than an analysis of the director’s work. It is a full-bodied portrait of a most fascinating and complex artist.”

Foster Hirsch, author of Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King
“[A] sharp, forthright, swiftly paced critical biography….Deftly drawing connections between the director’s life and his films, Griffin maintains a difficult balance: he is a fervent but objective critic.”

Connecticut Post, 1/8/2010
“A smart new biography…Griffin puts the life and the films together in a fresh manner…Griffin makes a pretty good case that the deeply closeted artist was able to express many ‘hidden things’ in his films…The book is a fine combination of scholarship and film criticism.”

Internet Review of Books, January 2010
“Not your traditional tell-all gossip feast…Instead, the book offers the reader a meticulously researched chapter-by-chapter portal to Minnelli’s thirty-three films…One of the pleasures of Griffin’s book, which essentially ends more than thirty years ago with Minnelli’s final film, is the joy of discovery. We can now see for ourselves overlooked masterpieces in film on DVD…Mark Griffin has pointed the way to 33 fascinating other movies worth watching.”

Library Journal, 2/15/10
“Scores of interviews and intensive research provide the basis for this biography…Griffin explores Minnelli’s childhood in a family of traveling tent performers through his illustrious days in Hollywood and offers thoughtful commentary on how and why his films both closely reflect this history and hold a key to the man…This well-written and tasteful work contributes yet another perspective toward illuminating the life of this enigmatic film director. It will be a valuable addition to the recent literature.”

Q Syndicate, 2/22/10
“[A] compelling biography…Effervescent.”

Booklist, 3/15/10
“This highly readable volume about Hollywood director Vincente Minnelli deftly balances Griffin’s strong emotional connection to Minnelli’s work, which he celebrates generally in the heartfelt introduction, and a scholarly desire to unearth the truth abut the man and critically analyze the work. By turns gossipy and informative, catty and objective…Griffin reveals fascinating details of Minnelli’s early life and artistic development…Griffin’s informative discussions of Minnelli’s masterpieces and misses go a long way toward showing why Minnelli should be remembered for more than his ill-fated marriage to Judy Garland (and more successful fathering of Liza Minnelli). Griffin’s book will satisfy both readers hoping for Hollywood dirt and those hoping for a deeper appreciation of Minnelli’s work.”

Lewiston Sun-Journal, 2/20/10
“Like a woodworker stripping the varnish off a piece of fine furniture, biographer Mark Griffin of Lewiston spent the last three-and-a-half years stripping away the layers of Hollywood glamour and fantasy surrounding director Vincente Minnelli.”

EDGE, 3/310
“Griffin deserves honor for piecing together the fascinating back stories of [Minnelli’s] many productions—including hitherto unknown information on aborted efforts…Fans of old-time Hollywood will enjoy this visceral peek into the rather non-glamorous efforts that went into creating memorable works of glittering entertainment.”

Sacramento Book Review, March 2010
“Griffin’s book is a dazzling up-close parade of some of the most beloved movies of all times…Who got the lead, offstage back-stabbing, production issues—all of these are covered in rich detail…A great book if you are interested in the man’s movies.”

Bookgasm.com, 3/2/10
“Griffin reveals long-kept secrets at the heart of the enigmatic Minnelli’s genius.”

Irish Times, 3/4/10
“The author spoke to Lauren Bacall, Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Nanette Fabray, Angela Lansbury and many other Hollywood names and…they supply many a sparkling anecdote.”

Boston Globe, 3/11/10
“Devotes as much time to Minnelli’s marriage to Judy Garland as his work, and documents the turmoil of Minnelli’s first wife and ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’’ star…Griffin is quite good on Minnelli’s brilliant 1958 drama ‘Some Came Running,’ and its haunting carnival sequence.”

Now Playing, Turner Classic Movies, April 2010
“As author Mark Griffin persuasively demonstrates…Minnelli, in addition to building a remarkable Hollywood legacy, was creating nothing short of an autobiography in code…Drawing on more than 100 interviews…Griffin turns the spotlight on Hollywood’s ‘elegant director,’ revealing long-kept secrets at the heart of Minnelli’s true genius.”

Out magazine, April 2010
“This comprehensive biography traces [Minnelli’s] success in Hollywood’s studio system and describes how, by channeling his complicated, closeted personal life into his art, he was able to create a beloved Garland classic and two Best Picture Oscar winners.”

Palm Beach Post, 3/24/10
“Minnelli wrote a vague autobiography, and there have been several other books about him, one as recent as last year, but Mark Griffin’s new biography is by all odds the best book on the life as well as the work…The writing is felicitous and sympathetic without any special pleading, the research innovative—Griffin turns up a developmentally disabled brother no one knew Minnelli had—and the quotes are grabbers…Griffin’s excellent book makes you realize how hard it must have been to be Vincente Minnelli.”

The New Yorker’s Front Row Movie blog, 3/4/10
“Offer[s] a wealth of information about the filmmaker’s private life and about studio politics.”

Echelon magazine, 3/20/10
“A well-written biography…If you’re a theatre fanatic, old-movie buff, or if you want a fascinating biography that accurately depicts a time long gone, look for this one.”

Bookviews.com, April 2010
“[Griffin] piece[s] together every facet of Minnelli’s life to understand how it was reflected in his movies…A comprehensive biography that will please anyone who is a fan of his films.”

Santa Ynez Valley Journal, 4/1/10
“If you’re a theatre fanatic, old-movie buff, or if you want a fascinating biography that accurately depicts a time long gone, look for this one.”

South Florida Gay News, 4/11/10
“Griffin invites you into the life of an artist of few words, who invited moviegoers into worlds that he wanted to bring to the silver screen.”

Milwaukee Shepherd Express’ “I Hate Hollywood” blog, 4/16/10
“Griffin not only makes his case entertainingly but with a determined sense of commitment. After all it’s one thing to profoundly respect the work of a director. To have a “life altering experience” at his hands is something else again.”

Delaware Gazette, 4/10/10
“Reveals previously unreported details about Minnelli.”

Directors Guild of America Quarterly, Spring 2010
“[An] enlightening new biography of the director…Griffin chooses to approach the director through his work, in hopes of discerning biographical or confessional impulses. At the same time, his method expands our understanding of the movies…Griffin, a talented and sympathetic writer, colors and shades our hitherto murky understanding of the man who made those movies.”

LambdalLiterary.org, 4/14/10
“Pleasurably paced and always readable.”

Salt Lake City, Desert News, 4/25/10
“Lots of wonderful anecdotes about Hollywood in its prime…A good read for fans of vintage moviemaking.”

The Independent (UK), 4/30/10
“[An] enjoyable biography…Viewing him with a sympathetic eye, Griffin displays a neat turn of phrase even for Minelli’s less distinguished efforts.”

CultureGuide.com, Australia, 6/7/10

“A very readable book detailing background information about this accomplished filmmakers work…I urge anyone interested in the man to read this book. Some of Mark Griffin's writing is so smooth you may be surprised at how quickly you reach the end. It is certainly a good read, and in many ways better than the book Vincente wrote himself I Remember It Well…[An] excellent book.”
 
Lewiston Auburn Magazine, July/August 2010
“The book demands you neither be overly familiar with Minnelli’s body of work nor that you be an over-analyzing, academically-advanced student of old Hollywood to enjoy.”
 
Gay City News, 6/24/10
“Undeniably well-researched…An ambitious biography…A worthwhile read, shedding light on Minnelli’s beginnings as a theatrical wunderkind before hitting Hollywood.”
 
The Gay & Lesbian Review, September/October 2010
A dense, comfortably paced, and informative book. Ever respectful, the author has eschewed writing a scathing tell-all…Deliciously entertaining…Exhaustively researched.”
 
Magill Book Reviews
“[Griffin] excels at showing how the director reveals his sensibility in his films…Anecdotes make the biography consistently fascinating.”
 
TheaterMania.com, 10/16/10
“Very well-written and researched.”
 
American Library Association, 1/9/11
Over the Rainbow Book List
 
Santa Fe New Mexican, 12/24/10
“It is fascinating to learn of Minnelli’s quandary over the studio’s tendency to pigeonhole filmmakers.”

Museum of Modern Art in New York City (Inside/Out blog), 7/26/11
“Scrupulously scholarly.”

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 346 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1 edition (March 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786720999
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786720996
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,733,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brian Mulcahy on April 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
The writing on the outside back cover tells me that this is Mr. Griffin's first book, but the writing on the inside makes me think it is the work of a seasoned pro.

Mr. Griffin paints a picture for the reader of Minnelli the man through a skillful blend of the author's own insightful obeservations about Minnelli's films, personal observations about Minnelli obtained through interviews Mr. Griffin conducted with people like Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall and Tony Curtis who worked with the man and what I am sure is well more than one hundred facts about Minnelli and his films that the author gathered through extensive, well documented research.

It is a well paced, informative, and entertaining book that I had trouble putting down, but have no trouble recommending that you pick it up.
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This is an interesting and informative book about the often great Vincente Minnelli. According to the author, Minnelli reinvented himself from an outcast youth (due to his effeminate behavior, appearance, and interests) into an A list MGM director with a capital "D." The author describes Minnelli as someone who lived in his head because the world was too painful for him, and whose creativity was colorful and vast. His creativity is not in question. Anyone who has ever watched "Meet Me In St. Louis" alone can see the painterly aspect of his vision of American life. Each scene in that film is very like its own little genre painting. Learning about Minnelli's early training as a window dresser extraordinaire, Broadway set dresser and musical director, and first efforts in Hollywood is enlightening. The flaws in this book have to do with the author's perseverant focus on Minnelli's sexuality as the root of all of his missteps. The author's lack of interest as to why Minnelli marries four times, why he doesn't function well outside the confines of MGM, and why he can't communicate with his actors marrs the story.

Minnelli is described in his early days as flamboyant and outre. He wears makeup, has close relationships with men whose sexuality is not straight. Minnelli's whose whole demeanor is that of a gay man. Fine. I accept that Minnelli's sexuality was at least bisexual. This matter continues throughout the book, always coyly coming up in the memory of others, and incidents which point to Minnelli's suspect (in the author's mind) sexuality. But he doesn't really explain Minnelli's astounding FOUR marriages. The Garland marriage is explained as one of convenience for him at least. He could quiet those wagging tongues in Hollywood.
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There's no question that Vincente Minnelli was one of the greatest directors going during Hollywood's studio era - and we now have a biography that is worthy of this brilliant auteur. "A Hundred or More Hidden Things" manages to be thoroughly entertaining while earnestly exploring the life of a multifaceted and often eccentric individual. Mark Griffin really did his homework by interviewing most of Minnelli's surviving stars (on page 180, Laruen Bacall's hilarious anecdote about working with Minnelli on "The Cobweb" had me laughing out loud). It's been a long time since I've read a major biography that was this much fun. It's like a Minnelli movie in book form. Highly recommended.
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This is obviously a book written from the outside looking in at a person many years past his date of death. To the author's credit he interviewed several actors and actresses who were in Minnelli-directed movies rather than just rehashing what other people wrote.

What I object to, though, is the first 60 or so pages where the author obsesses over Minnelli's sexual identity. It must be obvious from his four marriages and two children that he was bi-sexual or maybe just overly effeminate. But the author kept on harping on whether he was truly a homosexual in wolf's clothing. I would rather he used the page space to spend more time giving us better behind-the-scenes info on Minnelli's movies.

What I did learn from this book was that Minnelli treated performers as objects. Those he thought needed direction he treated like babies. Those who wanted direction and didn't get it thought of him as a baby.

For sure you will get some new info probably not provided in the myriad other written takes on his life. So, I give it a four out of five for the worthiness of the last two hundred pages or so.
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I became very interested in the work of Vincente Minnelli when his centennial was celebrated several years ago. Clearly this was an original and visionary filmmaker whose work is ripe for reinterpretation. I have read almost all of the literature on Minnelli and Mark Griffin's exhaustively researched biography is an honest yet respectful examination of an artist ahead of his time. The first hand interviews the author conducted with many of Minnelli's co-workers opens the door for a larger discussion of how the director's body of work can be looked at from a new and very contemporary perspective. I agree with the reviewer for the Palm Beach Post who said that this thoughtful and intelligent study is "by all odds, the best book on the life as well as the work."
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