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Peckinpah: A Portrait in Montage Paperback – July 1, 2004
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"Sam Peckinpah is, by his own admission and that of almost everyone else in this richly entertaining book, a director who needs adversity to get the juices flowing. As shooting goes on, complications multiply and tensions increase. The wild man, fortified by booze and shots of vitamin B12, rides the whirlwind he creates firing the incompetents beneath him, baiting the ones over him, and bullying and testing and goading the rest...[This book gives] a nuts and bolts account of the...complex interplay of power and art or movie and myth-making as practiced by an idiosyncratic but skillfull manipulator." -New York Times Book Review
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I have long been drawn to the adventure films of Sam Peckinpah, and like most Americans, I think, have an interest and curiousity concerning the Motion Picture Industry.
In Mr. Simmon's book, "Peckinpah, A Portrait in Montage", I found his forthright honesty refreshing, and his attention to detail very commendable.
Beginning his work in the historical period before Sam's birth in northern Calif., Simmons gives us an intrieging look into the life and customs of the rough and tumble times that shaped the pioneer spirit of his family, thus shaping and molding Sam into becoming the man he was, and which his pictures reflected.
The book travels from there to picture after picture, recounting each one as a separate episode complete with both sucesses and failures. For me, it was a facinating look at the process which brought some of my favorite movies, such as "The Wild Bunch" & "Major Dundee", to the screen.
Simmons does not pull punches, and makes no attempt to idealize, or grandise Peckinpauh beyond the truth. His human faults and imperfections are evident as they are in us all, and are so portrayed. Mr. Simmons even goes so far as to critize himself for the mistakes he made in putting his work together. I can't help but admire that.
In conclusion......"Peckinpauh, A portait in montague", fits my criteria completely as a very fine historical and biographical work. Well written and honestly presented, I have learned a great deal about a man whose work I have long admired AND about the internal work'ns of an industry long shrouded in mystery [for me anyway]. Carl R. Dillenback
One of the best books chronicling this ultimate Hollywood "outlaw" is this one, "Peckinpah: A Portrait In Montage" by Garner Simmons, who, as a student at Northwestern University in 1973, met the director of such classic but disturbingly violent films as THE WILD BUNCH and STRAW DOGS, and was shanghaied into portraying one of the guards of Emilio Fernandez in the director's truly bleak and despairing 1974 film BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA. Simmons, in very exacting detail, gives a look at all of the aspects of this often controversial director and what went on behind the making of his movies, and the rapid montage style of editing that radically changed the way Hollywood action films are shot and put together. Of particular interest in reading this chronicle was in reading the battle between the director and producer Jerry Bresler on the 1965 Civil War-era western epic MAJOR DUNDEE, which included the fact that Peckinpah had selected locations in Mexico for that film that were at times hundreds of miles apart, which hurt efforts to get the script, which wasn't even finished at the time shooting had begun in February 1964, into final shape. Simmons also details Peckinpah's travails after being fired from THE CINCINNATI KID, shortly after DUNDEE, an event which left him all but unhirable in Hollywood for a couple of years. At the same time, though, we get a solid overview of the making of THE WILD BUNCH, THE BALLAD OF CABLE OF HOGUE, STRAW DOGS, JUNIOR BONNER, THE GETAWAY, and the troubled PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID, six incredible pieces of work released within a period of four and a half years, from mid-1969 to the fall of 1973.
Inevitably, though, Simmons details Peckinpah's downfall, due not only to his abuse of booze but, worst of all, also to his abuse of cocaine, which often left him in no real shape to do anything the way he had done in the past (as could be witnessed on THE KILLER ELITE, CROSS OF IRON, and CONVOY, despite several moments of brilliance in all). This revised version of the book then details the brief and minor comeback he had in 1983 with THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND, and then with the heart attack he had in Mexico that sent him back to L.A. and his premature death.
Simmons' book is one of three, the others being "If They Move, Kill `Em: The Life And Times Of Sam Peckinpah" by David Weddle, and "Peckinpah: The Western Films--A Reconsideration" by Paul Seydor, that are the most detailed about Peckinpah's groundbreaking work as a director and the unfortunate demons and dark parts of his being that he often had to wrestle with and which he ultimately lost to. Nothing is glossed over, but the extensive interviews that Simmons conducted with the director, the actors who starred in his films, and such associates as film editors Roger Spottiwoode, Bob Wolfe, and Lou Lombardo, and legendary composer Jerry Fielding, give a great and even-handed portrait of this extremely complex director who, in spite of all the odds he was up against an old Hollywood system that disintegrated in the 1960s and his own reputation as a wild, out-of-control macho man, somehow managed to, in paraphrasing Joel McCrea's famous line in the director's 1962 classic RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY, enter his house justified.
Anyone who is interested in great biographies in general, and those in particular that involve Hollywood, should not wait to get this book to get a look at a director whose impact is still being felt some three decades after his death.
Someone should get this guy to do a series of books on directors.