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Who the Hell's in It: Conversations with Hollywood's Legendary Actors Paperback – October 25, 2005

3.9 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“[Peter Bogdanovich] knows practically everything about the movies…this book is among the richest (and most delightful) ever written about Hollywood. Deeply elegiac.”
–Ben Schwarz, Atlantic Monthly

“An invaluable archive of a nearly lost cinematic world that director-actor Bogdanovich has himself intimately inhabited for some 50 years.”
–Alan Moores, Booklist

“[Bogdanovich] treats his subjects with sympathy throughout. What comes through is Bogdanovich’s abiding love of cinema…”
Library Journal

“Those who like classic movies will fall in love with this book…[and] find themselves wishing for more.”
Publisher’s Weekly

“Just as he did with Who the Devil Made It?, Peter Bogdanovich is keeping history alive with Who the Hell’s In It? He was there at the crossroads, between the Old and New Hollywoods, as an actor, then as a repertory programmer, a critic, a director, and a confidante. And always as a fan, whose love for movies has only increased over the years. There are so many wonderful memories contained in these pages, so many lovingly rendered details, so many engrossing stories. And somehow, all of the actors and actresses here, from Brando to Clift, from John Wayne to John Cassavetes, seem at once human and larger than life. Who the Hell’s In It? is indispensable.”
–Martin Scorsese

“What a treat this book is. Funny, intimate, thoughtful, surprising. And one helluva read. The conversations and opinions contained here are as informative as they are refreshing . . . These are the true legends who earned the title legitimately. With this book, their alchemy is preserved for posterity.”
–Rex Reed

“A completely unique, moving book full of Bogdanovich’s well-known expertise and limitless affection for anyone and anything to do with good movies.”
–Wes Anderson

“A wonderful book, both personal and partisan, by a true enthusiast and an insider, who is not only one of the great chroniclers of the movies but one of its most gifted practitioners.”
–Paul Theroux

“Peter Bogdanovich has elicited the humanity and personality behind the Personality that became the essential building block of stardom. Why was Marion Morrison John Wayne? The book gives us many insights–but never on the level of gossip or psychiatry. And to hear actors such as these, legends and monuments most of them, discuss their craft, their workmanship, very simply their job–you never see that.”
–David Chase

“ If you love movies, I bet you’ll love this book.”
–Jeff Bridges



From the Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

Peter Bogdanovich, known primarily as a director, film historian and critic, has been working with professional actors all his life. He started out as an actor (he debuted on the stage in his sixth-grade production of "Finian's Rainbow); he watched actors work (he went to the theater every week from the age of thirteen and saw every important show on, or off, Broadway for the next decade); he studied acting, starting at sixteen, with Stella Adler (his work with her became the foundation for all he would ever do as an actor and a director).
Now, in his new book, "Who the Hell's in It, Bogdanovich draws upon a lifetime of experience, observation and understanding of the art to write about the actors he came to know along the way; actors he admired from afar; actors he worked with, directed, befriended. Among them: Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, John Cassavetes, Charlie Chaplin, Montgomery Clift, Marlene Dietrich, Henry Fonda, Ben Gazzara, Audrey Hepburn, Boris Karloff, Dean Martin, Marilyn Monroe, River Phoenix, Sidney Poitier, Frank Sinatra, and James Stewart.
Bogdanovich captures--in their words and his--their work, their individual styles, what made them who they were, what gave them their appeal and why they've continued to be America's iconic actors.
On Lillian Gish: "the first virgin hearth goddess of the screen . . . a valiant and courageous symbol of fortitude and love through all distress."
On Marlon Brando: "He challenged himself never to be the same from picture to picture, refusing to become the kind of film star the studio system had invented and thrived upon--the recognizable human commodity each new film was built around . . . The funny thingis that Brando's charismatic screen persona was vividly apparent despite the multiplicity of his guises . . . Brando always remains recognizable, a star-actor in spite of himself."
Jerry Lewis to Bogdanovich on the first laugh Lewis ever got onstage: "I was five years old. My mom and dad had a tux made--I worked in the borscht circuit with them--and I came out and I sang, 'Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?' the big hit at the time . . . It was 1931, and I stopped the show--naturally--a five-year-old in a tuxedo is "not going to stop the show? And I took a bow and my foot slipped and hit one of the floodlights and it exploded and the smoke and the sound scared me so I started to cry. The audience laughed--they were hysterical . . . So I knew I had to get the rest of my laughs the rest of my life, breaking, sitting, falling, spinning."
John Wayne to Bogdanovich, on the early years of Wayne's career when he was working as a prop man: "Well, I've naturally studied John Ford professionally as well as loving the man. Ever since the first time I walked down his set as a goose-herder in 1927. They needed somebody from the prop department to keep the geese from getting under a fake hill they had for "Mother Machree at Fox. I'd been hired because Tom Mix wanted a box seat for the USC football games, and so they promised jobs to Don Williams and myself and a couple of the players. They buried us over in the properties department, and Mr. Ford's need for a goose-herder just seemed to fit my pistol."
These twenty-six portraits and conversations are unsurpassed in their evocation of a certain kind of great movie star that has vanished. Bogdanovich's book is a celebration and a farewell.

"From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 540 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (October 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345480023
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345480026
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #504,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jacqueline Davidson on August 9, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am reading this book now. Mr. Bogdanovich tells us about folks with whom he has worked, and whom he knew. He addresses the era in which good movies were made. Of course in my opinion this is no longer the case. So it is interesting to read about people we enjoyed while movies were good. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Jerry Lewis, who starred in my favorite movie, The King of Comedy.
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Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book, but it is not as good as some of Bogdanovich's past writings about Orson Welles, or his compilation book on directors, "Who the Devil Made It?". This book has a more "gossipy" quality than academic feel to it. For instance, according to a recent book about Jimmy Stewart; Kim Novak denies ever having an affair with Jimmy Stewart as Bogdanovich claims here. She said that he was married, and that she was in love with the director of "Bell, Book & Candle", Richard Quine, while she was working on that movie. She also denied the affair during Hitchcock's "Vertigo". However, if you are wanting to read a book that has first person accounts with Hollywood's finest movie actors I recommend this book. (I believe the only person that Bogdanovich writes about that he never personally spoke with is Marilyn Monroe.)
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Format: Paperback
Not quite up to the standard of his previous book on the famous directors he interviewed, it is nonetheless a charming complement and animated by the same quiet excitement. Bogdanovich is a great film director--when he wants to be--but not quite a great writer, and I found that while I could read three or four of these personality profiles in a row, that was my limit before they all started to blur. So it is a book to be savored not devoured.

It is produced on the patented Knopf film book model, everything luxe and overstuffed, with dozens of photo illustrations and an exquisute care about the presentation. I always think these Knopf books are like a film buff's pornography, for it's all about the pleasure of sinking into them. In this case, we get to glimpse close-up a handful of Hollywood's greatest stars, among them Cary Grant, James Stewart, and Henry Fonda. Tighter close-ups involve Bogdanovich's own directing of Audrey Hepburn (sad story), River Phoenix (sad too) and Boris Karloff, the first star in any of Bogdanovich's movies. This might have been sad, but Karloff emerges eerily in control of himself and his image.

The puzzling one is Sidney Poitier, and the story of his collaboration with PB on "To Sir With Love Part II" is one of those head0scratching stories. It might almost be fictional, a praody of Hollywood swallowing its own tail. You can't believe they made a sequel to the original TO SIR WITH LOVE, and then that it came and went without a single trace, except this scrap of memoir, is startling proof that sometimes we truly do cast our pearls before swine. Some buried Caesar indeed as Omar Khayham used to sing in his desert tents to the stars.

The chapter on John Wayne is perhaps the book's greatest success, and it is interview-based.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First the negatives about the Peter Bogdanovich's WHO THE HELL'S IN IT. The title is awful and misleading. This is not a book that focuses on the movies that particular stars made. Rather, it centers on Peter Bogdanovich's relationships with various stars from the late 50s through the start of the 21st century. Second, the chapters are very uneven given both the subject matter (Ben Gazzara as a great actor! Has he seen ROAD HOUSE?) and Bogdanovich's wooden writing style.

But, thankfully, some of chapters are endearing (John Wayne, James Stewart, and especially Cary Grant ) and Bogdanovich's love of all things movies comes through clearly. Not nearly as good as WHO THE DEVIL MADE IT, but still something for Hollywood bluffs to enjoy.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book, but after a while his assessment of the people he was describing was predictable.
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