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Monday, July 02, 2018

Something New From Leonard Maltin

Hooked On Hollywood Is A Rich Chest Of Vintage Treasure

Leonard Maltin has always represented the gold standard of film writing. His TV Movie Guide, first published while I was still in high school, saw no homework done that week, so enraptured was I by this un-stuck-up survey of films that could be watched at home (remember how snide mainstream critics were toward genre favorites?). A four star rating for Bride Of Frankenstein? Unheard of till then. Finally there was credit bestowed on shows we knew were classic, even if an older generation chose not to. Maltin also had a fan mag called Film Fan Monthly, published in Teaneck, New Jersey. Being not worldly or well-traveled, I wasn't sure what a "Teaneck, New Jersey" might amount to, though it seemed all of movie writers and historians came from at least near there. After all, wasn't Calvin Beck's own "Gothic Castle" located in North Bergen, New Jersey? Leonard Maltin wrote many books from which I'd learn much --- one on comedy teams, another about animated cartoons, then definitive coverage of Disney's legacy, a prolific output over nearly half a century. His newest, Hooked On Hollywood: Discoveries from a Lifetime Of Film Fandom (from Paladin Communications), is out today (July 2). I have read it, as in every word, as in reading nothing else till it was finished, as in being sorry when it was finished. I could as much have enjoyed 400 more pages of Hooked On Hollywood's delve into sagas of past film all new to me, indeed unknown to anyone before Maltin dug his customary deep to find lost lore re movies we all love. To this is added rich illustrations, many interviews he conducted with Classic Era survivors, one after a hundred factoids you'd find in no reference because this data just wasn't to be had before Maltin searched it out.

Hooked On Hollywood offers much of what Leonard Maltin flushed out of studio records and memos no one else had consulted. Did they not care as much about "All the Music in Casablanca"? (the opening chapter title) We do, as this is mesmerizing stuff to anyone who's spent a lifetime repeat-viewing the 1942 Warners classic (I watched again after reading, and got fresher-than-ever appreciation for Casablanca). There is also "Remembering Forgotten Men," as in Joan Blondell performing the Busby Berkeley number for Gold Diggers Of 1933, this preceding an interview Maltin conducted with Blondell herself. Bulk of the book is, in fact, the interviews, wherein he asks the very questions I would have given similar opportunity, but would I have had late 60's and 70's foresight to hunt down and speak with Anita Loos, Robert Youngson, Mitchell Leisen, George O' Brien, John Cromwell? --- the list goes on and is extensive. Maltin adds perspective to his lifelong pursuit with intros where he recalls what it was like to interact with screen immortals in their autumn days, LM himself but a lad on many of these occasions. Hooked On Hollywood has 386 pages and they are chock-filled with revelation. No book by Leonard Maltin needs me or anyone to endorse its quality or usefulness. That all goes without saying just for his name on the cover. If you've read past Maltin output --- and how are you at Greenbriar if you haven't? --- just know that Hooked On Hollywood is the author scoring large again, and prepare for joyous time absorbing what's between these covers.


Blogger Rodney said...

I was surprised when reading this book to discover (via the introduction) that the first 18 issues of Maltin's Movie Crazy fanzine were reprinted sometime in the late oughts.

I promptly found a copy online and am thrilled to have 400 more pages of similar material to enjoy (I actually read Movie Crazy first, and started Hooked On Hollywood the other night, after picking up a copy at Cinevent). I love this kind of stuff.

2:03 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

A Maltin title that should be reissued (and expanded?) is "The Great Movie Shorts". It was published in '72, back when most of us despaired of seeing even samples of many of the series. Now it's a necessary companion to the wealth of stuff that's been released.

Just a few nights back checked something on the Todd-Kelly shorts -- Who ever thought we'd get a set of THOSE? -- and he had Patsy Kelly recalling her first day on the set.

"The Disney Films" is another essential. It's been updated a few times, but the main meat is the movies made during Walt Disney's lifetime. Maltin the Disney buff serves up dozens of stories and good studio photos. Maltin the perceptive critic views the movies with a clear eye.

4:55 PM  
Blogger William Ferry said...

I have a few favorite film authors: anything by Danny Peary, Douglas Brode, or Leonard Maltin is always worthwhile.

6:33 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Craig Reardon is ready for the new Maltin book (Part One):

Just fresh from reading your rave review of Leonard Maltin's new book of Hollywood/movie nostalgia. Sounds great! Good for you for pointing out the plain fact that Maltin was one of the very first to elevate the genre movies that the Dwight MacDonalds and others (including the permanently despicable, to me, John Simon, who's not here anymore, and that's the only good thing I can say about him) were too sniffy, snobby, and let's not forget plain stupid to recognize. There are many kinds of stupid and one of the most irritating is the stupidity of otherwise well-educated and sophisticated men and women. But enough about my pet peeves! Maltin has always managed to take the high road, too, by simply stating his enthusiasm in a forthright, chipper, enjoyable manner. Little wonder that so many Hollywood greats opened themselves up to him. They were smart to do so, and I think their various legacies are very safe with him now (as many, sadly but inevitably, have departed.)

I'll tell you another story. Back in the '80s when L.A. had quite a number of theaters converting to the 'repertory cinema' model, no doubt in order to survive, it became a kind of paradise for youthful fans of the greatest and most prolific era in commercial moviemaking, the so-called 'golden era of Hollywood'. Not to forget the so-called 'world cinema classics', and these theaters definitely didn't. Many were broad minded (and smart) enough to widen their bracket to include new and unusual filmmakers from America and around the world. Anyway, I'm sad to say that many of the theaters I remember from those years have since closed their doors. At least one I remember very fondly was razed in order that a movie studio which, once beset by hard times, came back from the brink so successfully that it expanded right out to the curb, as it were, requiring the removal of 'my' pet movie theater and an old, toothless neighborhood market. A great film festival which flourished (pardon all the alliteration there!) in the early '70s, Filmex, did much the same thing that these various independent theaters did. But Filmex is long gone, too.

4:46 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Part Two from Craig Reardon:

HOWEVER! (Hit the Max Steiner WB logo.) One still remains (and there may be others). The one I'm thinking of is called the Nuart, and it still holds forth in the same location on Santa Monica Freeway, just west of the big, turgid 405 Freeway (AKA the San Diego Freeway) on the west side of L.A. I can't even begin to add up how many wonderful old movies as well as then-new discoveries (e.g., the 'complete' Dutch films of wild man Paul Verhoeven) I enjoyed at the Nuart. But finally I can close the circle here when I say that the Nuart occasionally had special guests, even if not as a rule. And on one unforgettable occasion for me, I took the bait when I read there would be an "All Looney Tunes" night at the Nuart, moderated by somebody, you guessed it!...that's right, Leonard Maltin. Maltin was young, bursting with enthusiasm and bonhomie, and he did an absolutely fantastic job at a lectern to one side of the shallow stage, introducing one classic, hilarious Looney Tune after another, having been briefed in advance by Maltin as to why it was chosen, its significance, the major talents involved, etc, etc. This had to have been some time in the '70s, or the earliest '80s. Maltin had never been on television to my knowledge. This as before he acquired a well-deserved berth on, what was it, Entertainment Tonight, I think? I was very impressed with this guy. Some people make the fact they know a lot unbearably obnoxious. We ll have met people like that (no names, but I can think of a couple I'd love to mention anyway.) However, then there are the other type, the type who can communicate great stories, tons of knowledge, and unlimited enthusiasm, and it only enhances our own appreciation, enlarges our store of knowledge, and leaves us grateful and as you say about Leonard Maltin's new book, jonesing for MORE. And yeah, that's Maltin, all the way.

I used to see him occasionally shopping like the rest of us for laser discs at a store (called Dave's, long gone now) in Van Nuys, CA that specialized in only laser discs. With hindsight they were riding for a big fall, and it came shortly after the introduction of DVDs, offering the same resolution (NOT HD), but otherwise superior in every way. But it shows you that true movie nuts, like me for sure, and happily like Maltin, were always in search of anything that'd present their beloved old films in ever-improved fashion. And by the way, he's taller than you'd think!

I believe a friend of mine who's unfortunately no longer with us, a mad film nut himself, Bill Warren, did a lot of ghosting for Maltin. NOT that Maltin couldn't do it himself, but his Film Guides were hundreds and hundreds of entries-worth of movies, and I'll just say that it also reflects well upon Maltin that he WOULD turn to a smart (though, wow, opinionated!) guy like Warren to help him shovel those little reviews out.

I'm very happy to learn about this new book and I'm definitely going to get a copy! Thanks for the plug, John!


4:47 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Craig, I think John Simon is still with us at 93-years of age.

7:50 AM  
Blogger Tommie Hicks said...

In the 70's when I was but a teen I had the annoying habit of calling up people on the phone with any ties to Laurel & Hardy. I found a number that allowed me to get out of state phone numbers.
I managed to get a hold of Leonard Maltin. His Movie Comedy Teams book was a favorite at the time. I still have it in five pieces. In hindsight, what a good, patient man. Maltin actually took about 15 minutes and answered all my queries. Maltin first told me that reel one of BATTLE OF THE CENTURY had turned up which I gleefully passed along to the Liberty Tent. In the pre-home video age, Maltin's movie guide influenced me to seek out and not to watch films based on that book. I found Maltin's tastes similar to mine. When I and my nerd compatriots would girl watch and a female who did not meet our rigid criteria for feminine beauty came into view, we would declare "BOMB!"

8:50 AM  
Blogger Neely OHara said...

Maltin's TV Movie Guide was essential to me as I kid. I poured over it (and Bosley Crowther's NY Times Illustrated Guide to the Movies, with it's snarky one-line assessments which linger in memory -- About Mrs. Leslie "Shirley surmounting the suds." What's So Bad About Feeling Good? "A dog about a bird." etc...).

I'd underline in Maltin's book every film I'd seen, and periodically go through page by page adding up the total while my parents rolled their eyes. ("Hey mom, I've seen 953 of these movies!"). And on the few occasions when my 10 year old's jaundiced assessment was even lower than Maltin's, I'd cross out his one star and write in BOMB (Jerry Lewis's Cinderfella comes to mind).

And unfortunately John Simon continues to breath....

10:57 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Love the topper photo of Charley Chase and his daughters!

11:24 AM  
Blogger William Ferry said...

THE GREAT MOVIE SHORTS has made a welcome reappearance under the title SELECTED SHORT SUBJECTS. Not sure if it's still in print, but a digital download is available from Amazon. Still have my hardcover edition that I ordered through Blackhawk Films!

3:56 PM  
Blogger brickadoodle said...

For Leonard Maltin to have solely written and published his eponymous MOVIE GUIDE as a 19-year-old kid in Teaneck, NJ, was a superhuman feat comparable to Dr. Samuel Johnson having penned THE DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH, though Mr. Martin did not have the help of a roomful of scribes and a decade to complete the task.

5:26 PM  
Blogger Barry Rivadue said...

Back in 1987 when Maltin was on ET I wrote a letter I felt was worth his while to read. Hey, it was movie related of course, though I now forget what it said. I was delighted that he wrote back.

4:18 PM  

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