Alive At Ninety-Five

 

A legendary actor and director reflects on the innumerable films he watched during his first decades as an audience member.

This first book in Reiner’s two-volume pictorial memoir is essentially an opulently produced memory album commemorating many of the earliest movies he watched in a lifetime devoted to film, with the selections dating from 1915 to 1950. The book is generously oversized, and as memoirs go, it takes the unconventional approach of being 90 percent visual: page after page of large photographs and gorgeous full-color posters accompanied by minimal text comments from the author along the way. He consistently quotes from reviews of the movies in question, but the draw of the volume remains his own reflections. Some of those reactions are jaundiced (about Wuthering Heights, starring Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier, he grouses: “Fine actors perform in a beautiful love story, but I prefer beautiful love stories where the lovers don’t separate and then die”). And some are winningly idiosyncratic (as when he presents The Mark of Zorro and talks about its famously charismatic star: “Nobody would argue if you said that Tyrone Power was the handsomest leading man of his day and if they did, it’s likely they never saw him in ‘The Mark of Zorro’”). A large part of the work’s delight is the way it brings so many of these indelible old movies back into the spotlight, often in touchingly personal tones, as when Reiner mentions Stairway to Heaven: “Even though I’m a confirmed atheist I was able to suspend my beliefs so I could enjoy the prospect of climbing the myriad of steps on The Stairway to Heaven so I might, once again, see the deceased members of my beloved family and also my old and dear friends.” The book delivers a series of pleasant surprises, as each film sparks some new memory or quip from a man who’s lived a great deal of Hollywood history himself and frequently recounts meetings with some of the titans of the industry’s golden age.

A wonderful trip down movie Memory Lane. Source: KirkusReviews.com…

Alive At Ninety-Five
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Approaching Ninety-Six

 

A master film director and legendary actor, Carl Reiner, gives a guided tour of Hollywood films in the second half of the 20th century.

Reiner begins the second of his captivating two-volume pictorial memoir in 1950, when he joined Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca on the TV series Your Show of Shows. The author continues through the highlights of modern Hollywood history, closing out in the 2010s with films like The Wolf of Wall Street, The King’s Speech, and Ocean’s Eight, in which Reiner reprises the cameo role of Saul Bloom he originated in the 2001 George Clooney remake of Ocean’s Eleven. As in the previous volume, the author here reverses the usual pattern of memoirs, presenting page after page of set photographs and striking movie posters and adding only minimal text comments, a feat of restraint that becomes all the more remarkable when his tour reaches classic films he directed, like That Old Feeling, The Jerk, and Oh, God! As he approaches the rawer and raunchier topicality of modern movies (including Blazing Saddles, the hilarious 1974 comedy directed by his frequent collaborator Mel Brooks), he refers to his own favorite contention: “Any sexy, dirty, racist or offensive joke is totally acceptable as long as it’s funnier than it is dirty, sexy, racist or offensive.” And he allows himself the occasional nod to industry scandal, as in the case of Sunset Boulevard: “On screen, Gloria Swanson played a vixen and off screen, she was a bit of a vixen, having an ongoing affair with the scion of one of America’s wealthiest and most prestigious families.” Throughout the book, there’s a tone of enthusiastic invitation, an undimmed sense of exploration (“If you haven’t seen the documentaries on the careers of Rita Moreno and Chita Rivera, get copies of them, invite some friends over and you’ll thank me”). The cumulative effect should convince readers that they are in the presence of one of the world’s oldest—and most passionate—film geeks.

A tremendously welcoming survey of modern movie classics. Source: KirkusReviews.com…

Approaching Ninety-Six
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