While I've reached a point of order in work on the site there is a great deal of chaos in my current reading.
I'm usually reading more than one book at once, but I've got too many books stacked on the nightstand at the moment. The last book I really had a chance to devour was James Curtis' fantastic Spencer Tracy biography at the end of last year. It was completely absorbing and almost perfect.
Since then I've either gotten more involved than I should in interesting titles I opened seeking small points of research or bogged down with books that I just haven't enjoyed enough to plow through in normal time.
I'm enjoying David Fury's Maureen O'Sullivan biography in stretches with the biographical information well worth the time but the spoiler filled and overlong movie summaries glazing me over and sending me elsewhere almost every time I encounter one. Which is often.
I finished Dan Callahan's Barbara Stanwyck biography but haven't written about it because the book left me conflicted. It's not the biography I wanted, more of a critical biography of Stanwyck's films. It seems more complicated than I'd like in some spots (film reviews) and all too simple (actual biography) in others. It's a very personal book in that the author is very much with us throughout. That said I don't dislike the book but I'm not so sure I like it either. I may have to give it another read before I'm really sure where I stand.
On the other end of the spectrum I picked up George F. Custen's 1998 Darryl F. Zanuck biography just to grab some background info for a post (I think it was for my article on The Doorway to Hell) and found myself quickly absorbed and sticking my bookmark in around page 80 the first night I'd picked it up. But since I didn't pick that book up with intentions of actually reading it at that moment my bookmark is still stuck on page 80. I would say that unless something really jarring happens from that point on it's well worth adding to any film library that doesn't yet include it.
In the meantime I'm almost through the book I'd mentioned a couple of weeks ago about business titans. Though that doesn't have anything to do with movies I'd heartily recommend it to anyone whose interests run in that direction.
A bookmark is also stuck inside a thick novel from the early twentieth century that I'll name in the next section. The one book I'm actually picking up every day right now is a film history book that I'll be reviewing on the site sometime this month.
And just for full disclosure all of the Amazon links in this section and beyond are affiliate links. Amazon pays me a small percentage of any purchases you make on their site if you click over and buy through my links. I say that not only so you're aware of the fact, but to thank you in advance should you help fill the coffers here by using them!
What I'm Watching
Remember last year when I made brief mention of purchasing and getting hooked on the 1970's British period series Upstairs, Downstairs? No surprise I found and became completely absorbed with the current series Downton Abbey soon after completing that earlier series. Downton is great, one of the best things on TV right now, though it's no Upstairs, Downstairs in my book. Downton can be a bit glossy at times and the stories can feel a bit convenient. I thought they rushed through the Great War for example, whereas back in the seventies Upstairs, Downstairs spent an entire season in the trenches.
So after I caught up on Downton Abbey and once the most recent season ended I revisited Upstairs, Downstairs. And from there I've been sucked in by several other classic British period dramas.
I next purchased original 1960's version of The Forsyte Saga. That Galsworthy title is the book I alluded to reading above. Watched that one twice as well--preferred the first part, really enjoyed the older generation who were (mostly) gone by the second part. I've yet to watch the more recent version of The Forsyte Saga produced about a decade ago, but have plans to do so after I complete the book. Maybe then I will revisit my article about the 1949 MGM film That Forsyte Woman and do the whole thing up right. I don't even want to read that one now as I have a feeling it's severely lacking after my much deeper immersion in the world of the Forsytes.
That more recent version of The Forsyte Saga is available for viewing through Netflix Instant, so here's hoping it remains available until I'm ready for it! Netflix Instant has provided a wealth of other British period series for my entertainment in the meantime however. Best of the bunch have been Edward the King and Lillie with Francesca Annis playing Lillie Langtry in a couple of episodes of the former and recreating the role as star of the latter. I almost wish Netflix Instant didn't have either of these available because I'd love to have the excuse to buy them!
Such as I did a week or two ago with my current distraction, the thus far uneven but extremely entertaining mid-1970's series The Duchess of Duke Street starring Gemma Jones. I've only reached the War years in this one and it's been responsible for my barely getting anything done the past few nights (notice, no new blog posts for a few days!).
Jones plays Louisa Trotter who rises from downstairs cook to owner of an elite hotel over the first few episodes. There are a few odd one off episodes which are nevertheless entertaining, but the episodes I've enjoyed most so far are the ones taking place in the hotel with a focus on Louisa and the other main characters including Charlie (Christopher Cazenove), Major Smith-Barton (Richard Vernon) and hotel staff such as the ancient Merriman the waiter (John Welsh, also of The Forsyte Saga) and Starr the porter (John Cater) along with his sidekick, Fred.
The Duchess of Duke Street was produced by John Hawkesworth, who previously produced most of Upstairs, Downstairs. You'll notice definite similarities between the two series beyond the time frame (ie: white feathers, Belgian refugees, etc.). Several actors also appear across series in different, typically smaller, roles.
Despite my ever growing bout of Anglophilia I will return with a new article about an old movie for you sometime soon. I'd mentioned wanting to do something on Kind Lady (1935) before TCM airs it on June 13, though I've pulled out something else that I might work on before I get to that one.
Double congratulations to Raquelle at Out of the Past whose own site recently celebrated its fifth anniversary and who is celebrating her own coming wedding with a series of fantastic classic film related wedding photos and posts.
Talk to you soon,