I probably would never have even known about this book if it hadn’t been listed in Diamond’s Previews catalogue, in the Dark Horse Comics section, as it’s published by Dark Horse’s M Press book imprint. I’m glad I did, as I’ve been a Maltin fan for years. In my younger days I spent a lot of time watching old movies on TV, and that often meant staying up too late, in those days before even VCRs, to catch the good ones. Some of my favorites were the comedies of The Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, W.C. Fields, Buster Keaton and others, but I also enjoyed dramas, horror films, and other classics. If a title I wasn’t familiar with turned up in the TV listings, I turned to “Leonard Maltin’s TV Movies Guide,” a fat paperback containing many thousands of film descriptions, apparently all watched by the author. It was an amazing resource. Later, Maltin turned up on TV himself as a movie critic/enthusiast on the show “Entertainment Tonight,” where I found his opinions sound and his knowledge of film history encyclopedic. He must really have watched all those films!
This book is a collection of interviews and essays from a film fanzine that Maltin produced for some years, and if you like old movies, you’ll find it a fascinating read. Many of the people interviewed I’d never heard of, as they are often lesser stars, or behind the scenes creators like cameramen, music arrangers, directors and so on. All tell fascinating stories about the movie business, often anecdotes about top stars and films. Maltin knows which questions to ask, too, he’s done his homework. For comics fans, there’s even a joint interview with two women who worked in the ink and paint department of Disney and Warner Brothers, creating animated cartoons.
There are also more serious stories, such as one about the Hollywood blacklist, and how some stars fought it. About how contract stars were overworked to exhaustion, about how directors like Orson Welles were first given the royal treatment, then stymied by money men. One of my favorite articles is the last one, about all sorts of fabulous-sounding films that have been shelved for decades, or in some cases completely vanished, due to studio neglect or ownership entanglements. Another surprise was an article about science fiction author Ray Bradbury’s teenage career as an autograph hound.
Between the longer articles and interviews are short ones, with pictures, showing all sorts of Hollywood memorabilia, much of it unseen for decades. Rare photos and movie posters are sprinkled throughout. In all, this is a terrific book, and one you’ll love if you like old films. And perhaps even if you don’t.