The Classic Film Reading Challenge –
By Stephen Harvey, c. 1975 Pyramid Communications, Inc – Paperback edition, 158 pages*.
Let me start by saying this, I love Fred Astaire, his style, his grace in his dancing just blew me away in his films. I suppose the first I saw was his last “major” musical, Finian’s Rainbow, first run. I soon discovered his earlier works, especially the ones with Ginger Rogers.
I can’t recall how I obtained this book, one in a series of Pyramid Illustrated History of the Movies printed in the seventies of classic stars and genres. But I know I never read it thoroughly until this month. And I have to say I am disappointed.
Let’s start with the word count. You notice I have an asterix after the page count. It’s misleading. The actual contents start on page 10 and ends on page 146, followed by a bibliography, filmography, and index.
Let me start with the positive. The introduction and the first chapter covering Fred’s career with his sister up to his departure for Hollywood is very good. That’s from pages 10 to 36. And remember, since this is an “illustrated edition”, there are lots of pictures, including full page pictures. And the content is provided in two column format.
The next chapter detail Fred’s early Hollywood films, including the ones with Ginger. Here’s the problem – this is covered much better elsewhere. There is nothing new about Fred (and merely a mention of his work with Hermes Pan on page 50. In passing.) and most of the talk is about the plot of the film.
What this book is when it’s boiled down, that one you get pass the chapter about Fred before Hollywood, is an almost “Cliff notes” version of Fred’s films. And I say almost because Cliff notes would have been better. I hate the layout of the book. Especially when the text is talking about The Bandwagon (1953) and the pictures are showing Funny Face (1957). My other gripe is how one film blends into another – and this is especially bad when talking about the Fred – Ginger series.
There are many books on Fred Astaire, including his own biography, “Steps in Time”. There is an excellent book – “The Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers Book” by Arlene Croce. Find those books. Skip this one.
Until next time –