They were the men who created the most significant art form of the 20th century. Every time you go into a cinema, or even turn on the television, mutter a lehayim to the mostly Jewish businessmen who decided there was more to making moving pictures than showing them in fairgrounds on what-the-butler-saw machines.
The magic of these men, collectively called the Moguls, was to decide to create the equivalent of theatrical plays flashed on to screens and shown in palatial buildings without a trace of sawdust — and create Hollywood in the process.
By Geoffrey Alderman Academic Studies Press, £29.50
History professor Geoffrey Alderman has, since March 2002, been the sitting tenant on what might be called Opinion Island, set as it is within a sea of opinions. As the JC’s resident weekly columnist, not only does he share space with such blood-stirring names as Aaronovitch and Finkelstein, Freedland and Phillips, but he also directs his views at a readership never too shy to offer its own thoughts, as can be seen in the Letters to the Editor, which also abut his column.
By Tony Curtis with Mark A Vieira Virgin Books, £14.99
You have seen the film, now you can read the book — screen legend Tony Curtis’s account of the making of one of the most famous and loved comedies of all time — Some Like it Hot.
The film brought together some of the icons of post-war cinema — Curtis himself, Jack Lemmon, director Billy Wilder and, most notably, Marilyn Monroe, whose involvement in any film was almost invariably a drama in itself.
Between the dogs and the wolves at twilight, according to a French saying, there is no discernible difference. But in this mordant, merciless portrayal of the contrasting lives of rich and poor Jews, the difference between them is akin to heaven and hell.
Inside a barrel in the bottom of a boat, with a canteen of water wedged between his legs and a packet of poison concealed in his pocket, Jacob Rappaport felt a knot tightening in his stomach — not because he was about to do something dangerous, but because he was about to do something wrong.” It is a terrific first line, and as it progresses, Dara Horn’s new novel gets more gripping — both as a straightforward thriller and as a novel of ideas.
Thanks to Benjamin Moser’s recent biography (reviewed in the JC of September 4), Clarice Lispector is finally on the English-speaking map. The distinguished translator Gregory Rabassa’s new version of her fourth novel, The Apple in the Dark, gives us the opportunity to assess the work of a woman acclaimed as one of the most important Brazilian novelists of the 20th century.
As he contemplated the arrival of 1973, Henry Kissinger could be forgiven for thinking of himself as the Master of the Universe. Although still only President Richard Nixon’s national security adviser, not yet Secretary of State, he was the unquestioned architect and executor of American foreign policy.
For almost half a century, from 1957 to 1902, the novels of Muriel Spark lit up the lives of those of us who loved her work. Combining, like Stravinsky and Picasso, the profoundly serious and the exquisitely light, instant accessibility and constant formal inventiveness, she was indeed a rare bird in the sky of late-20th century culture.