13 September 2009

Pictures at a Revolution; Mark Harris

Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The only one of the 1968 Oscar nominees for Best Picture that I saw during it's original theatrical release was Dr. Doolittle, so the impact of the other four (The Graduate, Guess Who's Coming for Dinner, In the Heat of the Night and Bonnie and Clyde) was completely missed. For those older and more aware at that time, I can only imagine what it was like to see such a change in the American movie scene.

The struggle that all five films encountered - finding stars and directors, studio funding (or lack thereof), public opinion and public taste, not to mention the final year of the old Production Code - is part of what makes this book enjoyable. Getting the behind-the-scenes scoop on how Beatty threatened a studio, or how Truffaut and Goddard might have directed Bonnie and Clyde, or the search for both Hoffman's Graduate and the Doctor's love interest was as much fun to read as was the political commentary about how the times were a-changing.

Harris' research was, of course, made easier by the memories and the bits of paper left behind - as he remarked at RUSA's Notable Tastes breakfast, how will future researchers be able to find the same depth of detail among the discarded bytes of this electronic era?

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