Friday, August 6, 2021

A Reading Chair for Pink Saturday


The perfect chair to spend a Pink Saturday with a cuppa and a good book! And here are this week's reads in a capsule ... it's been a very good week for choosing books!

I was totally intrigued and engrossed in this triple-era mystery. First we have the Cadences: wealthy early century bank owners and manor house owners who have a lot of secrets and skeletons and emotional baggage and pitfalls. Next we meet the depression-era children, Ella, Victoria and Clem. They are friends who also have secrets even at their tender age, and one which they will carry to the end of their lives. And, finally, we meet Amy - Ella's grown grandaughter - and Jan, Amy's boyfriend.

Although the story travels the world, it centers on The Poisoned Village. The Poisoned Village is Priors Bramley, a village shut off in the 1950s so that the area could be used for chemical weapons-testing during the Cold War. When the village was evacuated and the razor wire and signs surrounded it, a long history of dark secrets was also closed off to the outside world. Now, sixty years later, the village has been declared safe again. And there are people who want the ugly secrets kept hidden in Priors Bramley forever - and there are some who are searching out answers which promise to stir the secrets to the surface.

If you are up for a neo gothic thriller this one should be next on your list! I do wish Hitchcock were still around to film this story ... he might even surpass Vertigo with this material! 

and speaking of Vertigo! ...

Vertigo has always been not only my favorite Hitchcock film, and my favorite film noir, but my absolute favorite film - period. I've seen it over 100 times. And I will still watch it. So, when I found out about this analysis by the renowned film critic Charles Barr, I knew it was no-brainer must-have.

This is a cold analytic study of the film, dissected scene by scene and compared with Hitchcock's first film, the 1924 British silent White Shadow, which has dramatic comparable lines. Barr also discusses at length the cinematography stylistic choices, the actors' poses and camera framing techniques, and the heavy uses of long silent stretches in the movie with lavish orchestral soundtrack. And he takes all of that and assesses how it makes for a stronger, more emotional and more sturdy film. He also shares some of the scenes which were filmed at the studio's behest and which were then discarded as inappropriate for the film Hitchcock envisioned.

I found all of it very interesting and I was ready to delve into the next chapter, when I realized that - I had finished the book. It's only 92 pages long. And a lot of that is taken up with film stills. So, that's my reason for the 2-star review. The little glimpse of insight was excellent. Though, I would suspect anybody not a major Vertigo aficionado would be bored to tears by it. This is very genre specific material. But, for those of us fans, it's a very well done study.

But, I don't think anybody should pay $15 for a 92 page book. Sorry. I felt ripped off.
...and, as it's been a noirish kind of week:
I've wanted to read this for a couple years; I guess it was good I waited, as it's been revised and updated. And it's a terrific read by Eddie Muller, the film noir host on Turner Classic Movies channel. It reads much like Muller's film introductions in his distinctive hard-boiled crime story style. It's entertaining without question - and chock full of information and background. The book is divided in chapters on the various 'settings' for film noirs (this is American film noirs, he doesn't try to traverse the entire planet): Sinister Heights (Exclusive Enclave of the Criminally Corrupt); The Precinct (Battered Bastion of Law Enforcement); Hate Street (Randy Region of Ruined Relationships); Hate Street (All the News That's Unfit to Print); Shamus Flats (Lost Someone? Gumshoes for Hire); Vixenville (Fiefdom of the Femme Fatale); Blind Alley (Crossroads of Coincidence and Fate); The Psych Ward (Where Veiled Veterans are Quarantined); Knockover Square (Deluxe District of Heists and Holdups); Losers' Lane (Street of Sorry Psychopaths); The Big House (Last Stop on a Wayward Course); Thieves' Highway (The Risky Road Out of Town); and The Stage Door (Enjoy a Show...Before It's Too Late). Within each chapter, Muller shares the quintessential films that make each of these categories enticing and thrilling to watch, along with photos, trivia, cast information, and production personnel. And it's NEVER dry reading. Somehow - I'm not sure how, but he does it - it all reads like one long screenplay. It's a very original concept; and, a successful one.

Obviously, I highly recommend this to anybody who is a lover of film noir or hard-boiled detective crime novels. The hard copy is a deluxe book, with glossy paper that makes the well reproduced black and white film stills and photos pop right off the page. However, I chose the Nook version which allows me to click on a photo and enlarge it (the way a photo on a phone does). That way I can examine all the little details in the photos, which I find really interesting.

“I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners. They’re pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter evenings.”

“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”

“Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.”

I'm crazy about this stuff!
After so much noir this week, I needed a change of pace, and this well-written and lavishly illustrated biography was just what I needed. 
Sal Mineo was such an unusual combination of angry young rebel and sensitive artist to become a teenage heartthrob movie idol. His career began on Broadway, playing first as an extra, young boy in Tennessee Williams' The Rose Tattoo and then as Prince Chulalongkorn in The King and I starring Yul Brynner and Gertrude Lawrence. He is probably best known for his iconic role opposite James Dean in the classic film Rebel Without a Cause, for which he was Oscar nominated; but, he was also nominated for his outstanding work in Exodus opposite 16 year old Jill Haworth (the future Sally Bowles in Cabaret on Broadway) and won the Golden Globe for it. He had several top ten hits and had girls screaming and chasing him like all the rock and roll stars of the period. Then he made the tragic mistake of admitting his bisexuality. His career dried up. He went back to his roots, the theatre, and started producing and occasionally directing and/or appearing in controversial plays that explored society sexual and cultural taboos. He starred in the west coast production of P.S.Your Cat is Dead and directed and played Rocky in the controversial prison play Fortune In Men's Eyes He did have a long term relationship, but his life was cut short by a botched robbery.

This book was well researched and there were many interviews with people who both worked with him and were involved with him in personal relationships. It was well written, and stayed fairly true to life events and didn't dwell too heavily on the more sensational and exploitative parts of his life. His interest in the arts and his attempts to live a cultured, artistic and somewhat private life was explored and I found was sympathetic. There are many photographs - private candid shots, publicity shots, film stills and play photos - all well reproduced and clear.

I recommend it to anybody who is a fan of Mineo's - especially if you've only read the more lurid accounts of his life (I've read two that were just dreadful). And, if you only know him as Plato in Rebel Without a Cause, this is a very good way to learn more about a young American artist cut down too early in his life. 

I can't believe I'm giving this 4 stars. I mean, honestly, this is not great American theatre repertoire material. Nobody is ever going to mistake it for a play written by Tennessee Williams or Eugene O'Neill or Arthur Miller or Edward Albee.

But, it is the laugh out loud, knee-slapping, funniest play I have ever read. I used to think the funniest play ever was Paul Rudnick's I Hate Hamlet. Nope. This is it. Not only funny - but has the most outrageous and mind-blowing twist ending ever. It's not a mystery - but this ending is right up there with the Agatha Christie oh-I-don't-believe-it final curtain!

If you get a chance, read this play. It will only take you about an hour or so to read it. And trust me. I dare you to read the paper bag scene and PICTURE IT in action and not howl with laughter! 

This book has a terrific 'hook' reads as if written in real time. It's not - just as films that are supposedly in real time (I'm thinking of Run, Lola Run, Rope, 12 Angry Men, Phone Booth, Dog Day Afternoon ), there are times when there is a quick shift forward which is almost unnoticeable. But, the intent to present as real time is there - and it certainly reads that way. It's clever and well-done.

A woman's infant has been kidnapped and she has been given very specific instructions on what is required to get the child returned to her. She and her best friend spend a terrified time trying to, not only follow the demands exactly, but also, determine who is the criminal and why she was targeted.

I can't give any more away - it's too good to spoil the discovery on your own. This was a fast read; not because it's short or simplistic but because it's genuinely suspenseful and tense and I tended to race through it to find out what was going to happen next.

It's a good one. I've never read this author before but I'm going to search out more!

And, if you prefer lounging to sitting while reading on Pink Saturday morning or afternoon, here's a nice comfy chaise lounge that should fit the bill nicely ...

I hope you found something that sounds like a good juicy read to you ... and when you're all inspired from your reading adventures, be sure to check out the other offerings on today's Beverly's Pink Saturday Blog Hop, then go make something beautiful!

¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´) Tristan








Bohemian said...

I remember Sal Mineo! Such a Beautiful Face, such a fantastic Body, such a remarkable Talent... I know I should have put Talent first, but damn he was a looker, winks! So many talented performers had their lives cut short by one thing or another, I had forgotten that he died by homicide. What an interesting Read it must have been to know his whole back story.

Jeanie said...

Sal Mineo was in the original "King and I"? Who knew! Now, that is my new trivia fact of the day. I always liked him -- he got a bad shake career-wise. Today it would be no big deal. I had forgotten about the robbery. And the Vertigo book and Noir are right up my alley, too. They all look good.

I just wanted to thank you for coming to the blog, great, inspiring and uplifting comments that make me smile (you know, there are some you just want to print out and put on your wall for when you have a bad day!). I think you saw my book post. I'll have another, probably next week -- and there's one in there that if you haven't read yet, you must! And you will know it when you see it. Anyway, tried to reply but my old email for you didn't work!

Lisa D. said...

I love the pink reading chair, and I adore the pink chaise! I remember watching all of those great, old films when I was a teenager. I enjoy them far more than the movies of today, and the actors and movie stars were far more fabulous. There used to be a TV show I would catch that covered interesting and little known things about Los Angeles, and for the life of me, I cannot remember the name of it. I always enjoy reading your blog and your wonderful way of looking at the world. Thank you.

Buttercup said...

I want those reading nooks. I guess I could redecorate to create them and now you've started me thinking. I don't think I'd grow tired to having a special beautiful spot to read.