Two FREE Books for Veteran’s Day

Posted on November 10, 2022 at 12:01 am

Copyright 2015 Miniver Press

In honor of Veteran’s Day, Miniver Press is making two books telling veterans’ own stories, available FREE from November 10-14, 2022.

John Holway’s extraordinary book, Bloody Ground: Black Rifles in Korea (also available in paperback for $18).

In Bloody Ground, Black soldiers tell their own stories about fighting in the Korean War. Korea is “the forgotten war.” But to those who fought in it, it was the “unforgettable war.” If the names of all those killed were put on a wall, it would be larger than the Vietnam Wall. And Korea lasted only three years, Vietnam about ten. The agony of the winter of 1950-51 is an epic to compare with Valley Forge and the Bulge. Korea was also our last segregated war. This is the story of the black 24th Infantry Regiment, told in the words of the men themselves. Like all black troops since the Civil War, they were reviled by whites and their own commander for “bugging out” – running before the enemy. The charge can still be read in the Army’s own official histories. Yet the 24th left more blood on the field than their white comrades – if they did bug out, they must have been running the wrong way. It’s a good thing we weren’t with Custer,” one black GI muttered – “they’d have blamed the whole thing on us.” The 24th won the first battle of the war, won its division’s first Medal of Honor, and guarded the shortest and most vulnerable road to Pusan. If the port had fallen, the war would have been lost, leaving a red dagger pointed at Japan. It did not fall. That winter, after the Chinese attacked, the entire American army bugged out in perhaps the worst military disaster in American history. “That,” said another black veteran, “was when I learned that whites could run as fast as blacks.” This is the story of those unsung heroes, who helped turn the Communist tide for the first time. The men bring that forgotten war and their own unsung bravery to life in their own sometimes funny, often heart-breaking, and always exciting words.

Copyright Stanley Frankel 1999

Stanley Frankel’s book about his experiences is called Frankel-y Speaking About WWII in the South Pacific. Stanley Frankel didn’t want to be a soldier. But the draft board had different plans. The leader of college protests against the US entering WWII found himself in the 37th Infantry Division, shipped to the Pacific Theater. While in the army, he wrote journal entries, letters to his dear Irene, and articles that slipped past the censor to be published in newspapers and magazines in the US while the war was raging. Frankel served from 1941 to 1946, and was then ordered to stay on after the war as part of a team tasked with writing the historical account of his division. After that he became a successful advertising executive, award-winning professor, political speechwriter for national candidates, and beloved husband, father, and grandfather.In this memoir, Frankel tells his story interspersed with in-the-moment journals, letters, and articles he wrote while stationed in the Pacific. Take a journey through time with this raw first-hand account, and experience what it was like to be in the jungles and battles of an intense and brutal part of World War II. In his later writings, see the post–World War II world through the eyes of a veteran selected as the official historian of his division. Unforgettable stories leap off the page, from the chilling to the hilarious. Feel the terror as an explosive flies through a window into a huddle of soldiers. Laugh at the account of soldiers delighting in the discovery of an abandoned factory flooded with ice-cold beer. Frankel describes serving alongside Private Rodger Young who gave up his life in New Georgia to save 20 men of his patrol and inspired a song. He brings us into the Rescue of Bilibid Prison, and the battles of Bougainville and Guadalcanal. This is a wise, honest, and beautifully written book for anyone who has wondered about the realities of combat, the journey of shouldering a duty you did not choose, or the experience of being among the “greatest generation” who came of age in the Depression and fought in World War II. This edition features a new introduction from Frankel’s grandson Adam, who followed in Stan’s footsteps to become a political speechwriter, including writing speeches for President Obama in the White House, and who is now an author himself, with his family memoir, The Survivors.

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Books

The Motion Picture Academy’s Recommended Books

Posted on September 22, 2022 at 10:53 am

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science has published an excellent list of “Must-Read Books About Modern Cinema, Movies and the People Who Make Them.”

Some of my favorites from the list:

Copyright 2021 Atria

Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century by Slate movie critic Dana Stevens is more than a biography or a critical assessment of one of the formative characters in movie history. It is a cultural examination of Keaton in his times and I loved it.

Copyright 2021 Penguin Books
Mark Harris, author of Five Came Back and Pictures at a Revolution, two of the best books ever written about movies and the people who made them, has produced a superb biography of the director of “The Graduate,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” and “Charlie Wilson’s War.”

Just as I Am is Michelle Burford’s biography of the incandescent Cicely Tyson.

“Just as I Am is my truth. It is me, plain and unvarnished, with the glitter and garland set aside. In these pages, I am indeed Cicely, the actress who has been blessed to grace the stage and screen for six decades. Yet I am also the church girl who once rarely spoke a word. I am the teenager who sought solace in the verses of the old hymn for which this book is named. I am a daughter and a mother, a sister and a friend. I am an observer of human nature and the dreamer of audacious dreams. I am a woman who has hurt as immeasurably as I have loved, a child of God divinely guided by his hand. And here in my ninth decade, I am a woman who, at long last, has something meaningful to say.”

Isaac Butler’s The Method is a fascinating history of a revolution in acting that was especially well suited for the movies. Instead of declaiming for the back row of the theater, the Method encouraged actors to look inside and access their own genuine emotions.

Spike Lee: Director’s Inspiration Last week, I visited the Academy’s new museum for the first time and one of my favorite exhibits was from the collection of Spike Lee. That was just a small portion. This book covers his extensive collection of original film posters and objects, photographs, artworks and more―many of these inscribed to Lee personally by filmmakers, stars, athletes, activists, musicians and others who have inspired his work in specific ways.

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Books Film History Movie History

Interview: Julian David Stone on “It’s Alive,” the Novel About the Making of “Frankenstein”

Posted on May 17, 2022 at 8:00 am

Copyright Universal 1931
The 1931 James Whale film about Dr. Frankenstein’s re-animated monster still thrills us today. In It’s Alive, a new novel with a title taken from one of the film’s most memorable lines, author Julian David Stone takes us behind the scenes as producer Carl Laemmle, Jr. struggles, negotiates, manipulates, and promises to get the film made. The stores behind the iconic details that have inspired dozens of remakes and spin-offs are told with as much suspense as you might hope to find in a movie. In an interview, Stone talked about doing enojugh research to immerse himself in the era, about Laemmle’s conflicts with his father, the founder of Universal Studios, and about how “Dracula” and “Frankenstein became the foundation for the genre of horror movies.

Frankenstein has been one of the most re-told stories in movie history. Why do we keep coming back to it?

I think the theme of bringing the dead back to life is one of the most universal, if not the most universal, that you find in every culture. And the theme is just as prescient today as it was 200 years ago when the original book of Frankenstein was first written. Separately, the 1931 film adaptation explores other themes that are also still very relevant today — man’s relationship to technology, the concept of ‘just because we have the ability to do something, should we do it?’, The unexpected consequences of our actions in the blind pursuit of technological advance, etc.

Copyright 2022 Greenleaf

Tell me about your research. First, where did you go to find out about all of the day-by-day details and the thoughts of the key figures.

Research is one of my absolute favorite parts of writing. I particularly love doing research from sources from the actual time period that the story takes place — contemporaneous magazines, newspapers, books, etc. This is where a lot of the great details about the lives of the three main characters in my novel were found — scouring any and all media sources from the early 1930s. Additionally, interviews with the main characters were also very helpful. In the case of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, they were both famous for a very good portion of their lives, so there are many great interviews with them and they were very helpful.

Junior Laemmle was another story. There are a lot of interviews with him up to 1936, when the Laemmle family lost the studio. After that, almost nothing. So a lot of Junior’s story was pieced together from whatever tidbits I could find. Researching him was a great detective story on its own!

I’m particularly interested in some of the 1930s slang. Where did you find it and how did you balance the authenticity with the need to make it accessible?

Once again, it was all the contemporaneous media sources that were very helpful. Also, since my story takes place in 1931, I was fortunate that the sound era of motion pictures was in full swing, so watching them — and particularly newsreels with interviews — were a great source of slang and the vernacular of the time.

You have a lot of very clever metaphors that feel true to the period. How did you think about them?

Research, research, research. As I said, I love to research and I like to say, “I want to be able to ‘wear’ an era” before I start writing about it. In the case of It’s Alive! I was well into my research, but I was still struggling with the story when I realized I was making a big mistake. I was focusing my research to specifically on the Universal Monster movies and Universal itself. That’s when I forced myself to take a step back and dive into all of Hollywood in 1931. I started watching as many films as possible from the era — not just Universal’s films — and I read as many of the trade publications as I could get my hands on sequentially, staring in January, 1931. This was so valuable as you could watch the progression of trends in the movie business, as well as the rise and fall of certain stars. After about a year of deep research into the period was when the story really started to fall into place.

Copyright Universal 1931

A lot of the suspense in the story comes from who would play the monster. What would the movie have been like with Bela Lugosi in the role?

That’s one of the great questions that fans of the Universal Monsters, and classic film fans in general, endlessly bandy about. I think Karloff’s performance in Frankenstein is one of the greatest and most iconic in cinema history, so I truly can’t imagine anyone else in the role. But interestingly, Lugosi did eventually play the Monster years later in one of the later films of the Universal Monster cycle and his performance is quite different — to say the least — than Karloff’s. But I don’t think it’s really fair to compare the two as it was many, many years after Karloff, and the way the Monster acted had already been established, and had gone through a lot of changes as different writers and directors tackled the material.

As an interesting side note, before the original 1931 Frankensteinfilm was made and well before Karloff was cast as the Monster, a screen test was shot of Lugosi in the role. Sadly, it has been lost, as it would be an absolutely fascinating piece of film to see — How Lugosi approached the role before there were any preconceived notions of how the Monster should look or act. One can only hope and dream that someday this footage may be discovered!

Copyright 1931 Universal

What were the biggest differences of perspective and between Laemmle senior and junior? How did that reflect the changes in culture and technology and the difference between creating the business and keeping an established business vital? Do you see any parallel conflicts today?

The relationship between Laemmle Senior and Junior was one of the main things that drew me to the story in the first place. It had some very typical elements with the father being more conservative in his approach to business and the type of material he wanted to put on the screen, and the son being more liberal and daring in what films he wanted the studio to make. But then there were some very unusual elements in that their conflict centered around the operations of a movie studio, and that Junior had a dark side that went well beyond the desire to present new and forward leaning material on screen.

How did you find out about the turn of events in filming The Guilty Generation that made it possible for Karloff to play the monster?

That particular detail came up in a couple of different sources and interviews. If you watch The Guilty Generation, Karloff has a big part in the beginning of the film and then sort of disappears until the end. And the way his final scene is shot — a very simple single close-up of Karloff talking into a phone — very much leans into the idea that the director, Rowland Lee, was trying to help Karloff finish his work early. And an interesting bit of trivia is, the very same Rowland Lee would go on to direct Karloff in Son of Frankenstein almost ten years later — Karloff’s third and last appearance as Frankenstein’s Monster.

How were the father/son conflicts between the Laemmles reflected in the Frankenstein story?

Ultimately the movie Frankenstein is a father and son story. Dr. Frankenstein, in the end, is disappointed by his creation — The Monster. To a similar extant, Carl Laemmle, Sr. was disappointed in his son, his creation, Junior Laemmle. And the two fought quite a bit over the direction of Universal Studious after Junior was made Head of Production and wanted to make very different films than his father made. Frankenstein — and the entire Universal Monster Cycle for that matter — being chief among them.

Was Karloff’s name really misspelled on the studio’s entry list?

It may have happened, but there was no specific incident that I was referencing. It was more a nod to where Karloff was in his career before the role of the Monster made him a huge star. He was a working actor, getting by, but it was still a day to day struggle. To give you an example, the first film to be released after he shot Frankenstein — but filmed before Frankenstein was made — in the credits his role is “Waiter”. His character didn’t even have a name.

What do the struggles over Whale’s Frankenstein tell us?

That it is important to stay true to your original vision.

The 1931 film Frankenstein is a great film and an absolute classic because it is the combined effort of several great artists. But it would never have existed in the first place if not for the drive and desire of one man: Junior Laemmle, who, despite no one else wanting to make the film, or for him to make it, stayed true to his vision and pushed the project forward. And all of Hollywood was never the same.

One of the ways I like to put it is: I would never claim that Junior invented the horror film, but I think you can make a pretty strong argument that he is the single person most responsible for it becoming a genre. When no one else in the entire movie business wanted to make Frankenstein, and Dracula before it, he did. And he made sure they got made. From there the entire Universal cycle of horror films was launched and all of what we call horror today grew out of these classics from the 1930s.

What are you going to write about next?

I have my next novel about half written. It’s about the 1960s space race and the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union to land the first man on the moon. The era and the Apollo program specially are big passions of mine, so I am very excited about this story — as well as immensely enjoying doing the research!

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Books Film History Interview Movie History

WWII Books for Veterans Day

Posted on November 9, 2021 at 6:45 pm

Copyright 2019 Miniver Press

To honor those who fought for freedom, two WWII books by men who were there: WWII in the South Pacific is the story of my uncle, Stanley Frankel, including his experiences with Rodger Young, whose heroism was honored with a song by Frank Loesser.

Based on his diaries and letters, it has Frankel’s recollections of his time in the 37th Infantry Division, including The Luzon Beachhead, the battle of Balintawak, and the rescue of Bilibid Prison. It’s available on Amazon and The full text of the book is online.

Copyright 2013 Miniver Press

The Deadly Skies: The Air War in Europe 1940-45 is a comprehensive history from my friend Bernard Nolan.

The history of air combat in Europe during WWII is grippingly described by a man who was there and who has had decades of experience and research to put his experiences in perspective. Focusing on the Royal Air Force, the U.S. Army Eighth Air Force and the Luftwaffe, the book covers how the WW II air campaign in Western Europe unfolded, how it ended, and its cost in terms of human life – not only for the aircrews in those unfriendly skies, but the innumerable innocents who suffered through the carnage in European cities caused by bombing. The aircraft and equipment, the battles, the strategy, and the people are all described by Bernard Nolan with the insight of an insider and the expertise of a scholar, and with detailed illustrations from aviation artist Matt Holness. From Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain to D-Day, B-17s, B-24s, P-47s, P-51s, and Spitfires, this book takes the reader inside the air battles that played a decisive role in WWII. Chapters sections include: The Bomber Will Always Get Through, The Schneider Trophy , The Messerschmitt Bf 109, Dunkirk, Unternehmen Seeloeven (Operation Sea Lion), Adlerangriff (Eagle Offensive), Chain Home Radar System, Adlertag (Eagle Day), Bombs Fall On London, Goering Blinks, The Hardest Day, Blitzkrieg, Hitler “Postpones” The Invasion The Battle Of Britain Ends, RAF Bomber Command, The Butt Study, The Casablanca Conference, Happy Valley, The Dam Busters, The Battle Of Berlin, Dresden, The Norden Bombsight, Superchargers, The B-24, The Fw 190, Regensburg-Schweinfurt

Copyright 2020 Miniver Press
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Books

New Book About Hallmark Christmas Movies!

Posted on November 1, 2021 at 8:00 am

Copyright Running Press 2021
If Halloween is over, it’s time for Hallmark Christmas movies! And a new book gives you something to look at while the many, many commercials are interrupting them. It is a delightful guide to the best produced so far, from how the Deck the Hallmark podcast hosts and best friends Brandon Gray, Daniel “Panda” Pandolph, and Dan Thompson. They unabashedly love these movies while fully aware of their formulas and other issues. Also, they are very funny.

In I’ll be Home for Christmas Movies, they share reviews that make you feel like you’re watching these holiday favorites with your best buds, discussing warm Christmas feelings and absolutely bonkers plot twists with equal enthusiasm. And thanks to original interviews with the movies’ stars and creators, fans will find out insider information on the making of the movies and learn answers to pressing questions: Why do the lead characters keep coming down with amnesia? Why do so many female stock brokers and lawyers find themselves forced to plan parties? And do all of the stories take place within something called the “Kennyverse”?

To complete the perfect Christmas package, the book is also chock-full of ideas for hosting your own holiday movie-watching party, complete with delicious recipes and it features dozens of full-color photos.

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