Saturday, January 10, 2009

Recommended Reading: The Citadel Film Series


In the days before the internet, The Citadel Press Film Series (aka: "The Films of...") was a Godsend to classic movie lovers, with each volume providing the details of a particular star’s credits along with a brief, but thorough biography in a time when career retrospectives were limited (though there was always plenty of gossip available). When the series took off in the early 1970s, it was no doubt due to the revival in interest in Golden Age movies. Film schools such as the program at USC helped lead to a scholarly publishing boom during the mid-1970s. The Citadel series' quality was uniformly excellent, as a knowledgeable film historian or entertainment writer covered an individual performer’s career, but the best books were often the ones written by fans with an encyclopedic knowledge of a star’s life and career. The typical Citadel Press book would include detailed film credits, numerous high-quality black & white photographs, and review excerpts during the time a specific movie was in release. Author Tony Thomas, whose The Films of Kirk Douglas (published 1972) was the first of the series I found. It even included an introduction from The Intense One himself! There were also tributes from Vincente Minnelli, William Wyler, and Stanley Kramer. This led me to believe that an actor receiving The Films of… treatment may have been a big deal. Anyway, it turned out that all of the movie stars I like have been given the Citadel treatment. The books were in print for years and as recently as the late 1990s updated editions could be found at major bookstores, though I haven't seen them lately.





My interest in the series just got a boost because I now have *Drum Roll* The Films of Susan Hayward, and it’s hands down the most exhaustive book ever written about her. It’s not merely a complete filmography, but more like a bio-filmography. It contains dozens of black & white photographs throughout its 280 pages, including several culled from author Eduardo Moreno’s collection, many of which are unavailable anywhere else (take that, internet!). There are print ads Susan did during the 1930s, publicity stills, full-page glamour shots, and photos of her Academy Awards appearances, including her last-ever public appearance in early 1974. The Citadel Film Series (over 100 titles) has always been a good read, but this volume is infinitely superior to any other I've seen, and that's not just because I’m on a Susan Hayward bender!


No Scanner Blues: Photo courtesy ebay

10 comments:

  1. When I was in my teens I used to save my allowance and baby-sitting money to buy Citadel books. :) I have roughly two dozen of them, including entries on Robert Taylor, Fredric March, and Lana Turner which I just picked up in the last year via Amazon. I've added Susan Hayward to the list I'll be looking for -- thanks for the heads-up.

    Best wishes,
    Laura

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  2. I only have a few of them myself. I'll admit I took them for granted all the years I saw them in used book stores. I could kick myself for not picking up "The Films of John Garfield" some time back!

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  3. I have to admit that I found an inexpensive copy that sounded as though it's in pretty good shape on Amazon last night, and I have already ordered it! (Grin) Thanks again for the tip, as I have only become a fan of Hayward's work in the past couple of years. I'm sure I'll enjoy it.

    Best wishes,
    Laura

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  4. I got a used copy in surprisingly good condition (spine not cracked, no scribbling inside, pages still white etc.) for $6.00 total (including s&h) on Amazon Marketplace, so there are good deals to be had. I know you'll enjoy the book.

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  5. I have three of these: Kirk Douglas, John Wayne, and William Holden. They were a staple of my youth -- I could read them over and over again, savoring descriptions of films that still haven't been released.

    Nice write up on these great books!

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  6. The Grant & Cagney books have to be the first movie books I ever bought (and kept!)

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  7. Over the years I have owned many though most I unfortunately got rid of for lack of space. Still have a few of my favorites "Rebels: The Rebel Hero in Film." "The Films of the Fifties" and "Second Feature: The Best of the B's"

    Others I have read include:
    The Films of Paul Newman, Humphrey Bogart, Jean Harlow, John Garfield, Classics of the Silent Screen, Classics of The Horror Film, Films of the Thirties, Forties, Sixties,

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  8. Wonderful write-up, Dex! I'd like to read Susan's book too...I'm so glad you found a copy, and in good shape. Amazon Marketplace, so far, has proved a good place for me, too. :)

    I'm guessing there's not one for Dana?

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  9. I'm glad that others share my nostalgia (that most subtle of depression) for the Citadel books!

    John: I understand that the John Garfield book is also a biography of sorts. I need to get that one!

    BTW, read your Paul Newman piece (excellent work) but I thought that he tested for the Aron part, not Cal, which was why Dean is in the screen test with him.

    Ginger: Nope! Dana gets no respect, does he?

    BTW, the Steve McQueen volume of this series, IIRC had shoddy photograph reproductions, at least I thought so when I passed on it twelve years ago.

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  10. C.K.
    You're right about Newman testing for the role of Aron in the screen test with Dean. I found this out after the article was posted. Faulty research on my part.
    Thanks for the comments.

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