Monday, November 15, 2010

I Admire David Thomson's Film Dictionary But...

Of course I admire David Thomson's New Biograhical Dictionary Of Film. I rushed right out to get a copy, then hesitated because of the huge mark up in Canadian bookstores so I finally bought it online at pleasantly reduced prices.
I 've been a big Thomson fan ever since I read his magisterial biography of David Selznick.
And I happen to be one of the few journalists who ever met Jennifer Jones. Oh, all right, it was on the set of The Towering Inferno and was purely accidental.
When Fred Astaire told her I was a critic she ran from the set to her dressing room.
I don't completely agree with Thomson on everything but I've read almost every entry. The book is a must read for film enthusiasts.
But I was hoping examples from earlier editions of carelessness would have been corrected.
Take the Jane Wyman entry which I consider pretty fair. Thomson says after Miracle In The Rain (1956) "she went into semiretirement" interrupted only by Polyanna (1960).
Not at all.
In 1955 Wyman jumped to TV as producer, host and occasional star of NBC's Fireside Presents The Jane Wyman Theater (1955-58) for the then incredible sum of $3 million for three years work (no cancellations). She then sold the rerun package of 93 half hours to ABC for a cool million and returned to films in 1959's Holiday For Lovers.
That's not retirement, is it?
Similarly on Barbara Stanwyck Thomson says after 1957 "she then went into reluctant retirement".
No! Instead she she departed for episodic TV work culminating in starring in NBC's The Barbara Stanwyck Show (1960-61) which won her an Emmy award as best series actress of the season.
Ann Sothern's two TV series as star (Private Secretary from 1953 to 1967 and The Ann Sothern Show 1958-61) are not even mentioned. TV made her a star again and her TV movie work in the Sixties and Seventies should have been included --it would have taken a few lines.
One last omission: Walter Brennan was a treasured movie character actor for decades but on TV he finally became a recognizable star with his starring series The Real McCoys and The Guns Of Will Sonnet. Thomson should have listed these titles.
I have this idea these omissions happened because Thomson simply never saw any of these TV series being a resident of England at the time. Not that many U.S. series travelled across the pond in those days.
The next edition should carry these additions, I'm hoping.

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