Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Life of Brian

Author Derek Sculthorpe, who last year gave us a fine book about Van Heflin, makes it two-for-two with Brian Donlevy, the Good Bad Guy (McFarland). It's a thoroughly readable and comprehensive look at the life and career of an oft-underappreciated actor who lent his name and talent to some genuine Hollywood classics (Destry Rides Again, The Great McGinty, Kiss of Death) in the course of a long and productive career.

Sculthorpe's book is subtitled "A Bio-Filmography," which aptly describes the author's skillful melding of the personal and the professional in one compact volume. As a writer, Sculthorpe has the gift of brevity -- he gives the reader a strong sense of who Donlevy was, and what was distinctive about his performances, without wasting words, repeating himself, or gushing. We get a thoughtful look at the women Donlevy married, including one who wanted to give him a makeover, and one who made him an ideal companion in his later years. Attention is also paid to the star's beginnings on Broadway, as well as his collaboration with the great Preston Sturges. Arresting film stills grace the text throughout.

Sculthorpe has quickly established himself as a compelling new voice in the world of film studies. I, for one, hope he has many more books in him.

NOTE: I was furnished a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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