Best Discoveries of 2021: Books on Movies




Today I’m kicking off my Best Discoveries of 2021 lists, a series of books and movies I enjoyed during the year in a variety of categories. Today, the best Books on Movies.


Disclaimer: These books aren’t necessarily the best books on movies published in 2021. That’s why I call each of these posts my Best Discoveries, books that were new to me in 2021. The books are presented here in the order I read them from January to December. Let’s get started.


 


Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel (University Press of Kentucky, 2013) - Christina Rice


THIS is how you do a biography! Thoroughly researched, well-written, compelling, and satisfying. Although she never became a major star, Ann Dvorak was well on her way to becoming an unforgettable player in Hollywood in the 1930s. What derailed her career? Even if you’ve never seen any of Dvorak’s films, this is a fascinating read.



Coeurs Noirs: Film Noir Newsprint Advertising of the 40’s & 50’s (Cafe Noir Press, 2020) - David Koenig


This book is so much fun you can spend hours looking at all the newspaper ads of your favorite noir titles from their original theatrical releases. Not only is it interesting to see how different newspapers marketed each film, but also what other pictures they were paired up with in double bills. Arranged alphabetically by film title. Do check it out!



The Art of American Screen Acting, 1912-1960 (McFarland & Company, 2018) - Dan Callahan


Previously reviewed here



Interviews with B Science Fiction and Horror Movie Makers: Writers, Producers, Directors, Actors, Moguls and Makeup (McFarland & Company, 2006) - Tom Weaver


Previously reviewed here



The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood (Flatiron Books, 2020) - Sam Wasson


Previously reviewed here



More than Night: Film Noir in Its Contexts (University of California Press, 2008, first published in 1998) - James Naremore


All film noir fans should read this one, a deep dive into the nuts and bolts of film noir, but much more. The revised edition from 2008 includes a chapter on film noir in the 21st century.



Mean… Moody… Magnificent!: Jane Russell and the Marketing of a Hollywood Legend (University Press of Kentucky, 2021) - Christina Rice


Christina Rice does it again, this time covering the largely misunderstood life and career of Jane Russell, which makes an interesting comparison to the Ann Dvorak book.



The Crime Films of Anthony Mann (University Press of Mississippi, 2014) - Max Alvarez


A well-researched deep dive into Mann’s crime thrillers from 1942 to 1951 (and including some TV) with titles such as T-Men, He Walked by Night, The Tall Target, Border Incident, and more.



The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick (Hanover Square Press, 2019) - Mallory O’Meara


I love this book. It took me awhile to get into it, and I think my initial problem was in focusing on what it is not rather than what it is. This is not a standard biography, but rather something more. Bold, irreverent, and personal, The Lady from the Black Lagoon certainly is Milicent Patrick's amazing story, but it's also Mallory O'Meara's personal journey, how and why she connected with Patrick, and how her own life mirrors it in many ways. It's also a love letter to Hollywood (warts and all), monster movies, and more. It may not be for everyone, but it made a connection with me.



Dark City : The Lost World of Film Noir (Running Press revised and expanded edition, 2021, first published by St. Martin’s Griffin, 1998) - Eddie Muller


23 years later, the revised expanded edition of Eddie Muller’s classic hardboiled look at film noir has only gotten better. This is the perfect book for those new to noir as well as seasoned veterans. My highest recommendation.


Please let me know in the comments the books on movies you discovered this year. Thanks for reading.


Next time: My favorite discoveries in crime fiction. Stay tuned.

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