Andrew Sarris has long been one of America's most celebrated writers on film, author of the seminal work The American Cinema, and for decades a highly regarded critic, first for The Village Voice and more recently for The New York Observer. Now comes Sarris's definitive statement on film, in a masterwork that has taken 25 years to complete.
Here is a sweeping--and highly personal--history of American film, from the birth of the talkies (beginning with The Jazz Singer and Al Jolson's memorable line "You ain't heard nothin' yet") to the decline of the studio system. By far the largest section of the book celebrates the work of the great American film directors, with giants such as John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, and Howard Hawks examined film by film. Sarris also offers glowing portraits of major stars, from Garbo and Bogart to Ingrid Bergman, Margaret Sullavan, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Clark Gable, and Carole Lombard. There is a tour of the studios--Metro, Paramount, RKO, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, Universal--revealing how each left its own particular stamp on film. And in perhaps the most interesting and original section, we are treated to an informative look at film genres--the musical, the screwball comedy, the horror picture, the gangster film, and the western.
A lifetime of watching and thinking about cinema has gone into this book. It is the history that film buffs have been waiting for.
"This valuable and engrossing work, like those fondly remembered columns, is learned, opinionated, informative, scholarly, personal...Sarris at his best reminds us how exciting it was to watch and read and write passionately about the movies back when movies still seemed worth caring about."--Los Angeles Daily News
"Notes and essays covering films examined by as significant and missionary a critic as we've got."--The New York Times Book Review
"Film historian Sarris brings a bit of everything to this enticing, encyclopedic book--political and social history, autobiography, psychology, formal sense, common sense."--Entertainment Weekly
"Sarris brings wisdom, wit, and love for the medium to this highly entertaining history of 'talkies'.... Sarris' writing, sparkling with original insights on every page, is warm and affectionate and wonderfully free of the academic jargoneering which disfigures so much film criticism. Highly recommended for the serious film buff, and the casual browser alike."--Amazon.com
"Well worth the wait. Part history, part meditation on the cinema's most transporting and intangible properties, Sarris' exegesis of the great films produced between the years 1929 and 1949 will surely become and indispesable reference on American movies."--The Baltimore Sun
"[Sarris'] enthusiasms have stood the test of time.... There are keen insights on studio style and genres of the '30s adn '40s.... His unchecked admiration for stars such as Greta Garbo and Margaret Sullavan and Myrna Loy makes you want to go back and see the performances he writes about."--The Washington Post Book World
"At the end of each piece we feel that we are firmly in possession of its topic. At the end of the book, we also feel that we are in possession of an accurate portrait of an era, selective yet aptly detailed and, above all, passionate in a way that most film history...are not.... We are talking the king of profoundly engaged, even romantically inflamed criticism any art requires if its traditions are to live on in ways that are useful and informative to the
present--and to the future."--Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Even the snobbish sophisticate Waldo Lydecher (Clifton Webb) in the film classic 'Laura' would have approved of this profound, penetrating study by the highly regarded film critic...thoughtful, often amusing disertations on major stars...a treat for readers.... It reveals a time when American films appealed to the best in us rather than the beast in us."-- San Francisco Chronicle
"This book I cannot put down. It is informative, controversial, exciting. Andrew Sarris leads the way in the field of American cinema. He makes you rediscover films you already knew and, best of all, guides you to new discoveries in the treasure trove of the movies' Golden Age. I continue to admire his unique vision."--Martin Scorsese
"Sarris' generous essays overflow in quirky insight and loving appreciation."--Seattle Weekly