An entertaining picture of a complicated cinema icon, albeit viewed through rose-colored glasses.

CHARLTON HESTON

HOLLYWOOD'S LAST ICON

A new biography attempts to understand the many sides of one of the 20th century’s most famous actors.

Charlton Heston (1923-2008) was a man of contradictions. The 1960s activist who fought to convince studios to make more films in the United States is the same actor whose most profitable pictures, including The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, and El Cid, were shot overseas. Eliot (American Titan: Searching for John Wayne, 2014, etc.), biographer of such Hollywood conservatives as Ronald Reagan, Clint Eastwood, and Cary Grant, shows how Heston, a one-time Democrat who marched in the earliest civil rights protests and fought to preserve public funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, became a Nixon supporter who detested the “Woodstock-flavored counterculture that wanted to blame the soldiers” for the Vietnam War and, most notoriously, became the president of the National Rifle Association. Eliot writes insightfully about Heston’s acting. “Heston’s interpretations rarely went beneath the surface” of his characters, a style that nonetheless worked well in costume dramas such as The Greatest Show on Earth and later sci-fi films such as Planet of the Apes and Soylent Green. The prose is workmanlike throughout, however, and the book is hagiographic: Eliot criticizes the lesser films—Julius Caesar, The Hawaiians, The Call of the Wild—but not Heston, except to acknowledge that he “remained weakest in the romance department in his films” and that his late-life politics cost him acting jobs. Still, readers will enjoy the many inside-Hollywood anecdotes, such as Heston chatting with the Ten Commandments crew about “what he imagined Moses’s sex life might have been like” and the director, Cecil B. DeMille, finding the editing of the film “a surgical chore” when he discovered that some of the extras in the orgy scene were “behaving a little too much like true Method actors, blurring the line between acting and real life.”

An entertaining picture of a complicated cinema icon, albeit viewed through rose-colored glasses.

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-242043-5

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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