Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I hope I'm not obscure.

Okay. So, fun fact: I'm cleaning house on my list of blog posts and deleting all of the drafts I've written and half-written. This is a post I wrote way back in April. I couldn't believe I'd never actually published it! As a person who enjoys reading books on old Hollywood, I appreciate getting book reviews every now and again. So, here's a very late book review on Robert Matzen's Errol & Olivia: Ego and Obsession in Golden Era Hollywood.

So, I finished Robert Matzen's Errol & Olivia: Ego and Obsession in Golden Era Hollywood. First of all, it was a very good book, full of great information. I didn't care for Matzen's tone, really. He liked to talk as if he knew what was going inside the actors' heads, as if they were characters in his novel. This approach irked me a good deal because they weren't characters; they were real people. But, I suppose that's biography. To be honest, I haven't read many biographies so I wouldn't know. I also have this thing, an issue when reading books about classic films - I hate it when they critique it. Okay, so occasionally I agree with them, but most of the time I don't. I don't like to read that this author thinks that Errol Flynn wasn't a very good actor, that Captain Blood was not a very good film, that Ginger Rogers was past her prime in The Barkleys of Broadway. If I didn't love the films, if I didn't adore the actors, then I wouldn't read books about them. So stop insulting them. Thank you.

Sorry. Whew! That was a bit of a tangent. Ahem. Again, the book had some great facts. The guy has an amazing ability for research. He cites all sorts of memos and interviews. I have no idea how he managed to track them all down! The photographs inside are lovely.

Unfortunately, after finishing the book, I felt a deep and unbelievable amount of melancholy. I felt sick at the thought of *spoiler alert* Olivia failing to recognize Errol years after their last film together. The man was already going through so much torment, and then to have that piled on. Ugh. It makes me sick thinking of it now. *end of spoiler*. The day after I'd finished the book, and after I'd eased my mood a bit by beginning a new, happier book (The Films of Gene Kelly), I decided to watch my favorite scene from The Adventures of Robin Hood. And do you know something? Nothing changed really. Other than a new knowledge of the technical aspect of the film and the backstage drama, I still see the movie in pretty much the same light. Errol Flynn walked into the great hall, with that deer slung over his shoulders and I was just as happy and excited for that moment as I've always been.

I think that's what bothers me so much about people like Matzen criticizing Errol Flynn's acting skills. To me, (and, granted, I'm no acting critic) Flynn was a tremendous actor. He enters the scene and he is Robin Hood. He's attractive, not only because of his good looks but because of his magnetism, his intensity, his humor, his impudence, his passion. I'm very sad to read that Errol Flynn seemed to be a tortured soul all his life because I think he missed out on how great he was. It's kind of amazing to think that Errol Flynn was rife with insecurities. It makes me sort of second-guess my own.

Okay, so this post was all over the place. Do forgive me for that!


  1. I agree with you about criticism in biographies. That was the one thing that bothered me about the recent John Huston bio. I got tired of hearing all of the author's opinions about both films and people. I read the book to learn about Huston, not him!

  2. Wow, you've had some terrific posts today. I think you bring up some really good points here, and I enjoyed your review. I like to learn background facts, but I also sometimes just like to enjoy the movie experience--unfettered by the behind-the-scenes details.


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