Summer reading 2016: Film

Danny Leigh picks his books of the year so far

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Silent Women: Pioneers of Cinema, edited by Melody Bridges and Cheryl Robson, Supernova Books, RRP£14.99/ Aurora Metro Press, RRP$32.95

You may come to this spry slice of film history prepared to celebrate a handful of women who helped shape the movies in their blinking infancy. The surprise of the essays collected here is their sheer volume in every corner of a business apparently better able to accommodate female talent then than now.


Orson Welles, Volume 3: One Man Band, by Simon Callow, Jonathan Cape, £25/ Viking, RRP$40

The third volume of Callow’s rolling biography tracks its former boy genius from 1945 into the 1960s — finding him ever more discounted as a director, fated to careen bad-temperedly through other people’s films. Welles would surely be delighted at the scale of Callow’s endeavour. We should be too.


Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep, by Michael Schulman, Faber, RRP£14.99/ Harper, RRP$26.99

Less scurrilous than promised by the reported anger of its subject, Schulman’s biography turns out to be an admiring but frank Hollywood origin story. Following Streep in her long journey from New Jersey cheerleader to Oscar winner (her first for the 1979 film Kramer vs Kramer), this is above all a tribute to smart, steadfast professional judgment.


West of Eden: An American Place, by Jean Stein, Jonathan Cape, RRP£20/ Random House, RRP$30

Stein tells an old story: one about the murky early years of Hollywood and dark psychic hinterland of Los Angeles. But as a minor player in that tale herself — her father ran the talent agency that became the conglomerate Universal — her strange brew of interview subjects brings novelistic riches. The result may be more compelling than any movie you will see this year.

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