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Movie books go between the covers with Hollywood's elite

Movie lovers will enjoy books on such film luminaries as Mary Pickford, John Wayne and Charlie Chaplin, as well as a look at bit players who filled screens through the years.

December 27, 2012|By Susan King, Los Angeles Times
  • Mary Pickford in "Taming of the Shrew," from the book "Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies."
Mary Pickford in "Taming of the Shrew," from the book "Mary… (University Press of Kentucky )

Are you a film buff who received a holiday gift certificate for books? Not to worry. Here's a post-Christmas guide to three books about legendary cinema stars, and a fourth about some of Hollywood's bit players.

"Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies": Christel Schmidt edited this lavish exploration of one of cinema's first film stars, who by the age of 20 had appeared in more than 100 silent movies (among them "Sparrows," "Daddy-Long-Legs" and "Little Lord Fauntleroy").

Known as "America's Sweetheart" because of her long, curly blond locks, Pickford was in reality a savvy businesswoman — the first female movie mogul. She was given creative control of her movies at age 24 in 1916. Three years later, she became one of the founders of United Artists. Pickford went on to win the lead actress Oscar for 1929's "Coquette" and then retired from the screen in 1933.

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"Queen of the Movies" features several noted film historians, including Kevin Brownlow, who examines her career as a producer, and Beth Werling, who tours the Mary Pickford costume and ephemera collection at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Schmidt and others weigh in on Pickford's highly publicized second marriage (to fellow superstar Douglas Fairbanks), her journey from breadwinner to businesswoman, the rise and fall of her curls and the story of how she became an advocate for film preservation in the mid-1930s.

"Queen of the Movies" also overflows with more than 200 color and back-and-white illustrations, including photographs and stills from the actresses' personal collections at the Library of Congress and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

"John Wayne: The Legend and the Man: An Exclusive Look Inside Duke's Archives": Patricia Bosworth and Oscar-winning directors Ron Howard and Martin Scorsese are among the contributors to this photo-driven celebration of the life and career of one of the giants of the silver screen, who worked with many of the top directors in Hollywood, including John Ford ("Stagecoach," "The Quiet Man," "The Searchers"), Howard Hawks ("Red River," "Rio Bravo," "Hatari") and William Wellman ("The High and the Mighty"). Wayne won the lead actor Oscar for the 1969 western "True Grit."

The book, which was authorized by John Wayne Enterprises, includes film stills, behind-the-scenes photos, family snapshots and even fan mail art.

"My Autobiography" by Charlie Chaplin with a foreword by David Robinson: The Little Tramp's endearing 1964 autobiography, which the Chicago Tribune declared "the best autobiography ever written by an actor," has just been published in a new paperback edition.

"Hollywood Unknowns: A History of Extras, Bit Players, and Stand-Ins" by Anthony Slide: The film scholar's latest exploration of Hollywood history celebrates the importance of extras in motion pictures from the silent era through the present, while also shining a spotlight on the Hollywood Studio Club, for many decades the chaperoned dormitory for women in the industry, Central Casting and the bittersweet reality that several stars from the silent era — including Drew Barrymore's great-grandfather, Maurice Costello — ended their careers as extras.

susan.king@latimes.com

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