Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Recently, I finished reading Richard Schickel's D.W. Griffith: An American Life. Its a large biography - and deservedly so. Griffith had an amazing life. As Peter Bogdanovich noted in the New York Times Book Review, "Mr. Schickel's excellent and important biography makes it clear that when the movers of our century are tallied, D.W. Griffith, flawed genius that he was, can never lose his eminent position."

I am not sure what led me to decide to read this book. I am not fond of Griffith's films. I am aware of his historical importance, but I have never been drawn to his movies. They seem old fashioned, somewhat Victorian. As far as silent films are concerned, I prefer works from the 1920's. Nevertheless, I was really impressed by Schickel's biography. He tells the story of Griffith's life - his struggles as an actor and writer, his triumphs as a filmmaker, and his decline as an artist. And all of this is set against the backdrop of the emergance of film as an art form - of which Griffith was a leading pioneer.

Schickel's D.W. Griffith: An American Life is a great read. It is full of detail, balanced, and sympathetic. I would recommend it. I even found myself saddened by the end of the book. One day, I also hope to read Arthur Lennig's massive biography of Griffith, which is still in the works and is yet unpublished.

Currently, I am reading Marion Meade's biography of the writer Dorothy Parker, which is titled Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This? I am about a third of the way through, and am enjoying it a good deal. This is the third Marion Meade book I will have read. The other two are Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin: Writers Running Wild in the Twenties and Buster Keaton: Cut to the Chase (a biography).

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