Required Reading: Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy

One side effect of the internet has been the death of the fanzine. Amateur-produced magazines only in the fact that they seldom turned any sort of profit, fanzines were the product of fan’s love for a subject and often served as a way for fans to communicate with each other. Film historian Leonard Maltin got his start writing and eventually publishing his own which segued into his professional career.

But Maltin never lost the thrill he had of creating his own ‘zine and so when the opportunity arose a few years ago to start up a new one, he seized it. The newly published Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy: For People Who Love Movies is a compilation of the best of the same-titled ‘zine so far and it is packed full of the love and enthusiasm that categorizes Maltin’s writing.

The lead story, which was also the inspiration for Maltin to launch his ‘zine, concerns how Orson Welles almost came to be cast in Warner Brothers’ The Man Who Came To Dinner as his follow up film to Citizen Kane. If Welles had taken the gig, he probably never would have done The Magnificent Ambersons. He also could have conceivably formed a strong alliance with studio chief Jack Warner, allowing him free reign when it came to picking his projects. What potential classics did we never get because he never took the job? Would those hypothetical films be worth having at the expense of loosing Ambersons, which even in its studio-truncated form is still at least a good film?

And that’s just the nine pages of Maltin’s 409 page volume, which definitely has something for anyone interested in any aspect of Hollywood’s Golden Age. While names like Welles, Bogart, Tracy or DeMille are known to most casual film watchers, Maltin digs a bit deeper and delivers us pieces on numerous folks who aren’t usually the subject of historical scrutiny. He treats us to conversations with actors like Robert Young, Joan Leslie, Noah Beery, Jr., child star Jimmy Lydon, silent star Mary Brian and director Norman Taurog. His talk with Blake Edwards concentrates on the writer/director’s pre-film career as a writer in radio.

Fans of motion picture music can find piece on the history of soundies and an interview with composer Alexander Courage. The original voice of Elmer Fudd, Arthur Q. Bryant, gets a biographical sketch, while Maltin chats with cinematographers Joseph Biroc and Richard Kline. And all of this is only the tip of the iceberg.

At the end of the day, though, I am not sure if the apostrophe in the title Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy is a possessive or a contraction. But I suppose it doesn’t matter. The book is a valuable addition to any film fan’s shelf.

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About Rich Drees 7195 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty-five years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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