"The Films of Agnes Moorehead"

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"The Films of Agnes Moorehead"

Postby Vecchiolarry » Mon Jul 08, 2013 4:43 pm

Hi,

An advertisement for a book "The Films of Agnes Moorehead" caught my eye in the latest Classic Images magazine.
Author - Axel Nissen

Rowman & Littlefield = http://www.rowman.com = 1.800.462.6420
978-0-8108-9136-4
$75.00 - - promotion code - 7S3CLSC4 to save 25%

A liitle expensive but I'd say worth it for her!!

Larry
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Re: "The Films of Agnes Moorehead"

Postby Professional Tourist » Mon Jul 08, 2013 4:43 pm

Yes indeed, I had posted on this new book in May, in the "What are you reading?" thread:

http://silverscreenoasis.com/oasis3/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=119&p=131420#p131420

Next Tuesday the 16th is release day! :D
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Re: "The Films of Agnes Moorehead"

Postby Vecchiolarry » Mon Jul 08, 2013 4:43 pm

Hi PT,

Great - I'm glad you have already promoted this book...

I don't usually read all the threads here, but I will look up your post.

Thanks,
Larry
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Re: "The Films of Agnes Moorehead"

Postby Professional Tourist » Fri Aug 02, 2013 4:43 am

The book has been released and I've ordered and received my copy. I could never recommend this book to anyone, especially not to any of AM's admirers. The author's approach throughout the volume is mean-spirited, as if he had an axe to grind with her. Agnes does not deserve this kind of treatment at all.

Here is an example of one of the nastier remarks, on page 50: "Had Moorehead not had her acting talent and vast ambition, she might well have turned into a meddlesome, man-eating divorcee" :shock: :shock: :shock:

Besides the unkindness, I've also discovered some errors of fact.

If anyone is interested, there has been a conversation about this book at the Harpies Bizarre message board. :( :( :(

[Harpies Bizarre is a web site for fans of Bewitched.]
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Re: "The Films of Agnes Moorehead"

Postby Professional Tourist » Sat Aug 10, 2013 4:43 am

I hope to finish reading the book before the weekend is out, and to post my review.

Larry, if you have read the book I'd very much like to know what you think of it.
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Re: "The Films of Agnes Moorehead"

Postby Professional Tourist » Sun Aug 11, 2013 4:43 pm

I have finally finished reading the book and writing my review. I have uploaded it to Amazon, but apparently it has to go through a review process before it is posted. So here it is, for anyone who would like to read it now.

1.0 out of 5 stars Not recommended for established AM fans, August 11, 2013
By Professional Tourist

This review is from: The Films of Agnes Moorehead (Hardcover)
This book focuses on the sixty-three major motion pictures of Miss Moorehead's career in the form of an introduction followed by individual chapters for each film. Although the author has conducted much research into primary sources (archives and personal interviews) the book as-written relies heavily upon secondary sources such as previous Moorehead bios, bios of other actors and of directors, and prior studies of these films -- as documented throughout.

There is some new information here and a few rare photos, but the majority of the content -- though uniquely presented -- has long been available to the general public. At $71 it is not a good value for those who have read Lynn Kear, Charles Tranberg, and James Robert Parish's Moorehead efforts. Further limiting its value, of the 382-page length -- which is already slight for the price -- sixty-three pages are dedicated to photos (poorly reproduced in my copy of the print edition) and roughly fifty pages list credits and technical data which are readily available online. There is repetition within the book, too, particularly between the introduction and the film chapters, where there are several instances of word-for-word copying, as well as some rehashing of info from a film's profile within the chapters of related films.

The introduction states "Each profile concentrates on Moorehead's contribution to the film in question." This does indeed occur in some chapters, but not in all of them. Some profiles ("Mrs. Parkington," "Tomorrow, the World") may describe the character and her physical appearance but contain no comment on her performance. Other chapters focus more on cinema history or comparison of the scripts to original properties. For example, the chapter on "The Magnificent Ambersons" contains a three-page riff on earlier representations of spinsters in film. While this type of info may be of interest, it makes the book more a themed cinema study than a study of Miss Moorehead's film work.

Beyond the questions of value and audience (and others outside the scope of this review, such as personal interpretations and reliability of sources) the issues most significant to me as a fan are the over-arching unkindness and disrespect toward the subject and her associates (shockingly unprofessional) and the sprinkling of factual errors. Here are some examples of the more egregious among them:

*** Errors of fact ***
-- Page xi: ". . .an increasingly successful and busy radio actress, doing as many as six shows a week." In fact, she performed in as many as six shows a day.

-- Page 45: "Apart from the Mercury Wonder Show . . . in August 1943 and a performance of King Lear on CBS Radio's Mercury Summer Theater on September 13, 1946, Moorehead never worked with her foremost mentor and Svengali again." In fact, there were additional radio broadcasts together, including several appearances on Orson Welles Radio Almanac throughout Jan-July 1944; 10 April 1945, on The Master of Ballantrae for the CBS Radio series This Is My Best; and the 31 March 1946 broadcast of the Radio Readers Digest episode Back for Christmas.

-- Page 61 quotes lines of dialog from The Seventh Cross, which AM does not speak in the film (as released by the Warner Archive).

-- Page 141: [Of her desire to reside in Beverly Hills] "She finally arrived there in 1953. . . ." In fact, newspaper articles of the day put this purchase at early 1952. For example, Hedda Hopper's column Looking At Hollywood, published 23 February 1952. [Similar statement page 213]

-- Page 194: "Though she would make several TV movies at Universal in the early 1970s, Agnes Moorehead would make only two feature films there in the course of her career." In fact, The Lost Moment, which was a co-production of Universal and Walter Wanger, was filmed at Universal Studios, which brings the count to three. [See also page 200, which attests to this fact.] [Similar statement page 207]

-- Page 221: "Moorehead died of uterine cancer, which is caused by a virus and not set off by external, environmental factors." In fact, uterine (endometrial) cancer is not caused by a virus. From mayoclinic.com: "Doctors don't know what causes endometrial cancer. What's known is that something occurs to create a genetic mutation within cells in the endometrium -- the lining of the uterus."

-- Page 266: "To commemorate this notable role, she had herself painted as Queen Elizabeth." In fact, the painting of AM as QE1 was executed a few years earlier, at the request of the artist.

-- Page 309: ". . .she had resisted the temptation to bob her famously auburn tresses in her youth. As far as we know, she kept her hair long up until that day in 1961. . . ." In fact, as a young woman in her late teens and early twenties, AM wore her hair short, as evidenced in all her college yearbooks.

*** Rude remarks ***
-- Page 50: "Had Moorehead not had her acting talent and vast ambition, she might well have turned into a meddlesome, man-eating divorcee like Emily."

-- Page 83: "Our Vines also offers us the toe-curling spectacle of customarily austere Moorehead massaging liver-lipped screen husband Robinson's shoulders."

-- Page 97: "The role unified nearly all the qualities that Moorehead uniquely projected on the screen: theatricality, self-dramatization, artificiality, malevolence, sexual rapaciousness and frustration, possessiveness, jealousy, and nosiness."

-- Page 161: [Of Errol Flynn] ". . .we are quite unnecessarily treated to the sight of his sad, sagging tits as he gets a scrubdown from his black manservant."

-- Page 178: " . . .the ballerina's filthy-rich, piss-elegant, feminine yet forceful auntie. . . ."

-- Page 200: ". . .playing the butch blonde proprietor of a Honolulu 'private club' in the first and the patrician battle-ax in the second would have been signature roles for her in any cinematographic process."

-- Page 207: ". . .St. Oegger had given [Jane] Wyman a severe, unbecomingly short hairstyle with Claudette Colbert bangs that made her look more like a bilious Pekingese than ever."

-- Page 266: [In reference to a painting of AM] "With the small crowned head atop the hugely dressed body, he [an old friend] thought it looked like Frankenstein."

-- Page 291: "If you close your eyes during one of her scenes in Pollyanna, it's like hearing Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West! All that's missing is the cackle."

On balance, I find the book serves up little to sustain this AM admirer, who couldn't wait for its release and ended up sorely disappointed. One wonders what would motivate a person to conduct extensive research on an artist seemingly disliked. Although the author does at times present Miss Moorehead's work in a postive light, in my view, those instances are overshadowed by the preponderance of negativity. A frustrating, distasteful read from start to finish.


As lengthy as this is, I actually edited it down by quite a lot!

I'd be happy to discuss or answer any questions. :)
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Re: "The Films of Agnes Moorehead"

Postby knitwit45 » Mon Aug 12, 2013 4:43 am

PT, it is up, and I voted on it! NOBODY so far has anything good to say about the book. What a ripoff! Doesn't Amazon refund money on something like this? Even a partial refund might ease the 'pain' a little bit. :roll:
"Life is not the way it's supposed to be.. It's the way it is..
The way we cope with it, is what makes the difference." ~ Virginia Satir
""Most people pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it." ~ Soren Kierkegaard
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Re: "The Films of Agnes Moorehead"

Postby Professional Tourist » Mon Aug 12, 2013 4:43 am

Thank you for reading, knitwit45. The biggest pain for me comes not from the amount of money spent for value received, but from all the errors of fact and the cruel remarks. There's nothing to ease that pain. Agnes does not deserve that kind of treatment. :( :cry:
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Re: "The Films of Agnes Moorehead"

Postby Vecchiolarry » Mon Aug 12, 2013 4:43 am

Hi,

Currently, I am on a train in Siberia with sketchy WiFi connections, so haven't connected to too many sites.

Thank you for your review of this book and no I haven't read it nor will I after your comments.
I would have hoped that a book titled "The Films of Agnes Moorehead" would have at least 80 - 85% concentrating on her actually films and her work(s) in those...
That's what I was hoping for, as I have not seen all her movies, nor all her TV work either; and would be interested in critiques of them and her performances...
Her private life should have only been minimal - birth, death, marriges, divorces - and not negative references of any kind.

Never was she a preditor seeking out male victims. She was very religious (actually too much so, even for me!!)...... She didn't really like or approve of my grandmother, since Nell was a preditor!!! So, where this guy came up with that, is pure fiction.

Also, I remember she bought Sigmund Romberg's home in late 1951 and had it somewhat redone over a few weeks, as I lived up and across Roxbury Drive and viewed ("supervised") a lot of it before we left for Europe in late October.
I met Agnes on the set of "Show Boat" that year through Kathryn Grayson....

She deserves a more credible book as an actress...

Larry
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Re: "The Films of Agnes Moorehead"

Postby Erika1712 » Mon Aug 12, 2013 4:43 pm

Yes, I have a question. When will you decide to write a book on Agnes, PT?

To give it one star would've likely meant I didn't finish it. Not that I don't understand the one star review. I do, very much so, and agree with you on all the points you've made here. I was glad that you brought up the misinformation on uterine cancer which very much stood out for me while reading.
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Re: "The Films of Agnes Moorehead"

Postby Professional Tourist » Mon Aug 12, 2013 4:43 pm

Vecchiolarry wrote:I remember she bought Sigmund Romberg's home in late 1951 and had it somewhat redone over a few weeks, as I lived up and across Roxbury Drive and viewed ("supervised") a lot of it before we left for Europe in late October.
I met Agnes on the set of "Show Boat" that year through Kathryn Grayson....

That's interesting. AM used to say in interviews that she bought her Roxbury Drive house from the Romberg estate, and for a bargain price. Since Mr. Romberg died suddenly, on 9 November 1951, of a stroke (according to Wikipedia) I figured she must have purchased it some time after that date, from his wife. If she had already purchased and started redecorating the house by October, then Mr. Romberg must have sold it himself. Well, either way, it seems that she was living in the house by early 1952 when the news blurbs went out. This is what Hedda Hopper had to say in the item I mentioned above: "Aggie Moorehead bought the Sigmund Romberg home in Beverly Hills, which means she'll be a neighbor of mine. Despite Aggie's presence, I'll still miss the Rombergs."

Erika1712 wrote:Yes, I have a question. When will you decide to write a book on Agnes, PT?

To give it one star would've likely meant I didn't finish it. Not that I don't understand the one star review. I do, very much so, and agree with you on all the points you've made here. I was glad that you brought up the misinformation on uterine cancer which very much stood out for me while reading.

By 'questions' I meant about this book or my review of it. I can't answer this question. :wink:

I wouldn't have reviewed the book at all if I hadn't finished it. One star is supposed to mean 'poor', two stars 'disappointing'. I was debating between one and two for a while, but had to go with one because the overall tone is so mean and disrespectful.
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Re: "The Films of Agnes Moorehead"

Postby Vecchiolarry » Mon Aug 12, 2013 4:43 pm

Hi PT,

The Rombergs hadn't lived in that house much for about a year or two before Agnes bought it; they lived mostly in NYC.
Agnes bought it from SR himself. He died about two weeks after we left for Europe and his wife, Lillian, never returned to LA after that; at least as far as I know. She and SR were often guests of several of the lady hostesses in LA that I knew also and were friends of my Aunt Lucy, but I didn't remember seeing her again after he died.

It's possible that the final transfer (s) of the house were through his estate, but I wouldn't know about that really. Agnes may well have been correct in saying she got the house through his estate finally???
I was only 9 at the time and mortgages were never my forte!!!

Larry
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Re: "The Films of Agnes Moorehead"

Postby Erika1712 » Tue Aug 13, 2013 4:43 pm

Ah well, PT, you know I have my own personal rating system. :wink:

I did appreciate the write-up. Thanks.
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Re: "The Films of Agnes Moorehead"

Postby Professional Tourist » Tue Aug 13, 2013 4:43 pm

I had Amazon's star-rating system confused with another site. Here is what Amazon's stars are set to mean:
5 = I love it
4 = I like it
3 = It's OK
2 = I don't like it
1 = I hate it
They make it more emotional. :)

Anyway, if anyone else at SSO reads this book, it would be interesting to read your comments -- even if you love it. :D
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Re: "The Films of Agnes Moorehead"

Postby Professional Tourist » Mon Oct 28, 2013 4:43 pm

An update on reviews of this book. On Amazon, as of today, there are five 5-star reviews posted (out of ten total reviews). Four of these five reviewers are authors of Hollywood and theater books themselves, who received complimentary copies of the book in exchange for a review, and/or are personal associates of the author (who were thanked for their support on the book's acknowledgements page).

The fellow authors who received free books do not disclose this fact in their Amazon reviews, but do note it in the reviews posted to their personal blogs. Only one of the 5-star reviewers, as far as I can tell, is neither an author nor personally connected to this book's author.

I would encourage anyone who has read the book to post a review on Amazon, and anyone who has an Amazon account to read through the posted reviews (as time permits) and cast votes as to which are helpful/not helpful.
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