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Keith Kyle, 4 July 1985

Eisenhower. Vol. I: Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect 1890-1952 Vol. II: The President 1952-1969 
by Stephen Ambrose.
Allen and Unwin, 637 pp., £12.50, February 1984, 0 04 923073 5
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Ike’s Letters to a Friend: 1941-1958 
edited by Robert Griffith.
Kansas, 211 pp., $19.95, October 1984, 0 7006 0257 7
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... came from those who thought the Democrats bound to lose and could not contemplate the isolationist Robert Taft. The record of his eight years in office bears a resemblance to his record as Supreme Commander. He was not a roi fainéant. On a number of important issues he was clearly very much in charge. The records make clear that his key decisions related to ...

‘Who is this Ingrid Bergman?’

Gilberto Perez: Stroheim and Rossellini, 14 December 2000

by Arthur Lennig.
Kentucky, 514 pp., £25, December 1999, 0 8131 2138 8
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The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini 
by Tag Gallagher.
Da Capo, 802 pp., £16.95, October 1998, 0 306 80873 0
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... If he lied about his Austrian past, then perhaps he was lying about his apprenticeship with D.W. Griffith. He claimed to have played bit parts in The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance, and to have learned film-making by watching and assisting Griffith. Lennig disputes this. Largely on the basis of an interview with Joseph ...

When Ireland Became Divided

Garret FitzGerald: The Free State’s Fight for Recognition, 21 January 1999

Documents on Irish Foreign Policy. Vol. I: 1919-22 
edited by Ronan Fanning.
Royal Irish Academy and Department of Foreign Affairs, 548 pp., £30, October 1998, 1 874045 63 1
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... of the Sinn Féin party – founded earlier in the century by the non-violent Nationalist Arthur Griffith but from 1917 led by the senior survivor of 1916, Eamon de Valera – this new radical movement won 73 of the 105 Irish seats at Westminster in the December 1918 General Election. Assembling in Dublin on 19 January 1919, those elected members not in ...

Bob Hawke’s Australia

Michael Davie, 6 October 1983

... ineffectiveness was partly caused by ineffective leaders. Where was the Labor equivalent of Sir Robert Menzies – a man of great physical presence and even greater political cunning? The answer, when it finally came, was Gough Whitlam. He was a man of commanding height, a middle-class barrister like Menzies, a skilled debater, supremely self-confident, a ...

Cheerfully Chopping up the World

Michael Wood: Film theory, 2 July 1998

The Material Ghost: Films and Their Medium 
by Gilberto Perez.
Johns Hopkins, 466 pp., £25, April 1998, 0 8018 5673 6
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On the History of Film Style 
by David Bordwell.
Harvard, 322 pp., £39.95, February 1998, 0 674 63428 4
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Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine 
by D.N. Rodowick.
Duke, 260 pp., £46.95, October 1997, 0 8223 1962 4
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The Aesthetics and Psychology of the Cinema 
by Jean Mitry, translated by Christopher King.
Athlone, 405 pp., £45, February 1998, 0 485 30084 2
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Signs and Meaning in the Cinema 
by Peter Wollen.
BFI, 188 pp., £40, May 1998, 0 85170 646 0
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... left. Ray Liotta, looking young and spruce but tired, is at the wheel, his face well lit. Robert de Niro, in the passenger seat, is asleep. Joe Pesci, in the back seat, is nodding off. A thumping noise is heard, and Liotta says, ‘Jimmy.’ De Niro wakes up. Liotta continues: ‘Did I hear somethin’?’ Cut to a side view of the rear of the ...


Christopher Hitchens, 24 August 1995

To Renew America 
by Newt Gingrich.
HarperCollins, 260 pp., £18, July 1995, 9780060173364
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... which was radical in 1965, is uncontroversial today and we now know that it was even held by Robert McNamara at the very time he was ordering the carpet-bombing of Vietnam. Now here’s the interesting thing. Gingrich opposed the war and took a draft deferment every bit as opportunist as Clinton’s. He also supported the Martin Luther King movement, and ...

He could afford it

Jenny Diski, 7 April 1994

Howard Hughes: The Secret Life 
by Charles Higham.
Sidgwick, 368 pp., £16.99, September 1993, 9780283061578
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... Claudette Colbert, Bette Davis, Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, Marlene Dietrich, Tyrone Power, Robert Ryan and Cary Grant must have had some kind of good time, but no one gets to have much fun in Higham’s book. Higham explains with nice elaboration that, with women, Hughes ‘preferred intermammary intercourse – making love between a woman’s breasts ...

Everything You Know

Ian Sansom: Hoods, 3 November 2016

by Alison Kinney.
Bloomsbury, 163 pp., £9.99, March 2016, 978 1 5013 0740 9
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... 21st-century version of Aristotle’s Poetics – and for that matter of Cicero’s On the Orator, Robert McKee’s Story, Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the entire works of Syd Field, and just about every other book ever written that pretends to reveal the ways fiction, drama or poetry ‘work’ – is, the self-described ...

Traffaut’s Heroes

Richard Mayne, 4 September 1980

The Films in My Life 
by François Truffaut, translated by Leonard Mayhew.
Allen Lane, 358 pp., £6.95, May 1980, 0 7139 1322 3
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... his American heroes – including not only Lubitsch, Hawks, Hitchcock and Orson Welles, but also Robert, Aldrich, Frank Tashlin, Robert Wise and Nicholas Ray. Characteristically, his best remarks about them home in on technique. ‘Hitchcock’s mastery of the are grows greater with each film and he constantly needs to ...

Making doorbells ring

David Trotter: Pushing Buttons, 22 November 2018

Power Button: A History of Pleasure, Panic and the Politics of Pushing 
by Rachel Plotnick.
MIT, 424 pp., £30, October 2018, 978 0 262 03823 2
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... exactly jump to it. What follows is a brilliant pastiche of the race-to-the-rescue sequences D.W. Griffith pioneered in the state-of-the-art one and two-reelers he made for the Biograph Company between 1908 and 1913. Chaplin cuts back and forth between the struggle in the top-floor office and Charlie’s reluctant progress up several flights of stairs (he’s ...

Boxing the City

Gaby Wood, 31 July 1997

Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell 
by Deborah Solomon.
Cape, 426 pp., £25, June 1997, 0 224 04242 4
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... Queens, a plain middle-class house where he lived with his widowed mother and his younger brother Robert, who suffered from cerebral palsy. He was known in the neighbourhood as a loner who collected odds and ends, as a silent member of the Christian Science Church, as a ‘scary kook’, as a haunted-looking man who was friendly to children. One visitor to ...

Pale Ghosts

Jeremy Harding, 12 January 1995

The Electronic Elephant: A Southern African Journey 
by Dan Jacobson.
Hamish Hamilton, 373 pp., £17.99, June 1994, 0 241 13355 6
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Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela 
Little, Brown, 630 pp., £20, November 1994, 0 316 90965 3Show More
None to Accompany Me 
by Nadine Gordimer.
Bloomsbury, 324 pp., £15.99, September 1994, 0 7475 1821 1
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The Rift: The Exile Experience of South Africans 
by Hilda Bernstein.
Cape, 516 pp., £25, February 1994, 0 224 03546 0
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... great resemblance between his own, open-ended journey and the intrusions of earlier strangers: of Robert Moffat, Livingstone and various envoys of the London Missionary Society, who thrived on scruples; of Cecil Rhodes, and an assortment of English and Boer traders, who did without them; of the Voortrekkers, who left the Cape in sombre spirits and travelled ...

My word, Miss Perkins

Jenny Diski: In the Typing Pool, 4 August 2005

Literary Secretaries/Secretarial Culture 
edited by Leah Price and Pamela Thurschwell.
Ashgate, 168 pp., £40, January 2005, 0 7546 3804 9
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... one and the same. (Obviously we have to make an exception for industrial novelists like the late Robert Ludlum, who have a team who write the books as well as others who type them before they add their authorial name, so that there are three layers to the finished manuscript – or possibly four if you include the ‘ideas’ officer.) There was a brief ...

That’s Liquor!

Nick James, 7 March 1996

Leaving Las Vegas 
directed by Mike Figgis.
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... making hundreds of temperance movies. Brownlow reckons that the ‘alcoholic genius’ D.W. Griffith ‘made 13 pictures against the evils of drink at Biograph’. Griffith’s hypocritical example is more typical of Hollywood than W.C. Fields’s ‘lust for alcohol’ in It’s the Old Army Game (1926) or ...

‘What is your nation if I may ask?’

Colm Tóibín: Jews in Ireland, 30 September 1999

Jews in 20th-century Ireland: Refugees, Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust 
by Dermot Keogh.
Cork, 336 pp., £45, March 1998, 9781859181492
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... vote of support from his six-thousand-strong congregation. A debate began about the Jews. Arthur Griffith, who was to found Sinn Fein two years later, supported the boycott in his newspaper, the United Irishman. ‘No thoughtful Irishman or woman can view without apprehension the continued influx of Jews into Ireland and the continuous efflux of the native ...

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