Cover image for Matinee idylls : reflections on the movies
Matinee idylls : reflections on the movies
Schickel, Richard.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chicago : Ivan R. Dee, 1999.
Physical Description:
x, 303 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


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PN1994 .S3495 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Some of the movies' greatest figures, some of the most important issues raised by the medium, come under close, highly personal, and deeply informed reflection in this new book by one of our most prominent and influential critics. A pleasure to read...intelligent, well-informed, insightful and unfailingly gracious. Martin Scorsese"

Author Notes

Richard Warren Schickel was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on February 10, 1933. He received a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1955. He became a noted film critic, Hollywood historian, and prolific author and documentarian. He reviewed films for Life magazine from 1965 until it closed in 1972, then wrote for Time until 2010 and later for the blog He wrote 37 books on movies and filmmakers and wrote or directed more than 30 documentaries including The Men Who Made the Movies. He wrote biographies of Woody Allen, Marlon Brando, James Cagney, Charlie Chaplin, Gary Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Lena Horne, and Elia Kazan. He also wrote a memoir entitled Good Morning, Mr. Zip Zip Zip: Movies, Memory, and World War II. He died from complications of dementia on February 19, 2017 at the age of 84.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The author of several star bios, Schickel is best known as Time's movie reviewer. The contents of this volume are products of the occasions when he has been able to shed weekly deadlines and write at leisure about topics he finds more meaningful than the latest Adam Sandler epic. Most deal with figures from earlier cinema. Schickel offers fresh insights into such luminaries as Greta Garbo and Bette Davis, but more rewarding are his appraisals of such now less celebrated figures as director King Vidor and Charles Laughton, "a star in a character actor's body." Although Schickel's specialty is American film, heartfelt tributes to Italy's Federico Fellini and India's Satyajit Ray appear here. The most provocative essay bemoans the disappearance of the film culture of the '50s through the '70s, when a veritable community of cineasts supported foreign movies and serious American films. That community largely vanished in the wake of Star Wars and Hollywood's subsequent obsession with blockbusters. Its spirit lives on in Schickel's passionate commitment to cinematic art. --Gordon Flagg

Publisher's Weekly Review

Already the author of more than 20 books (Clint Eastwood; The Disney Version; etc.), Time film critic Schickel's now delivers a collection of 20 short pieces that take an introspective look at directors and actors past and present. Some of Schickel's treatments are standard, though diverting film-buff fare: admiring pieces on Greta Garbo, Bette Davis and Laurence Olivier, for example. Others evidence a more theoretical orientation, such as an analysis of Sam Fuller as a "sort of Charles Ives, drawing on the vernacular only to subvert it with a big, blatting unforgettable off-key note." Yet other pieces, like "Cinema Paradiso: The Rise and Fall of a Film Culture," analyze film through its economic and historical contexts. Most interesting is Schickel's exposure of the connection between the film censorship guidelines of the Breen Office ("less than accurately known to the public as the Hays Office") and Catholic mores: he notes that Breen even obtained church approval to engage a Jesuit priest to draft the famously puritanical movie codes. Schickel writes with extensive knowledge of mainstream American film, but his approach is eclectic. In his preface, he mocks "the gibberish of post-structuralist academic criticism," for example, but many of his essays slip into post-structuralist terminology ("memory is the great deconstructor of movies"; "the moguls were fiercely ethnocentric"). Evincing a nostalgia for classic Hollywood narrative, his casual ramblings are not rigorously intellectual, but offer unusually good-natured commentary in the notoriously difficult world of film criticism. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Preface: A Month of Sundaysp. vii
Mind Slips: Remembering and Disremembering Moviesp. 3
King Vidor: Romantic Idealistp. 21
Garbo: The Legend as Actressp. 31
Frank Capra: One Man, Many Filmsp. 61
Irene Dunne: A Secret Lightp. 79
Bette Davis: Marked Womanp. 94
Auteur of Our Miseryp. 102
Charles Laughton: No Room for Geniusp. 116
Laurence Olivier: The Master Builderp. 141
Time Out: Or, Love in a Cold Climatep. 151
Satyajit Ray: Days and Nights in the Art Housesp. 157
Fellini: Send in the Clownsp. 167
Cinema Paradiso: The Rise and Fall of a Film Culturep. 178
Sam Fuller: Movie Bozop. 201
Richard Brooks: Tales Out of Schoolp. 211
Real Reality Bitesp. 227
Advantage, Andyp. 236
The Star on the Stairsp. 253
Clint on the Back Ninep. 268
The Narrative Crisisp. 279
Author's Notep. 301