The World and Its Double: The Life and Work of Otto Preminger

Chris Fujiwara, Author . Faber and Faber $30 (479p) ISBN 978-0-571-21117-3

Preminger, maker of classics like Anatomy of a Murder and bombs like the LSD-tinged Jackie Gleason vehicle Skidoo , was the archetype of the tyrannical Hollywood director. A cue-ball–headed bully who alternated icy sarcasm with frothing rages and had “the sense of humor of a guillotine,” Preminger calmed one jittery thespian by shaking him and screaming “Relax! Relax! Relax!” into his face. (In acting roles, Preminger was reliably cast as a Nazi.) Fujiwara’s respectful but lively bio sticks closely to his subject’s groundbreaking if sadistic creative process. Each chapter covers the making of a single movie, starting with Preminger’s wrangles with screenwriters, meddling studio chiefs and Hollywood’s prim Production Code, whose hold his risqué films helped break. Production starting brought the director’s terrorization of cast and crew (“ 'Otto turned on me like a mad dog,’ ” recalls Faye Dunaway), which drove actors of both sexes to hysterical tears—and, some admit, fine performances. Fujiwara’s auteurist appreciations of Preminger’s work tend toward abstract analyses of, say, “the encounter and resistance of objects in space,” but they arouse the reader’s interest in revisiting his films. Photos. (Mar. 11)

Reviewed on: 11/12/2007
Release date: 03/01/2008
Paperback - 479 pages - 978-0-86547-995-1
Hardcover - 479 pages - 978-0-571-22370-1
Ebook - 978-1-4668-9423-5
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