cover image Carol Reed: A Biography

Carol Reed: A Biography

Nicholas Wapshott, Author Alfred A. Knopf $30 (365p) ISBN 978-0-679-40288-6

Reed (1906-1976), one of the English cinema's best craftsmen (he directed The Third Man and won an Oscar for the musical Oliver! ), was also one of its more taciturn figures, a quality that hampers Wapshott, the editor of the London Times Magazine , in this workmanlike biography. Reed, the illegitimate son of the renowned stage actor and impressario, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, had considerable domestic entanglements of his own. (His first marriage, to actress Diana Wynyard, was compromised by Reed's lingering affections for another woman.) Distinguishing his career from that of such auteurs as Bunuel and Hitchcock, he considered himself a mere entertainer, not an artist. These elements could be the stuff of a psychologically intricate portrait, yet Wapshott's biography is more successful as a series of anecdotes about movie-making and unmaking--Reed's protracted wrangling with a headstrong Marlon Brando on the set of Mutiny on the Bounty lost him the director's job. Given that Reed's collaborators included Graham Greene, Ralph Richardson, James Mason and David O. Selznick, the stories recounted here are rarely dull. Yet a clear, unified portrait of a complex and private man never quite emerges. Photos. (Aug.)