Steven Spielberg

Joseph McBride, Author Simon & Schuster $30 (528p) ISBN 978-0-684-81167-3
Whereas John Baxter's identically titled biography of Spielberg (Forecasts, Feb. 24) was based almost entirely on previously published interviews, McBride has interviewed more than 300 of the director's family, friends and co-workers, though not Spielberg himself. The result is a more sympathetic but also lopsided portrait of the man than Baxter's, with too much emphasis on Spielberg's childhood and young manhood. It isn't until nearly the book's halfway point that McBride gets to the making of The Sugarland Express, Spielberg's first feature film. Much of the early material is illuminating, especially the examination of Spielberg's Jewish roots, which he did not publicly acknowledge until Schindler's List, and the portrait of Spielberg as an ambitious, inventive and driven filmmaker even as a boy in Scottsdale, Ariz. But with so much about the young Spielberg, the director's adult career is given short shrift. With less new material to work with--McBride and Baxter use many of the same anecdotes--the second half of the book seems rushed in comparison to its leisurely first. McBride's readings of the individual films, however, are shrewd and unsentimental. The book ends with a persuasive reading of Schindler's List, which McBride sees as a logical outgrowth of Spielberg's career-long artistic preoccupations, rather than, as most critics do, as a break with them. Either the McBride or the Baxter will serve readers as a splendid introduction to the life and work of this fascinating director. The book presents a thorough filmography, including some of Spielberg's amateur films. Photos not seen by PW. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/28/1997
Release date: 05/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
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