Behind the Scenes
Mel Stuart's 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory has become a cult classic, equally enjoyed by children and adults. Fans of the film will delight in Stuart and Josh Young's Pure Imagination: The Making of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, a compendium of facts, photos and film stills concerning the movie Roger Ebert called "probably the best film of its sort since The Wizard of Oz." The authors explain the role Roald Dahl played in the film, who the candidates for the role of Willy Wonka were (besides Gene Wilder), how the whimsical set—from the chocolate river to Mike Teevee's TV room—was created, what went into Violet Beauregarde's blueberry costume and more. The Youngs also provide an intriguing look at special effects in the pre-Spielbergian early 1970s, an overview of critics' responses (Pauline Kael called it "stilted and frenetic, like Prussians at play") and a "where are they now" section (Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie Bucket, never again appeared in a feature film, while Julie Cole, who played Veruca Salt, developed a successful voice-over career). (St. Martin's/L.A Weekly, $29.95 160p ISBN 0-312-28777-1; Nov. 11)
Along with Miles Davis's seminal album, Kind of Blue, saxophonist John Coltrane's A Love Supreme is undoubtedly one of the world's most influential jazz recordings. Recorded with pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones over the course of one evening in 1964, the record "caught Coltrane at a pivotal point in his creative trajectory: the crystallizing of his four years with this renowned quartet, moments before his turn toward the final, most debated phase of his career." In A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album, Ashley Kahn (Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece) covers how the album was made, where it was made, why it is so important and how it reached such a broad audience (it is one of the top-selling jazz albums of all time). Music fans and historians will devour the book, which is rife with anecdotes and commentary from Bono, Phil Lesh, Alice Coltrane (Coltrane's widow); black-and-white photographs; and previously unpublished interviews with Coltrane himself. It features a foreword written by Elvin Jones. (Viking, $27.95 256p ISBN 0-670-03136-4; On sale Oct. 28)
More Than "Two Thumbs Up"
Countering that there are not enough nationally known black movie reviewers, The Diva, Bams and Cass formed their own critics' circle, 3 Black Chicks. They've gathered their reviews of "chick flicks," "late-night booty-call flicks," "movies that just plain suck" and other films in 3 Black Chicks Review Flicks: Movie Reviews With Flava! The women have unique criteria for judging a movie, among them "the Black Factor" (the presence or absence of black cast and crew members) and "the Brotha Rule" (which often applies to action films, where a black character sacrifices himself for the life of a Caucasian main character). Each entry takes up less than a page, culminating in a rating somewhere between red light (meaning "I don't think so!") and green light ("What are you waiting for?"). It's a unique and refreshing way of looking at films that should appeal to all moviegoers. (HarperCollins/Amistad, $17.95 paper 352p ISBN 0-06-050871-X; Oct. 15)
A sort of Oprah's Book Club for filmgoers, journalist Dennis Hensley's movie discussion parties have allowed members to examine the merits—or weaknesses—of Glitter, The Sound of Music, Taxi Driver and other movies that have made a lasting impact on pop culture. Screening Party collects a handful of those saucy discussions, serving as not only a compendium of hilarious criticisms, but also an intelligent commentary on how deeply movies can affect our culture. On St. Elmo's Fire, one member asserts, "It's a good movie," but, after receiving a straight-faced, silent response from the group, reconsiders with, "Okay, it's not, but it's got so much nostalgia value." They evaluate the five actors who've played James Bond over the last 35-plus years—Sean Connery wins as Best Bond—and ruminate on the character himself ("James Bond is completely offensive," states one member, while another suggests, "I like Bond because he's self-created"). (Alyson, $16.95 paper 256p ISBN 1-55583-733-6; Sept.)
"Among the most prominent African Americans between the end of the first Reconstruction and the beginning of the second," heavyweight champions Jack Johnson and Joe Louis embodied the hopes of black America. Through their stories, historian Thomas R. Hietala explores race relations in his scholarly but accessible history, The Fight of the Century: Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, and the Struggle for Equality. He traces the extraordinary symbolic meaning their victories had for both black and white spectators and media, and the historical backdrop against which their respective victories took place, from the rash of exceptionally brutal lynchings of the 1910s and Woodrow Wilson's frankly anti-integration policies, to the evolution of the urban ghetto and the persistence of Jim Crow in the 1930s and 1940s. (M.E. Sharpe, $39.95 416p ISBN 0-7656-0722-0)
Gregory Baer is the former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Institutions, and Gary Gensler was once Under Secretary of the Treasury responsible for policies in the areas of U.S. financial markets, debt management and financial services. The two have teamed up to write The Great Mutual Fund Trap: An Investment Recovery Plan. Their book is meant for Americans who invest in the stock or bond market as a means to achieve long-term goals—such as paying their children's college tuition or securing their own retirement—but who, say Baer and Gensler, are paying unnecessary fees and running needless risks. Wishing to alert consumers to the traps that await them in financial markets, the authors offer alternatives and new opportunities for investors to improve returns and diminish risks, such as moving from "active" to "passive" investment, investing in international stocks, distrusting "hot funds" and investing in index funds. Conversational and easy to read, Baer and Gensler present realistic advice that will be useful to everyday investors. (Broadway, $26 352p ISBN 0-7679-1071-0)