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Cult movie stars

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Cult Movie Stars (1991) - Danny Peary
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Cult Movie Stars was my first movie book, it gave me new perspectives on the nature of cinema. I went into the Fnac and asked for a book on movies, but 'other' films. A sales lady recommended this one. It was my first foray into cult films. Somewhat dated by still highly recommended. [Nov 2006]

Cult of personality: directors or actors

That an actor is more important than a director to 'sell' a movie to its audience is apparent from the fact that Amazon lists the name of the movie star next to a movie, not the director.

As a rule, I try to follow the work of certain directors, but seeing one of my favourite actors or actresses starring in a film is a reason in itself to see it.

For an interesting view on how directors choose their actors and what they desire from them is Catherine Breillat's 2003 highbrow and entertaining movie Sex is Comedy.

My personal favourite actors include James Spader, Jennifer Jason Leigh, James Woods, Dirk Bogarde, Michael Moriarty, Christopher Walken, Karen Black, Gérard Depardieu, Patrick Dewaere, Philippe Noiret, Bruce Dern, ...

Cult Movie Stars (1991) - Danny Peary

Cult Movie Stars sounds like a publisher's idea for a follow-up to Peary's best known books, but if it isn't in the same league as those, it's certainly worth owning. Peary deals with 750 performers, ranging from major stars like Dietrich, Davis and Bogart, to horror actors, skin-flick starlets and even British comedians (at last an American book which recognises the Sid James phenomenon, even if it does mistakenly say he was in Carry On Nurse). Certainly one can quibble about the selection criteria (De Niro is included but not Pacino; I looked in vain for Mariana Hill; and to bring the book up to date, perhaps the likes of Winona Ryder and Christian Slater should have been present) - but that would be to miss the point. This does not attempt to be a definitive reference book but an appealing dip into the world of cult stars - hence there is no attempt to provide complete filmographies, just a smattering of the stars' most interesting output.

Peary writes: ‘My intention is to get movie fans to seek out particular stars and show why others are so devoted to them.’ His mini-essays succeed at this, communicating a real enthusiasm for cultural icons and obscure exploitation stars alike. His criticism is concise and full of insight - and he has a talent for useful subjective writing. Of Natalie Wood, he writes: ‘It's such a relief when Santa gets her the home she dreams about in Miracle on 34th Street, when James Dean loves her in Rebel Without a Cause ...I just wish someone was there for her in Splendor in the Grass. She was my favourite actress and, like many, I get chills when, in that picture, she almost drowns.’
Darren Slade

[Book that got me started in being interested in offbeat cinema: About movie stars and their films who developed a cult audience. Riveting read. Limited availability.]

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