The New Biographical Dictionary of Film
David Thomson
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Buy *The New Biographical Dictionary of Film: Expanded and Updated* online

The New Biographical Dictionary of Film: Expanded and Updated
David Thomson
1008 pages
November 2004
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Here are some of the quotes that hit my eye, not to say at lightning speed and hard as a well-aimed spitball, as I flicked through the pages of this heavy, opinionated, delightful read:

Arnold Schwarzenegger: “Legend has it that he was a frail child - or you can believe that he was found fully formed (with agent) in a mountain cave in the Alps.”

Piper Laurie: “Sarah Packard, beautiful, wounded, limping, expecting the worst...if only some had remembered her in The Color of Money.”

Robert Mitchum: “For a big man he is immensely agile.”

Dustin Hoffman: “In an age of dynamic male stars who toss opposition aside, Hoffman has had the courage and the need to be inept.”

Sally Field: “The two-time Oscar winner of the eighties is now hard-pressed to find worthwhile roles and she must wonder whether anyone remembers.”

John Malkovich: “There is no hiding his strangeness.”

Federico Fellini: “With great skill, Fellini persuaded many viewers that his dwelling on freaks, underworld degenerates, and the chattering infantile crowd was both satirical and charitable.”

Shirley Temple: “The characteristic Temple situation is not just of a child leading her life under adult shadows, but of a Lilliputian moralist in ringlets, tap-dancing into your heart and then delivering the sententious message that sorts out confusion.”
This is the kind of book you can leave almost anywhere in the house and delve into at your leisure. You’re sure to find something to laugh about, something to disagree with, and some trivia that, really, admit it, you didn’t know before. If you’re a late-night, b & w film buff it will serve you well, but it’s up to the minute, too – the ink is still dripping off the sections on brand new stars and wannabees. David Thomson is known for his sage and sarcastic film world diatribes and he’s done a masterful job with this difficult task, albeit merely the expanded version of an earlier opus.

Thomson knows you can’t please all the people all the time. Even me. I was cheesed off a time or two. Like why, I wanted to ask Thomson, include Jeff Bridges and not Beau? Why James Caan and not Robert Culp? Why Thelma Ritter and not John Ritter? And why in the ever-loving blue-eyed world include Rin Tin Tin?

Arf. Thomson’s barking all the way to the bank. He knows the value of his own work, with all its quirks and jerks, knows that a critic must slice with a sharp knife to reveal truth – and foul odors – at the core of the human heart. Buy it, is my advice.

© 2005 by Barbara Bamberger Scott for

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