majestic hollywood1939 was a watershed year. The Great Depression was barely over; economics, politics, and culture braced for war. There was a lull before the storm and Hollywood, as if expecting to be judged by posterity, produced a portfolio of masterpieces. No year before or since has yielded so many beloved works of cinematic art: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Gunga Din, Only Angels Have Wings, Destry Rides Again, Beau Geste, Wuthering Heights, The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, Ninotchka, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Dark Victory, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Women, and of course, Gone With the Wind.

Majestic Hollywood showcases fifty films from this landmark year, with insightful text on the cultural significance of each movie and entertaining plot descriptions. Also included are stories from the legendary artists who made the films: directors William Wellman and John Ford; cinematographers Arthur Miller and Lee Garmes; actors Judy Garland, Rosalind Russell, Ray Milland, Sir Laurence Olivier, and Olivia de Havilland. This world of entertainment is illustrated by rarely seen images. Made during the most glamorous era in movie history, whether scene stills, behind-the-scenes candids, portraits, or poster art, the photos are as distinctive, evocative, and powerful as the films they were meant to publicize. Presenting the best of these images and the stories behind them, this book is a cavalcade of unforgettable films from 1939: Hollywood’s Greatest Year. (description from publisher)

five came backFive Came Back gives us the untold story of how Hollywood changed World War II, and how World War II changed Hollywood through the prism of five film directors caught up in the war: John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens.

It was the best of times and the worst of times for Hollywood before the war. The box office was booming, and the studios’ control of talent and distribution was as airtight as could be hoped. But the industry’s relationship with Washington was decidedly uneasy – hearings and investigations into allegations of corruption and racketeering were multiplying, and hanging in the air was the insinuation that the business was too foreign, too Jewish, too “un-American” in its values and causes. Could an industry this powerful in shaping America’s mind-set really be left in the hands of this crew? Following Pearl Harbor, Hollywood had the chance to prove its critics wrong and did so with vigor, turning its talents and its business over to the war effort to an unprecedented extent.

No industry professionals played a bigger role in the war than America’s most legendary directors: Ford, Wyler, Huston, Capra, and Stevens. Between them they were on the scene of almost every major moment of America’s war, and in every branch of service – army, navy, and air force; Atlantic and Pacific; from Midway to North Africa; from Normandy to the fall of Paris and the liberation of the Nazi death camps; to the shaping of the message out of Washington, D.C. As it did for so many others, World War II divided the lives of these men into before and after. Even less well understood, the war divided the history of Hollywood into before and after as well. Harris reckons with that transformation on a human level and on the level of the industry and the country as a whole. Like these five men, Hollywood too, and indeed all of America, came back from the war having grown up more than a little. (description from publisher)

In case it wasn’t already obvious, the librarians who write for this blog LOVE A Song of Ice and Fire. We really can’t seem to stop writing about it. If you do too, these two brand new items are definitely worth a look:

Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones by Bryan Cogman: an in-depth look at the HBO series, with material from both the first and second season. Interviews of the cast, behind the scenes photography, stills from the show, family trees, interviews with production designers and costume designers and conceptual artists: everything you could really want. If you’ve combed the extra material on the DVD sets, most of this isn’t new, but it’s gorgeous anyway.


The Lands of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin: This brand new non-book is more than it appears: it’s a set of twelve full-color poster sized maps folded up and packaged in book shape. But when you unfold them, it’s a fantasy reader’s dream! Detailed, beautiful maps with tons of new information: before now, the exact parameters and proportions of Martin’s vast imagined world were not exactly defined. But now, NOW we finally know where the Dothraki sea sits in relation to the Red Waste; where the Shadow Lands and Asshai are; the layout of the canals of Braavos; and oh, behold the new details of the smoking ruins of Valyria!! It’s glorious, but a warning: if you are a show-watcher and not a book-reader, there are spoilers inside!

(And in case you’re just starting out, you can find the novels at many Rivershare libraries.)