New Books By Joseph McBride
Description:  Joseph McBride is a film historian and associate professor in the Cinema Department at San Francisco State University. His many other books include HAWKS ON HAWKS and WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO ORSON WELLES?: A PORTRAIT OF AN INDEPENDENT CAREER and the critical studies ORSON WELLES and JOHN FORD (the latter with Michael Wilmington).


Until the first edition of Steven Spielberg: A Biography was published in 1997, much about Spielberg's personality and the forces that shaped it and his films had remained enigmatic, in large part because of his tendency to obscure and mythologize his own past. But in this first full-scale, in-depth biography of Spielberg, the world's most popular filmmaker, Joseph McBride reveals hidden dimensions of the filmmaker's personality and shows how deeply personal even his most commercial work has been.
This long-awaited new edition adds four fascinating chapters to Spielberg's life story, chronicling his extraordinarily active and creative period from 1997 to the present, a period in which he has balanced his executive duties as one of the partners in the film company DreamWorks SKG with a remarkable string of films as a director. Spielberg's ambitious recent work -- including Amistad, Saving Private Ryan, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report, The Terminal, and Munich -- has continually expanded his range both stylistically and in terms of adventurous, often controversial subject matter
Steven Spielberg: A Biography, which the Los Angeles Times Book Review praised for its "prodigious amount of research" and the New York Times Book Review called an "exemplary portrait" of the artist, brought about a reevaluation of the great filmmaker's life and work by those who viewed him as merely a facile entertainer. Spielberg has long been one of the most successful directors in movie history, responsible for many boxoffice blockbusters and film classics, including Jaws, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Jurassic Park. Yet throughout much of Spielberg's career, his work was undervalued by critics who questioned his emotional maturity and intellectual seriousness. It was not until he made Schindler's List in 1993 that he was widely recognized as a serious filmmaker.
This new edition guides readers through the mature artistry of Spielberg's later period in which, in his sixties, he manages, against considerable odds, to run a successful film company while maintaining and enlarging his high artistic standards as one of America's most thoughtful, sophisticated, and popular filmmakers.

NIGEL MORRIS, author of The Cinema of Steven Spielberg: Empire of Light, writes: I constantly referred to the first edition of Joseph McBride's biography as an authoritative source of factual information, only to find myself re-reading whole sections, such is the compelling power of his storytelling and effortless prose. The second edition brings the narrative bang up to date. It covers such developments as Spielberg's emergence from being not merely one of the world's most highly commercial popular entertainers -- an intriguing and important topic in itself -- to his becoming a recognized serious filmmaker, as well as a public figure rubbing shoulders with presidents and prime ministers. The new material also traces the mixed fortunes of Spielberg's ambitious DreamWorks studio project and his artistic -- and, equally high-profile -- offscreen responses to the post-9/11 political climate.
Like any great biographer, McBride is fascinated by his subject, but he never loses a judicious sense of critical detachment. The book is opinionated in the best possible sense, rigorously researched and authoritative in its judgments of both the filmmaker and the man. While McBride clearly has enormous respect and admiration for Spielberg's finest work as a director, when he is disappointed or dismayed by dubious aesthetic choices or political pronouncements he does not shy away from saying so. He effectively debunks myths that have become accreted to Spielberg's popular image, whether these have been propagated by publicists or used by hostile academics and media pundits to oppose him. Sensitive analysis of the films repeatedly offers insights into how they relate to Spielberg's life and, more significantly, the cultural and historical context of his activities. With this tour de force, McBride remains the godfather of Spielberg studies.

STEVEN AWALT, editor of, writes: Joseph McBride's biography of Steven Spielberg is the touchstone all film fans, students and scholars of Spielberg's work should find indispensable. This sorely needed and very welcome updated edition offers views and well-reasoned and argued defenses on wrongly neglected and dismissed modern works like Amistad and A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Filled with perceptive, insightful, and critical analysis of Spielberg's canon, McBride's book should engender further understanding, discussion and plenty of material for spirited conversation and even debate on Steven Spielberg's filmography and personal history.

Praise for the First Edition:

- A brilliant book...truly a labor of love. -- Fred Zinnemann, director of High Noon and A Man for All Seasons
- A penetrating, incisive biography. . . . McBride leaves the competition in the dust. He combines extensive research into Spielberg's life with lucid, well-considered analyses of his films, discovering in them a depth and originality that will surprise even Spielberg's greatest fans. . . . Film history at its best: rich in information, often dazzling in perception. -- Kirkus
- Compulsively readable. . . . This will get us as close to Spielberg as we can without being Kate Capshaw. -- David Kronke, New Times (Los Angeles)
- Easily the finest and fairest of the unauthorized biographies of the director. -- Time
- Indispensable. . . . All future biographers will have to stop here first; likewise, all movie lovers who want to understand Spielberg and his place in film history. . . . [McBride] gives us the muscle and marrow of a misunderstood, paradoxically reclusive, world-renowned public figure -- and the story he tells energizes his thorough, tough-minded critiques of Spielberg's films. -- L. A. Weekly Literary Supplement
- McBride's years of research, including more than 300 interviews, allow him to write with impressive detail and sensitivity. He admires his subject's work, but he isn't afraid to enumerate the flaws. . . . He has given us an exemplary portrait of the artist . . . as close to an authoritative book on Spielberg's work as is possible at this point.-- Shawn Levy, The New York Times Book Review


John Ford’s classic films -- such as Stagecoach, The Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley, They Were Expendable, The Quiet Man, The Searchers, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance -- have earned him worldwide admiration as America’s foremost filmmaker, a director whose rich visual imagination conjures up indelible, deeply moving images of our collective past. Ford’s films about American history are profound explorations of the national character and the crucibles in which that character was forged. Throughout his long and prolific career, Ford became best known for redefining the Western genre, setting his dramas about pioneer life against the timeless backdrop of Monument Valley.
When Orson Welles was asked which directors he most admired, he replied, “The old masters. By which I mean John Ford, John Ford, and John Ford.” As a man, however, Ford was tormented, conflicted, and deliberately enigmatic. He protected himself by concealing his true personality from the public, presenting himself as an illiterate hack rather than as the sensitive artist his films show him to be. He shrewdly guided the careers of some of Hollywood’s greatest stars, including John Wayne, Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Maureen O’Hara, and Katharine Hepburn, but he could be abusive, even sadistic, in his treatment of actors. His personal politics veered from progressive to reactionary; his body of work is impossible to categorize politically. Little wonder that those who have written about Ford have either strained to reconcile the daunting paradoxes of his work and personality or avoided those issues entirely. They have printed the legend and ignored the facts -- or printed the facts and obscured the legend.
In its depth, originality, and insight, Searching for John Ford surpasses all previous biographies of the filmmaker. It has been hailed as “definitive” by both the New York Times and the Irish Times, and won the award for Best Foreign Film Book of the Year from the French film critics’ association in 2007. The Sunday Times (London) wrote, “Thirty years in the making, McBride’s exhaustive book will surely be the last word on John Ford.” Le Monde (Paris) called it “Prodigious . . . captivating like a novel.”
Encompassing and illuminating Ford’s complexities and contradictions, Joseph McBride comes as close as anyone ever will to solving what Andrew Sarris called the “John Ford movie mystery.” McBride traces the trajectory of Ford’s life from his beginnings as “Bull” Feeney, the nearsighted, football-playing son of Irish immigrants in Portland, Maine, through to his establishment as America’s most formidable and protean filmmaker. McBride interviewed Ford at the end of his career in 1970 and more than 120 of the director’s friends, relatives, collaborators, and colleagues. Blending lively and penetrating analyses of Ford’s films with an impeccably documented narrative of the historical and psychological contexts in which those films were created, McBride has at long last given John Ford the biography his stature demands. Searching for John Ford will stand as the definitive portrait of an American genius.

Praise for Searching for John Ford:

- McBride has written the best life of [John Ford] we are likely to have, and his judgments of the films, his ways of telling us about them, are invariably intelligent and sensitive. . . . He has been studying Ford for thirty years or so, and he writes of him with great skill and even, when appropriate, with eloquence. He displays his wide knowledge of American social and film history with tact, wit, and imagination. -- THOMAS FLANAGAN, The New York Review of Books
- John Ford was the most complex and fascinating man I have ever known, and Joe McBride captures that. Searching for John Ford is the best book about him that I have read. No film library is complete without it. -- HARRY CAREY, JR., actor in ten Ford films and author of Company of Heroes: My Life as an Actor in the John Ford Stock Company
- Joseph McBride's book has the sweep, passion, complexity, and tragic grandeur of a great John Ford film. Thoroughly detailed and researched, McBride's book fills in the gaps and gives us the man in full: sentimental yet cruel, brilliant yet forever feigning illiteracy, politically liberal at one moment and conservative the next. Ultimately, McBride shows us that this artist, who balked at the very mention of the word art, could speak fully and honestly only through his films. For those of us who grew up on those films, the book is a treasure, and an eye-opener. For younger people who don't know his work, who have yet to appreciate the timeless beauty of his greatest pictures, Searching for John Ford should be compulsory reading. -- MARTIN SCORSESE


Frank Capra's beloved films are idealistic, patriotic, full of human comedy, and often sentimental -- so much so that skeptics have called them Capracorn. Moviegoers often assume that the director's life resembled his classic films, such as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Meet John Doe, or It's a Wonderful Life: A man of the people faces tremendous odds and, by doing the right thing, triumphs. But as Joseph McBride reveals in this meticulously researched, definitive biography, the reality was far more complex, a true American tragedy.
An immigrant from Sicily, Capra came to America with his family as a child in 1903 and struggled against great odds to achieve an education and find success as a Hollywood gag man and director. His great popular and critical breakthrough with the classic 1934 romantic comedy It Happened One Night, while bringing him the triumphant vindication and social acceptance he craved, also caused him to fall into a state of crisis, doubt his own abilities, take credit belonging to others, and gradually pull his political punches. When the post-World War II Red Scare caused Capra and his work to be considered possibly subversive, because of its elements of social criticism during the Depression era and his associations with leftwing writers, he panicked and betrayed his ideals.
Using declassified U.S. government documents about the director's response to those charges, and drawing on extensive interviews with Capra and 174 of his collaborators, family members, friends, and colleagues, McBride chronicles Capra's creative and personal downfall. While examining in detail the evolution of Capra's great films, McBride shows that the conventional view of the director's life, propagated in his autobiography The Name Above the Title, is far from the truth. The life story of this celebrated director of human comedies was, in fact, tragically at odds with the ideals his films so movingly espouse.

Praise for Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success:

- Masterly, comprehensive, and frequently surprising. -- BARRY GEWEN, The New York Times Book Review
- Easily the best -- certainly the most realistic -- biography of a film director in the age of the Auteur, to which this is a counterbalance. -- GORE VIDAL
- Revelatory and important biography . . . Frank Capra is a milestone in its quiet but firm rejection of the legend in favor of facts . . . McBride has delivered the evidence through magnificent and resourceful research. -- DAVID THOMSON, The Boston Globe
- A formidable -- and resolutely iconoclastic -- life of the director, one that wears its ample research so lightly that its seven-hundred-odd pages are a constant pleasure to read. -- DENNIS DRABELLE, The Washington Post Book World
- A major book . . . Superbly researched and almost continually surprising. -- GAVIN LAMBERT, The Los Angeles Times Book Review
- Joseph McBride has cleared away all the Kris Kringle cobwebs from the illustrious life and career of Frank Capra. The most authoritative study of the director to date reveals Capra the troubled, complex, ultimately controversial player in Hollywood's classic power struggle and Faustian ordeals. This book is chock full of facts and figures and marvelous insight. -- ANDREW SARRIS, author of The American Cinema
- This is more than just another biography of a movie director. It paints a lively picture of Hollywood's Golden Age, and the horrors of the anti-Communist witch hunt and blacklist that followed. But it remains above all the dramatic story of one of the most interesting characters ever to emerge in Hollywood. -- PHILIP DUNNE, The Chicago Sun-Times
- While the book may crumble our iconic preconceptions of who Frank Capra was, it does a greater justice to him in its documenting the life of a complex man, who struggled for respect from his peers and family, but never received it on his own terms or to his own satisfaction . . . The reader is likely to be left with a compassionately balanced understanding of what was both good and bad about Frank Capra as a human being and artist, and also a great appreciation of the mammoth work turned in by McBride. -- CARL BENNETT, Silent Era website

Into the Nightmare: My Search for the Killers of President John F. Kennedy and Officer J. D. Tippit

. . . was how Norman Mailer predicted the tumultuous period that led to President John F. Kennedy's 1963 murder on a public street and the fifty years of controversy that have followed that turning point in our nation's history. Journalist and historian Joseph McBride, a volunteer in JFK's 1960 Wisconsin presidential primary campaign, began studying the assassination minutes after it happened. In 1982, McBride launched his own investigation. Both epic and intimately personal, Into the Nightmare: My Search for the Killers of President John F. Kennedy and Officer J. D. Tippit incorporates rare interviews with key people in Dallas, archival discoveries, and what novelist Thomas Flanagan, in The New York Review of Books, called McBride's "wide knowledge of American social history." McBride chronicles his evolving skepticism about the official story and shines a fresh, often surprising spotlight on Kennedy's murder and on one of the murkiest, most crucial aspects of the case, its "Rosetta Stone," the Tippit killing.

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