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Arthur Penn: American Director

by Nat Segaloff

Availablecloth$40.00s 978-0-8131-2976-1
Screen Classics
344 pages  Pubdate: 04/01/2011  6 x 9 x 1  29 b&w photos

Arthur Penn: American Director is the comprehensive biography of one of the twentieth century’s most influential filmmakers. Thematic chapters lucidly convey the story of Penn’s life and career, as well as pertinent events in the history of American film, theater, and television. In the process of tracing the full spectrum of his career, Arthur Penn reveals the enormous scope of Penn’s talent and his profound impact on the entertainment industry in an accessible, engaging account of the well-known director’s life.

Born in 1922 to a family of Philadelphia immigrants, the young Penn was bright but aimless—especially compared to his talented older brother Irving, who would later become a world-renowned photographer. Penn drifted into directing, but he soon mastered the craft in three mediums: television, Broadway, and motion pictures. By the time he made Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Penn was already a Tony-winning Broadway director and one of the prodigies of the golden age of television. His innovative handling of the story of two Depression-era outlaws not only challenged Hollywood’s strict censorship code, it shook the foundation of studio system itself and ushered in the film revolution. His next films—Alice’s Restaurant (1969), Little Big Man (1970), and Night Moves (1975)—became instant classics, summoning emotions from shock to sensuality and from confusion to horror, all of which reflected the complexity of the man behind the camera.

The personal and creative odyssey captured in these pages includes memorable adventures in World War II; the chaotic days of live television; the emergence of Method acting in Hollywood; and experiences with Marlon Brando, Anne Bancroft, Warren Beatty, William Gibson, Lillian Hellman, and a host of other show business legends.

Nat Segaloff is a writer, producer, teacher, and journalist. His writings have appeared in Film Comment, the Journal of the Producers Guild of America, and American Movie Classics Magazine. He is the author of Hurricane Billy: The Stormy Life and Films of William Friedkin and coauthor of Love Stories: Hollywood’s Most Romantic Movies. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

"An important book about an important director."—Paul Cronin, editor of Herzog on Herzog

This is a very well-written, highly appreciative biography of one of the greatest and most versatile directors (stage, screen, television) of the last half of the twentieth century. The fruits of Segaloff's interviewing prowess are evident in every chapter, providing the reader with an intimate view of Penn's life and work. The author takes the reader on a fascinating tour of all of Penn's projects, and made this reader eager to see all the movies again. -- Larry Ceplair, author of The Marxist and the Movies: A Biography of Paul Jarrico

Thanks to author Nat Segaloff we now have a sharply defined chronicle of master craftsman Arthur Penn. Much of this superb delineation of Penn’s creative output derives from the author’s several years of conversations and interviews with Penn. What emerges is a detailed, highly readable study of a master talent who made enormous contribution to Hollywood films, the Broadway stage, and the Golden Age of television. -- James Robert Parish, author of It's Good to Be the King: The Seriously Funny Life of Mel Brooks

No doubt Arthur Penn was among the greatest of American directors. In Arthur Penn, Nat Segaloff captures the essence of the man and the talent—his nobility. If nobility can rub off on a reader, this book is its most likely source. -- Norman Lear

This welcome and valuable book offers more than a mere survey of Penn’s films: it’s a portrait of the man, with especially revealing insights into his process, his work on Broadway, and his significant work in live television drama. -- Leonard Maltin, film critic and historian

This book is a great read, and should be on the shelf of anyone who is thinking about a career in movies. -- Sacremento Review

If director Arthur Penn (1922-2010) had made no other films, he would be well known today for 1967's Bonnie and Clyde, now considered a groundbreaking movie. -- Publishers Weekly

A first-rate biography of a man whose film output was relatively small but exceedingly choice. -- Leonard Maltin's Movie Crazy

A welcome account of an underappreciated talent -- Booklist

"A model of what such things ought to be and seldom are, namely a lucid and gripping survey of your subject's work and personality, a professional's account of a professional."--Christopher Hampton, winner of the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1988 for Dangerous Liasons

"An impressive amount of well-researched material, logically arranged."-- Sight and Sound

"An excellent biography. . . . Meticulously researched and a fitting tribute to a man who was one of our most innovative and creative directors."-- Tuscon Citizen

"Fascinating. . . . Segaloff contextualizes Penn's film and TV work against his theatrical innovations and adds new dimensions to our understanding of a modern master."--DGA Quarterly

"Thematic chapters lucidly convery the story of Penn's life and career, as well as pertinent events in the history of American film, theater and television. In the process of tracing the full spectrum of Penn's career, Arthur Penn:American Director reveals the enormous scope of Penn's talent and his profound impact on the entertainment industry in an accessible, engaging account." --Turner Classic Movies

"Nat Segaloff's affectionate . . . appreciation of director Arthur Penn is the precise opposite of a patho-biography, the slash and burn literary genre that delights in dishing dirt and trashing its cover boy. . . the book is enlivened by Penn's blunt, ungaurded recollections and infused with the author's boundless, unapologetic admiration." -- Cineaste

"A biography of noted film director Arthur Penn (1922 - 2010) is long overdue. Segaloff . . . knew Penn personally and might have written the definitive text." -- Choice