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Escape Artist
The Life and Films of John Sturges
Glenn Lovell

Wisconsin Film Studies

Patrick McGilligan, Series Editor

"John Sturges is the most underrated director in the history of Hollywood."—producer Robert E. Relyea

Escape Artist—based on Glenn Lovell's extensive interviews with John Sturges, his wife and children, and numerous stars including Clint Eastwood, Robert Duvall, and Jane Russell—is the first biography of the director of such acclaimed films as The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, and Bad Day at Black Rock. Lovell examines Sturges's childhood in California during the Great Depression; his apprenticeship in the editing department of RKO Pictures, where he worked on such films as Gunga Din and Of Human Bondage; his service in the Army Air Corps in World War II; and his emergence as one of the first independent producer-directors in Hollywood.

Chronicling the filmmaker's relationships with such luminaries as Spencer Tracy, James Garner, Yul Brynner, and Frank Sinatra, Escape Artist interweaves biography with critical analyses of Sturges's hits and misses. Along the way, Lovell addresses the reasons why Sturges has been overlooked in the ongoing discussion of postwar Hollywood and explores the director's focus on masculinity, machismo, and male-bonding in big-budget, ensemble action films. Lovell also examines Sturges's aesthetic sensibility, his talent for composing widescreen images, and his uncanny ability to judge raw talent—including that of Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn, all of whom began their careers in Sturges's movies.

This long overdue study of a major Hollywood director will find a welcome home in the libraries of film scholars, action movie buffs, and anyone interested in the popular culture of the twentieth century.

“John Sturges was one of cinema’s greatest action directors. His pioneering mastery of the wide screen process is unparalleled. For my money, he's also a candidate for one of last century’s most underrated directors, period. Glenn Lovell's examination of Sturges’s life and films finally corrects this error.”—John Carpenter

"We don't need more books on Bette Davis or Joan Crawford, but we do need more books like Glenn Lovell's reasoned, insightful biography of John Sturges, one of American movies' best directors of character-driven action movies. Sturges was the successor to accomplished directorial pros like Victor Fleming and Henry Hathaway, and films like The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape were his best testament . . . until Lovell's book."—Scott Eyman, author of Lion of Hollywood: The Life of Louis B. Mayer

Glenn Lovell is the former film critic for the San Jose Mercury News. He has written for the Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Variety, and Columbia Journalism Review. He teaches film studies at De Anza College and other schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. He contributed to Tender Comrades: A Backstory of the Hollywood Blacklist by Patrick McGilligan and Paul Buhle.

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Of Related Interest

I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History

Walter Mirisch
Forewords by Sidney Poitier and Elmore Leonard

"Walter Mirisch's love of movies led him to make some of the best films that the industry has produced. Whether as producer or as an executive of one of the best production companies in town, he has seen it all and now can tell it all to you from his own fiercely independent perspective."
—Steven Spielberg

Cover image is black with yellow writing.  There is a black and white picture from an older film.

December 2008
LC: 2008011967 PN
352 pp.    6 x 9
20 b/w illus.

Book icon Paper $26.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-22834-7
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