The University of Wisconsin Press

Film / Biography / Popular Culture


Tough as Nails
The Life and Films of Richard Brooks
Douglass K. Daniel

Wisconsin Film Studies
Patrick McGilligan, series editor

Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the American Association of School Librarians
Outstanding Book, selected by the Public Library Reviewers

"Reads like a wonderful movie. Richard Brooks’s story is feisty, opinionated, emotional, heartfelt, bitter, angry, warmhearted, and even funny. I loved Richard Brooks and I love this wonderful book."
—Paul Mazursky, Academy Award–nominated filmmake

Called “God’s angry man” for his unyielding demands in pursuit of personal and artistic freedom, Oscar-winning filmmaker Richard Brooks brought us some of the mid-twentieth century’s most iconic films, including Blackboard Jungle, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Elmer Gantry, In Cold Blood, and Looking for Mr. Goodbar. “The important thing,” he once remarked, “is to write your story, to make it believable, to make it live.” His own life story has never been fully chronicled, until now.

Tough as Nails: The Life and Films of Richard Brooks restores to importance the career of a prickly iconoclast who sought realism and truth in his films. Douglass K. Daniel explores how the writer-director made it from the slums of Philadelphia to the heights of the Hollywood elite, working with the top stars of the day, among them Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor, Jean Simmons, Sidney Poitier, Sean Connery, Gene Hackman, and Diane Keaton. Brooks dramatized social issues and depicted characters in conflict with their own values, winning an Academy Award for his Elmer Gantry screenplay and earning nominations for another seven Oscars for directing and screenwriting.

Tough as Nails offers illuminating insights into Brooks’s life, drawing on unpublished studio memos and documents and interviews from stars and colleagues, including Poitier, director Paul Mazursky, and Simmons, who was married to Brooks for twenty years. Daniel takes readers behind the scenes of Brooks’s major films and sheds light on their making, their compromises, and their common threads. Tough as Nails celebrates Brooks’s vision while adding to the critical understanding of his works, their flaws as well as their merits, and depicting the tumults and trends in the life of a man who always kept his own compass.

"In recent years, writer-director Richard Brooks has been making frequent, noisy, walk-on appearances in other people's biographies, picking fights, yelling, being fantastically rude and abrasive, and prompting this reader many times to think, 'Wow, I want to read his biography.' Well, here it is, and it delivers. Not only do we get the very best/worst of Brooks' incredibly irascible on-set personality, we get to see beyond the barking autocrat and observe what several friends and co-workers call 'the miscevious twinkle in his eye', which suggested that the other stuff was maybe all a nervous put-on. More important, author Douglass K. Daniel is cleareyed in his assessment of the enduring value and power of Brooks' best work."––The DGA Quarterly

Douglass K. Daniel is a writer and editor with the Associated Press. He is author of Harry Reasoner: A Life in the News and Lou Grant: The Making of TV’s Top Newspaper Drama.

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

the cover of Daniel's book is a photo from the set of one of his movies, with Peter O'Toole and Brooks.

April 2011

LC: 2010038902 PN
260 pp.   7 x 9 1/2
22 b/w photos

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Paper $26.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-25124-6
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"Mr. Daniel has captured the essence of the artist known as Richard Brooks. The struggle of the Outsider who became an Insider in Hollywood in spite of being a ruffian cannot be put down. I admired Mr. Brooks when I worked with him and through this wonderful book I grew to love him.”
—Shirley Knight, actress




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Updated January 17, 2013

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