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Who the Hell's in It: Portraits and Conversations
by Peter Bogdanovich

Peter Bogdanovich, the director of such films as The Last Picture Show and The Cat's Meow, has compiled in this book a group of essays, each one about a specific actor, many, if not all, of them legendary (the actors, not the essays). The actors range from Stella Adler, the legendary acting coach, to River Phoenix, the tragic model for fatal drug overdoses.

Some of the chapters are less involving than others, and this can be attributed to Bogdanovich's limited relationships with some of the subjects in the book. However, some of the chapters are also incredibly gripping, as Bogdanovich paints personal portraits of those close to him throughout his years in film.

My personal favorite chapter was about the aforementioned Phoenix, who was a train wreck waiting to happen, but as Bogdanovich tells it, he was also an unbelievable talent and just a great guy to be around - that is, while he was still around.

The other actor that really captured my attention was John Cassevetes, who is probably more well-known as a pioneering director and producer of independent films. Bogdo (as Cassevetes referred to him) is able to explain some of Cassevetes's genius and cavalier attitude towards filmmaking, which was basically "I'm making this film the way I want - you're either in or out." You just have to respect that.

Overall, the book is uneven, and it almost has to be, with such a wide array of Peter-profiled personalities. This gets a recommendation for those interested in classic Hollywood film lore and the "real" lives of screen legends.

Christopher Moyer
January 19, 2005