Princeton University Press, £20.95, 311pp. £18.86 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
'Reading this book is like spending time with your terrifically well-read great uncle. There is a tendency to ramble and repeat, but the stories are good enough that you forgive him. There is a rosy glow about Hollywood and the mid-20th century in general that is hard, for me at any rate, to take entirely seriously; but there is also, if you can hang in long enough, a lot of learning and a dash of wisdom too. '