REVIEWED BY DAVID M. KINCHEN
In a very recent book review, I told my readers “please don’t skip the introduction”. This goes double for the introduction to Kenneth Turan’s “Not to be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites from a Lifetime of Film” (Public Affairs, 364 pages, index, $25.99).
I’ll give his answer to the second part, because it’s basically the same reason I love to read and review books: “I became a critic out of a deep passion for films and their ability to simultaneously do something I love: take me out of this world and return me too it not only entertained but, if I am fortunate, with my emotions and my understanding enlarged.”
For why Turan chose fifty-four, you’ll have to read the introduction. The films Turan loves are grouped into categories: “In the Beginning”, covering the Silent era; “The Thirties,” “The Forties,” The Fifties,” “The Sixties,” “The Seventies,” “The Eighties,” “The Nineties” and “The New Century.”
In some of the categories, Turan includes a double feature, something that you don’t see at the cineplex these days but something I remember fondly from my early days of movie going. For instance, Turan has an Ernst Lubitsch double feature for The Forties: “The Shop Around the Corner” (1940) and “To Be or Not to Be” (1942),
A book of this type is by definition a personal one, but I found most of the choices pretty much in line with my preferences. But there are some unusual missing movies: In The Forties, you’ll find “Casablanca” (1942) but no “Citizen Kane” (1941) which makes most lists of the greatest films of all time. But Turan hedges his bets with a Second Fifty-Four at the end of the book and lo and behold, Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” makes the Second Fifty-Four.
This Second Fifty-Four includes many well known and well loved films. For instance — continuing in The Forties — we find “Double Indemnity” (1944) and “White Heat” (1949), two classics not to be missed, directed by Billy Wilder and Raoul Walsh, respectively.
Turan’s fifty-four favorite films embrace a century of the world’s most satisfying romances and funniest comedies, the most heart-stopping dramas and chilling thrillers. He discovered film as a child growing up in Brooklyn watching Million Dollar Movie on WOR-TV Channel 9, a daily showcase for older Hollywood features. It was then that he developed a love of cinema that never left him and honed his eye for the most acute details and the grandest of scenes.
Today, the equivalent to Million Dollar Movie would be Turner Classic Movies, a wonderful channel that in 2014 is celebrating 20 years of showing movies without commercials. I probably watch TCM more than any other channel.
If you love movies as much as I do, or even more (that’s impossible!) “Not to be Missed” is not to be missed.
About the Author
Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR’s Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times’ book review editor. A graduate of Swarthmore College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, he is the co-author of Call Me Anna: The Autobiography of Patty Duke. Turan teaches film reviewing and non-fiction writing at USC and is on the board of directors of the National Yiddish Book Center. His most recent books include “Free for All: Joe Papp”, “The Public”, and the Greatest Theater Story Ever Told and “Never Coming To A Theater Near You”. Turan lives in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @KennethTuran.