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The Spectator: Talk About Movies and Plays With the People Who Make Them

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Unlike Terkel’s previous oral histories (Hard Times, Working, etc.), this one records famous, not ordinary, people—film and theater eminences in conversations going back to the 1950s. So here, among many others, is a pensive, portentous, poetry-quoting Marlon Brando circa 1965, a brisk James Cagney in 1981 talking about acting (”just a job”), a comically eruptive Zero Mostel, plus Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lillian Gish, Tennessee Williams, and lots of European directors and actors. For every silly, self-absorbed passage there are a dozen shrewd observations about acting and life. B+