Celebrating cinema then and now
GEHRING LOST & FOUND: SELECTED ESSAYS by Wes D. Gehring. Published by BearManor Media. 319 pages. Hardcover edition: $35 retail. Softcover edition: $25 retail.
It seems that every time I write a book review, Wes D. Gehring is the author of the book in question. In the last six months alone, I’ve covered Buster Keaton In His Own Time and Hitchcock and Humor (both published by McFarland Books), and here comes the prolific Gehring once again.
As the title implies, Gehring Lost and Found is a collection of essays written over the last four decades by Gehring, who teaches at Ball State University, is the associate media editor for USA Today Magazine (where some of these entries were originally published), and more recently has been seen on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) as an on-screen host and scholar.
A favorite topic of Gehring’s, as anyone familiar with his work already knows, is vintage screen comedy, and it’s well-represented here, with observations about such legendary funnymen as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, W.C. Fields, Red Skelton, and Robert Benchley, to name a few. Having written entire volumes on classic comedy, including the aforementioned Keaton title and several books about Red Skelton, it’s clear this is a realm he revels in, and for sure knows extensively about it.
He even includes his essay “McCarey vs. Capra: A Guide to American Comedies of the ’30s” (initially published in 1978), comparing and contrasting the work of Leo McCarey (Going My Way) and Frank Capra (It Happened One Night), which prompted the still-living Capra to compliment him in correspondence, although he did point out that he and McCarey were great friends.
The essay “Hollywood’s Dilemma About Posthumous Releases,” which is also self-explanatory, examines how the last films of James Dean, Carole Lombard, Will Rogers, Jean Harlow, and others were received at the time of their release, and whether or not that assessment has changed over time. Indeed it has: Lombard’s final film, Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be (1942), was shunned by audiences and slammed by critics, yet is now regarded as a classic.
Oddly enough, and this could have easily been fixed, Gehring mentions that Oliver Reed, who died during the production of Gladiator (2000), received a posthumous Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. In actuality, he received a posthumous BAFTA nomination (the British equivalent of the Oscars) in that category. Oliver Reed was never nominated for an Oscar.
Nevertheless, for movie buffs and Gehring devotees, Gehring Lost and Found is yet another learned but unpretentious work, frequently fascinating and never heavy-handed – and always seasoned with a clear sense of affection and respect for the subject (or subjects) at hand.
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