Pauline Kael by Brian Kellow
A Life in the Dark

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Synopsis

The first major biography of the most influential, powerful, and controversial film critic of the twentieth century


Pauline Kael was, in the words of Entertainment Weekly's movie reviewer Owen Gleiberman, "the Elvis or Beatles of film criticism." During her tenure at The New Yorker from 1968 to 1991, she was the most widely read and, often enough, the most provocative critic in America. In this first full-length biography of the legend who changed the face of film criticism, acclaimed author Brian Kellow gives readers a richly detailed view of Kael's remarkable life—from her youth in rural California to her early struggles to establish her writing career to her peak years at The New Yorker.

 

About Brian Kellow

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BRIAN KELLOW is the features editor of Opera News, where his column “On the Beat” appears monthly. He is the author of Ethel Merman: A Life and The Bennetts: An Acting Family and coauthor of Can't Help Singing: The Life of Eileen Farrell. He has also written for Opera, Playbill, and Travel & Leisure among others. He lives in New York City.
 
Published October 27, 2011 by Penguin Books. 432 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Humor & Entertainment. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Pauline Kael

Kirkus Reviews

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“For Pauline,” writes Opera News features editor Kellow (Ethel Merman: A Life, 2007 etc.) writes, “being a spectator continued to be the best thing life could offer.” She first came to some prominence as a movie maven in San Francisco, where she selected programs for an art house and opined on fi...

Sep 20 2011 | Read Full Review of Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark

The New York Times

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At the imperial zenith of her career, Pauline Kael labeled a film “the most virtuoso example of sophisticated kaleidoscopic farce that American moviemakers have ever come up with.” This was in the midst of the 1970s, a period that Kael’s sharpest protégé, James Wolcott, now calls “the feudal age ...

Oct 26 2011 | Read Full Review of Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark

The New York Times

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(The erroneous information pertained to another book discussed in this section, “Which Side Are You On?”) A review on Oct. 30 about “Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark,” by Brian Kellow, and “The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael,” edited by Sanford Schwartz, erroneously attributed...

Oct 27 2011 | Read Full Review of Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark

The Wall Street Journal

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But surely it doesn't make any difference whether or not Kael overrated "Shoeshine" in particular: What matters is that people really can feel that kind of transformative passion about a movie, as they can about any work of art, and nobody ever described that experience better than Kael did.

Oct 22 2011 | Read Full Review of Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark

Entertainment Weekly

And as Brian Kellow calmly demonstrates in his rich biography Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark, she was a tough dame — she'd like that term — who worked out personal issues in her criticism.

Oct 19 2011 | Read Full Review of Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark

The Washington Post

Ingrid Bergman’s “good, solid” psychoanalyst in “Spellbound,” “dispensing cures with the wholesome simplicity of a mother adding wheat germ to the family diet.” From a review of “Bloodbrothers” (1978): “Richard Gere is to De Niro and Brando what the singers in ‘Beatlemania’ are to the Beatles.” A...

Oct 25 2011 | Read Full Review of Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark

San Francisco Chronicle

No offense to the very able Brian Kellow, author of the first Pauline Kael biography, but the most famous and influential movie critic ever wouldn't have welcomed his book "Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark" with open arms.

Oct 30 2011 | Read Full Review of Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark

Oregon Live

He was a seventh-grade student, as Kellow recalls in "Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark," when he first came across Kael's "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" at the Tillamook County Library.

Dec 03 2011 | Read Full Review of Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark

Slate

Pauline Kael stood only 4 feet 9 inches tall, but a decade after her death (and two decades after she published her last New Yorker review), her shadow still towers over the landscape of film criticism.

Oct 27 2011 | Read Full Review of Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark

Bookmarks Magazine

Club 3 of 5 Stars "[Kael's daughter Gina] James [who functioned as Kael's secretary and companion] didn't speak to Kellow for his book--in the acknowledgements, he thanks her for not blocking him from writing it--and that's a weakness: Kellow frequently ends his chapters with some variation o...

Oct 24 2011 | Read Full Review of Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark

Time Magazine

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Reading Brian Kellow’s Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark, which is thorough and respectful but still full of depressing revelations, brought Kael the flawed human being a little too close.

Nov 02 2011 | Read Full Review of Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark

The American Spectator

Yet Kael often reveled in movies she thought were a mess, just as anyone who reads Brian Kellow's incisive, detailed biography of America's most impassioned and influential movie critic, Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark (Viking, 417 pages, $27.95), is sure to be absorbed, sucked in, by Kael's cl...

Mar 31 2015 | Read Full Review of Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark

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