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Friday, 11 May 2018

The best books about the original Star Wars - part two




Today, I'm finishing my look at some of the most enjoyable or informative books for lovers of the original, 1977 Star Wars.

Its a chronological list, and I'm resuming with the weighty tome that marked the film's 30th anniversary.




7. The Making of Star Wars by JW Rinzler, 2007.


 


It's a book that every first generation Star Wars fan would enjoy.

The pictures, hundreds of them, are almost all rare shots documenting the production, from conception to release. The words are in cruelly small print for an ageing Star Wars fan, but they are fascinating. Rinzler had access to Lucasfilm's archive, of course, including interviews conducted by Charles Lippincott for a planned Making Of book back in 1976.

Occasionally, we get a sense that the official Lucasfilm line is being toed (which became more of a problem with the two sequel volumes), but it's a fascinating read. And in documenting the way the characters and story evolved, the book effectively disproves the idea that the whole saga was planned meticulously from day one.



8. Alec Guinness: The Authorised Biography by Piers Paul Read, 2003.



This is the first book on my list that's not all about Star Wars. In fact, the film and its sequels take up pretty much one chapter of this biography of the great actor. But it's a very revealing chapter.

Alec Guinness had been publicly supportive of George Lucas's film when it came out, but his utterances and writings on the subject had become sadly more jaundiced as the years went on.

In this book, his private letters and diaries reveal that he had never been impressed by the way his character was written. He found filming "tedious to a degree  hot, boring and indecisive" and added: "I regret having embarked on the film." He even struggled to remember the name of at least one co-star, coining the name Tennyson Ford.

And yet, when the movie came out, he seems to have been impressed.



9. The Secret History of Star Wars by Michael Kaminski.



I read this in the days when it was available for free online. The author subsequently revised it for publication in print and it's on my "to read" list.

Kaminski's mission is to straighten out some of the myths that have been spread  not least by George Lucas himself  about the way Star Wars was conceived. Back in the 1970s, we were told that Star Wars was the adventures of Luke Skywalker, with any number of possible sequels. Later, it became Episode IV of a serial that variously had six, nine or even twelve chapters. 

Analysing the available evidence in forensic detail, the author deconstructs these different version of reality, and dispenses 
pretty effectively with the idea that there was a grand plan from the early 1970s. He even pins down the date in which he believes Lucas must have conceived the idea of Vader being Luke's father  and it's after the first draft screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back.


10. Collect All 21! Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek  The First 30 Years by John Booth, 2008.



It's been out for nearly a decade and I haven't read this book. So it makes it onto my list because of the joy it's brought other people - and because, from the passages I have seen , I suspect I'm going to like it a lot.

John Booth was eight years old when Star Wars came out. He chronicles his years a child fan, an adult fan and then a parent seeing the saga through the eyes of his own child.



11. Straight From the Force's Mouth: The Autobiography of Dave Prowse, 2011.



It's surprising how few of the key Star Wars personnel have published their memoirs. But it was surely not surprising that Dave Prowse, a great teller of stories in person, was the first of the major cast to do so.

Prowse puts the Star Wars material early in the book and, however many times you might have heard him tell the stories, you'd probably discover something new. Later on, we hear of his time as a body-builder, actor for Kubrick and Hammer Films, and personal trainer to Christopher Reeve in Superman. But the material about his growing-up in Bristol and his confinement to bed with a mystery condition was among the best passages for me.



12. The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher, 2016.




Like many people, I read the extracts that dealt with Fisher's experience making the original Star Wars and her affair with Harrison Ford. It's my intention to review the full book here soon.

Fisher was the first, and so far only, member of the principal Star Wars trio to publish a memoir. She dealt with her mental health problems, her experience of alcohol and drugs, and the decidedly mixed blessing that being in Star Wars must have represented. It's sad that this would be almost her last word on the subject.



13. The Star Wars Phenomenon in Britain by Craig Stevens, 2018.



Finally, the book that gave me the idea for this post.
Just when you thought you knew as much as you'd ever know about the original Star Wars trilogy, along comes Craig Stevens with a fascinating account of the release and merchandising in the country where the films were shot. Even if you're not British, you should read it.


What did I miss out?

What books enlightened or entertained you most on the subject of Star Wars first time around? 

Do leave a comment and I'll aim to rectify the omission. 




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