Three Hollywood Stalwarts in Literature
A Study in Film Perception Through References to Peck, Mitchum and Holden
by Henryk Hoffmann
The new book by Henry Hoffmann further strengthens his unique position among American authors writing about the history of American cinema. Hoffmann’s books have been consistently unique in the way they trace the literary presence of great stars of the silver screen. By carefully and painstakingly tracing literary references made to specific actors in the process of close reading of hundreds of books (a process I find hard to imagine in its sheer magnitude of required work and focus,) Hoffmann manages to illuminate the culture of 20th-century America by pointing to the pervasive, rich presence of film icons in everyday lives and imaginations of Americans.
In the latest volume, Hoffmann focused on Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum and William Holden – all embodying the Hemingway ideal of “grace under pressure,” all bringing to mind the strictly American trope of the “strong, silent type” that was so key to American masculinity. By evoking the myriad of ways in which these male icons infused the imagination of writers and readers, Hoffmann offers a unique insight into the landscape of American films and literature. I applaud his steady research, great scholarly passion and film lover’s dedication to his task.
University of Warsaw, Poland
Henryk Hoffmann’s “Three Hollywood Stalwarts in Literature. A Study in Film Perception Through References to Peck, Mitchum and Holden” is a solid reference book in which the author documents the cultural importance of three major American actors – Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum and William Holden, and of the movies they played in. The volume is a continuation of Hoffmann’s previous books, where the author studied the impact on American culture of such movie stars as Humphrey Bogart, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, and others. In the present volume, the author undertakes the difficult task of showing how American and European writers reference the three actors and the movies in which they were starring in their works. Hoffmann discovers that, surprisingly, many authors have their literary characters discuss or mention Peck, Mitchum and Holden and the films they helped to make artistically relevant and famous. In his work, the author is painstakingly looking for all the movie references in the novels by the writers he has chosen for analysis. He shows that Peck, Mitchum and Holden hold a particular attraction for the literary characters in those works in a way that enriches their literary lives. While Hoffmann’s volume is basically a study of Hollywood movies’ impact on American and European culture, it also includes many important encyclopedic details concerning the film careers of the three discussed actors. That is why the book should certainly prove interesting to readers interested in film perception and those whose interest in the three Hollywood stars goes beyond mere trivia.
Prof. Dr Hab. Jerzy Durczak
Maria Curie-Sklodowska University, Lublin, Poland
Once again, Henryk Hoffmann shines a light on the fascinating relationships and effects on our culture that movies and their stars have had over the decades. Film – its stories, actors, celebrities, and power to influence - has touched the viewing audience worldwide and is presented on these pages, giving the reader much more to think about than just the plot of a good story or how charismatic and sexy its stars are. The book shows how interwoven the arts are and how the various areas of creativity communicate directly and indirectly.
The three marvelous actors of this book, Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, and William Holden, represent such a different facet of their art. I found it fascinating to read how the author weaves together influences and inspirations that transcend time and space. Whether the readers of this book are cinephiles or an average movie-goer or a young person just becoming acquainted with the science and the art of filmmaking, to delve into “Three Hollywood Stalwarts in Literature” will, I believe, open up new worlds even for those who think they’re well versed in cinematic history. Thank you again Mr. Hoffmann, for helping us expand our horizons.
Maria Cooper Janis
Artist in New York
This book focuses on the perception of the names, personae, performances and films of three Hollywood megastars, Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum and William Holden, as presented in the references and allusions encountered in American and foreign literature. Its secondary aim is to establish the ‘impact factor’ of the three actors and their major films and provide extensive data for further studies on the complex and bilateral relationships between film and literature.
The pertinent quotations in ‘Three Hollywood Stalwarts in Literature: A Study in Film Perception Through References to Peck, Mitchum and Holden’ have been extracted from nearly 220 works by about 140 authors. The majority of the works were written by acclaimed authors; amongst them are some well-known American mainstream writers such as John Updike, John Irving, Fannie Flagg and Anne Tyler; some leaders of the mystery genre include Martha Grimes, Stuart Kaminsky, Elmore Leonard, Sara Paretsky; and a few masters of other popular genres, such as Stephen King and Dean Koontz. The global flavor of the citations is provided by international authors (e.g., Julio Cortázar, Elizabeth Hay, Henri Charrière, Sebastien Japrisot) and authors born to first-generation U.S. immigrants (e.g., Oscar Hijuelos). Almost seventy films referenced in world literature are discussed in the book, and those mentioned in the biggest number of works include ‘Sunset Boulevard’, ‘The Wild Bunch’, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, ‘Roman Holiday’, ‘Spellbound’, ‘The Guns of Navarone’, and ‘Duel in the Sun’, among others.
This book will appeal to college professors and students interested in film studies, specifically film analysis and criticism, film perception, and film genres. It will also hold interest for the general reader interested in biographies of movie personalities and the careers of the three actors, movie and stage actors, and fans of the western, film noir, and war genres.
List of Figures
Part One: GREGORY PECK
I. References to Peck’s Films
II. References to Peck: the Man, the Actor, the Celebrity
III. List of References (Found) to Peck and His Films
IV. Credits of Peck’s Films Referenced
V. Peck’s Monographic Bibliography
Part Two: ROBERT MITCHUM
I. References to Mitchum’s Films
II. References to Mitchum: the Man, the Actor, the Celebrity
III. List of References (Found) to Mitchum and His Films
IV. Credits of Mitchum’s Films Referenced
V. Mitchum’s Monographic Bibliography
Part Three: WILLIAM HOLDEN
I. References to Holden’s Films
II. References to Holden: the Man, the Actor, the Celebrity
III. List of References (Found) to Holden and His Films
IV. Credits of Holden’s Films Referenced
V. Holden’s Monographic Bibliography
Epilogue: Final Remarks and Conclusions
Henryk Hoffmann was born, raised and educated in Poznań, Poland. Upon his graduation from Adam Mickiewicz University with an M.A. degree in English Philology, he worked as an English teacher, translator and interpreter in several institutions, including the Polish Academy of Sciences and his self-owned firm. Since his immigration to the USA in 1992, he has taught Latin, German, English and History, first in North Carolina and then in Pennsylvania.
His previous publications include seven reference books, ‘“A” Western Filmmakers: A Biographical Dictionary of Writers, Directors, Cinematographers, Composers, Actors and Actresses’ (McFarland, 2000, 2008), ‘Western Film Highlights: The Best of the West, 1914-2001’ (McFarland, 2003, 2009), ‘Leksykon gwiazd kina amerykańskiego’ (‘A Biographical Dictionary of American Movie Stars’, Agencja Producentów Filmowych, Warsaw, 2006; written in Polish in collaboration with his daughters, Beata and Katarzyna), ‘Western Movie References in American Literature’ (McFarland, 2012), ‘Four Hollywood Legends in World Literature: References to Bogart, Cooper, Gable and Tracy’ (BearManor Media, 2016), ‘The Careers of Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas as Referenced in Literature: A Study in Film Perception’ (Vernon Press, 2020) and ‘Latin in Modern Fiction: Who Says It’s a Dead Language?’ (Vernon Press, 2021). He has also written one memoir, ‘Ironies, Coincidences and Absurdities in My Ordinary Life on Both Sides of the Atlantic’ (Higher Ground Books & Media, 2019).
Hoffmann’s professional honors include the Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition (2000) for his first book, a two-time inclusion in ‘Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers’ (Educational Communications, 2002 and 2005), an entry in Contemporary Authors (Thomson Gale, 2005), an Honorary Diploma from the Polish Federation of Film Societies (on its 50th Anniversary, 2006).
Hoffmann and his wife Betsy live in Lititz, PA.
Academy Award, Academy Award nomination, allusion, fandom, film genre, film noir, identification, image, impact factor, off-screen personality, film perception, film perception subjectivity, persona, political drama, popularity, portrayal, projection, projection-identification, reference, screen adaptation, screen performance, screen personality, social drama, stardom, war films, westerns