Drazin, Charles 1960-
DRAZIN, Charles 1960-
Agent—c/o Pan Macmillan, 20 New Wharf Rd., London N1 9RR, England.
Film critic, journalist, and author.
Charles Drazin on Blue Velvet, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1998, published as Blue Velvet, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
The Finest Years: British Cinema of the 1940s, André Deutsch (London, England), 1998.
In Search of "The Third Man," Methuen (London, England), 1999, Limelight Editions (New York, NY), 2000.
(With Ernst Malmsten and Erik Portanger) Boo Hoo: A Dot-com Story from Concept to Catastrophe, Random House Business Books (London, England), 2001.
Korda: Britain's Only Movie Mogul, Sidgwick & Jackson (London, England), 2002.
Contributor to periodicals, including Guardian, London Magazine, Independent, and the London Times.
British film historian Charles Drazin has written several books about the heyday of movie productions in England during the first half of the twentieth century. Discovering that many people had forgotten that England's studios once rivaled Hollywood, Drazin decided to write The Finest Years: British Cinema of the 1940s. Although the title implies the book is a film history, it is actually a collection of short biographies on some of the important figures in the movie industry at the time, including Herbert Wilcox, Sydney Box, Olwen Vaughan, and Angus MacPhail. Drazin notes that many of the British film producers before the war were slick hucksters who could be unscrupulous in finding ways to finance their pictures, but he maintains that their contributions to cinema cannot be denied. Several reviewers, such as Observer Review Sunday contributor Philip French, appreciated Drazin's efforts in bringing to publication the names and stories of several film contributors who have largely been forgotten. French concluded that "The Finest Years is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the decade and highly entertaining."
On the other hand, despite Drazin's assertion that he was not striving for a comprehensive inspection of 1940s British cinema and mainly wished to illuminate the careers of the more neglected players, John Bowen commented in the Spectator that the omissions subtract from the book's value. "[While] nobody would want to write or read about The Wicked Lady or The Man in Grey,…the omissions are greater than that," said Bowen. "No Powell or Pressburger, no Launder and Gilliat, no Boulting Brothers.… He tries to make a fairer kind of Cheddar and ends up with Emmenthal." Nevertheless, a number of reviewers found The Finest Years to be worth the read. As Ian Christie wrote in Sight and Sound, Drazin's book is "gossipy and opinionated, but also informative and fun."
In Search of "The Third Man" is a study of how the 1949 movie The Third Man came about, while Korda: Britain's Only Movie Mogul is a biography of one of the most colorful figures in early English cinema, Sir Alexander Korda. The film The Third Man, whose now-famous soundtrack helped make zither music popular, is set in postwar Vienna. Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) is invited to visit his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) in Vienna, but when he arrives, he learns that Lime has been killed. After talking to the police, he is told that Lime was involved in the black market. Martins does not believe this, though, and sets off to find out what really happened. This noire mystery, filmed in black and white, came to be considered a classic by film historians, and Drazin relates in detail its genesis and production. "Drazin's 200 nimble pages convey more facts than many a more hefty book," according to Christopher Hawtree in an Independent article about In Search of "The Third Man." "Without the aridity of 'film studies,' he sets out the machinations behind the movie, which were as fraught and duplicitous as anything on the screen."
Drazin discusses the personalities and egos behind the film, including author Graham Greene, producers Alexander Korda and David Selznick, and director Carol Reed. Selznick, an American, is portrayed as controlling; although he made numerous helpful contributions to the film, his interference risked ruining the movie at several points. As Gilbert Adair noted in the Evening Standard, "One of the more gratifying aspects of Drazin's book, for those of us skeptical of Hollywood's alleged infallibility, is that the universally respected Selznick, who actually mutilated the film for the domestic market, emerges from its pages as an oafish philistine." Although Adair argued against Drazin's contention that the now nearly forgotten Reed was a better director than Alfred Hitchcock and just as good as Orson Welles, the critic appreciated the author's insights and concluded that "Drazin's book is one of a kind."
Having already touched on the subject of Korda in In Search of "The Third Man," Drazin explored the rise and fall of one of England's most famous movie producers in his biography of Korda. Born Sandor Kellner in Hungary in 1893, Korda was a man of great ambition who, by the 1930s, was running a film studio in England. He worked in Hollywood for a time, learning about showmanship and attempting to spread propaganda in an effort to convince the United States to enter World War II; he returned to England with the intention of developing a postwar film empire, but his efforts were unsuccessful. Korda founded a film production company, London Films, and Denham Studios, only to lose them both, and suffered through two divorces before marrying for a third time. The success of films such as The Private Life of Henry VIII, Thief of Baghdad, and The Third Man was countered by the miserable failures of movies such as Bonnie Prince Charlie, An Ideal Husband, and the unfinished I, Claudius.
In Korda, according to Times Higher Education Supplement writer Peter William Evans, "Drazin painstakingly reconstructs the life of a talented and impatient young man." Evans continued, "Drazin argues plausibly that Korda was in some senses the Harry Lime of the British cinema: a genial, ruthless egotist … who never grew up in a world that grew up around him." Times Literary Supplement reviewer Judith Flanders praised Drazin's biography for its "serious research" and for the fact that "successes and failures are treated even-handedly." And Alexander Walker, writing in the Evening Standard, concluded: "Drazin's biography is an engrossing exegesis of film-making in interwar Britain and a rounded portrait of what we'd now call an economic migrant who lived profligately, left others poorer and occasionally and enduringly enriched the screen."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Cineaste, fall, 1999, John Cunningham, review of The Finest Years: British Cinema of the 1940s, p. 54.
Electronic Times (London, England), November 26, 2001, review of Boo Hoo: A Dot-com Story from Concept to Catastrophe, p. 48.
Evening Standard (London, England), August 23, 1999, Gilbert Adair, "The Other Side of Harry Lime," p. 42; November 30, 2000, Tom Dewe Matthews, "The Ultimate Challenge—Putting Greene on Screen," p. 55; June 17, 2002, Alexander Walker, "Magical Magyar: How Did Sir Alexander Korda Become King of British Movies?," p. 54.
Guardian (Manchester, England), June 7, 2002, Charles Drazin, "Made to Measure: After Her Affair with Movie Mogul Alexander Korda, There Was Never Any Doubt that Vivien Leigh Would Become Famous," p. 11.
Independent (London, England), September 20, 1999, Christopher Hawtree, "Monday Book: Marvel at the Making of This Movie," p. 5.
International Journal of New Product Development and Innovation Management, March-April, 2002, Lucy Daly, review of Boo Hoo, p. 93.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2002, review of Boo Hoo, p. 1678.
Mail on Sunday (London, England), July 21, 2002, Kathryn Hughes, "The Making of a British Movie Mogul," p. 62.
New Statesman, December 10, 2001, Adam Wishart, "After the Gold Rush," p. 55.
Observer (London, England), November 7, 1999, Philip French, "Videos," p. 11; June 16, 2002, Jay Rayner, "For Korda, Films about Kings Were Good," p. 16.
Observer Review Sunday, March 8, 1998, Philip French, "Yes, There Really Was a Time When Britain Had a Film Industry—and Not a Stripping Fireman in Sight," p. 16.
Scotsman (Edinburgh, Scotland), October 25, 2003, Robert Nye, review of The Journals of John Fowles, p. 9.
Sight and Sound, May, 1998, Ian Christie, "Cinema History," p. 33.
Spectator, March 21, 1998, John Bowen, "Ending Up with the Wrong Cheese," p. 44.
Sunday Times (London, England), June 9, 2002, Christopher Silvester, "How Hollywood Came to Britain," p. 43.
Times (London, England), March 12, 1998, Nicholas Wapshott, "True Glory of Britain," p. 41.
Times Higher Education Supplement (London, England), January 17, 2003, Peter William Evans, "A White Knight of British Cinema."
Times Literary Supplement (London, England), November 5, 1999, Robert Shore, "A Felix Culpa in the Viennese Sewer"; March 15, 2002, Harry Mount, "Get Out Early"; July 19, 2002, Judith Flanders, review of Korda.