PERSONAL: Male. Education: Holds a Ph.D.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Da Capo Press, 11 Cambridge Ctr., Cambridge, MA 02142.
CAREER: Writer and film critic. Instructor at Babson College, Babson, Park, MA.
John Ford: The Man and His Films (biography), University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1986.
Contributor to publications such as Film International, Film Comment, and Screening the Past.
SIDELIGHTS: Film critic and historian Tag Gallagher, who holds a Ph.D. in film studies, is a frequent contributor to scholarly publications and popular magazines on film. He has also written biographies of two of the most influential filmmakers in the history of cinema: John Ford and Roberto Rossellini.
John Ford: The Man and His Films is an exhaustive work on the life and work of the celebrated, sometimes prickly director. Ford was born to Irish immigrant parents in 1894. He began working in silent films in 1914, having been brought into the industry by his brother Francis, an actor and director. Over a long and distinguished career, Ford became known for his westerns; almost half of his one hundred films are in that genre and include classics such as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Stagecoach, My Darling Clementine, The Quiet Man, and The Searchers.
"Gallagher has performed a monumental task of scholarship in reconstructing the mind and psyche of movie director John Ford, "commented Philip Dunne in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Gallagher also "effectively shatters the twin images of Ford the tough guy, tyrant at home and on the set, and of Ford the semi-literate poet," Dunne continued. Though Ford's on-set discipline could border on the cruel, it was not capricious; he exercised tremendous care with his filmmaking. In his work, Dunne added, "all he aimed for was how best to blend screenplay, cast and camera into the telling of a good story. And nobody ever told one better." Reviewer Gib Johnson, writing in the New York Times Book Review, called Gallagher's biography "an impressive achievement."
Gallagher spent fifteen years researching and writing The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini. Rossellini was an Italian film director whose neorealist films, including Rome, Open City and Paisan, influenced an industry where entertainment had been the Hollywood norm. These three films "changed film history and virtually founded the genre of Italian Neorealism," commented Alexander Stille in the New York Times Book Review. Gallagher's book stands as an example "of how biography can contribute something important to one's understanding of major works of art," Stille remarked.
Rossellini was a larger-than-life character, "a spoiled playboy [who] liked fast cars, fast women and cocaine and spent his way through a substantial inheritance," Stille noted. During World War II, he worked under the patronage of Vittorio Mussolini, the son of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Rossellini suffered, along with many others, under a ten-month occupation of Rome by German troops. However, the experience served as the springboard for his breakthrough film, Open City, a worldwide success that propelled Rossellini to international fame.
According to Gallagher, Rossellini achieved greater fame in America as Hollywood embraced both films and filmmaker. As Rossellini continued to make important works such as Paisan, his personal life remained chaotic. A number of scandalous affairs, including one with prominent actress Ingrid Bergman, contributed to his legendary status. As he moved further away from traditional filmmaking processes, however, his films became less and less comprehensible. Stille noted that "virtually all of Rossellini's films after Paisan were commercial as well as critical failures, which Rossellini and Gallagher attribute to the stupidity and insensitivity of the public and critics. "Ultimately, "Even as big a fan as Gallagher acknowledges that from time to time, Rossellini the filmmaker needed to be saved from Rossellini the man," Stille remarked.
Stephen Rees commented in Library Journal that Gallagher's biography "is generally well organized and presented," in spite of what the critic termed "a wearying amount of detail." A Publishers Weekly critic noted that The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini "extensively documents the making and critical reception of Rossellini's films, as well as the political and religious turmoil of the era that spawned them." Stille concluded that "Gallagher tells a story as rich and moving as Rossellini's miraculous films."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 15, 1986, p. 1173; December 1, 1998, Frank Caso, review of The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini, p. 642; January 1, 1999, review of The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini, p. 775.
Cineaste, spring-summer, 1999, Peter Bondanella, review of The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini, p. 90.
Library Journal, April 1, 1986, p. 159; November 15, 1998, Stephen Rees, review of The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini, pp. 68-69.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 16, 1986, Philip Dunne, review of John Ford: The Man and His Films, p. 6.
New Republic, August 11, 1986, Stanley Kauffmann, review of John Ford: The Man and His Films, pp. 24-28.
New York Times Book Review, September 14, 1986, Gib Johnson, review of John Ford: The Man and His Films, section 7, p. 31; February 7, 1999, Alexander Stille, "Paisans," review of The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini, p. 20.
Publishers Weekly, October 26, 1998, review of The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini, p. 50.