McGilligan, Patrick 1951–
McGilligan, Patrick 1951–
(Patrick Michael McGilligan)
Born April 22, 1951, in Madison, WI; son of William A. (in upholstery) and Marion (a secretary) McGilligan. Education: University of Wisconsin—Madison, B.A., 1974.
Writer. Boston Globe, Boston, MA, film writer, backup critic, and book reviewer, 1973-76; Real Paper, Cambridge, MA, arts editor, 1977-80; Playgirl, Los Angeles, CA, senior editor, beginning in 1980. TSR, Inc., worked as editor of science fiction and fantasy novels.
I Aim for the Stars, Quixote Press (Houston, TX), 1975.
Eddie Elson: Ten Years Sluggin' on the State Street Front, Quixote Press (Houston, TX), 1976.
George Cukor: A Double Life; A Biography of the Gentleman Director, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1991.
Jack's Life: A Biography of Jack Nicholson, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1994.
Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1997.
(With Paul Buhle) Tender Comrades: A Backstory of the Hollywood Blacklist, with photographs by Alison Morley and William B. Winburn, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1997.
Film Crazy: Interviews with Hollywood Legends, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2000.
Clint: The Life and Legend of Clint Eastwood, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2002.
Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, Regan Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Oscar Micheaux, the Great and Only: The Life of America's First Black Filmmaker, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.
Yankee Doodle Dandy (film script), University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1982.
(And author of introduction) White Heat (film script), University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1984.
(And author of introduction) Backstory 2: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1940s and 1950s, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1991.
(And author of introduction) Robert Riskin, Six Screenplays, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1997.
(And author of introduction) Backstory 3: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1960s, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1997.
The Rose and the Skull, TSR, Inc. (Lake Geneva, WI), 1999.
Reavers of the Blood Sea, TSR, Inc. (Lake Geneva, WI), 1999.
Dezra's Quest, TSR, Inc. (Lake Geneva, WI), 1999.
(Coeditor) The Siege of Mt. Nevermind, TSR, Inc. (Lake Geneva, WI), 1999.
Brothers in Arms, TSR, Inc. (Lake Geneva, WI), 1999.
Dragons of a Fallen Star, TSR, Inc. (Lake Geneva, WI), 1999.
Dragons of a Fallen Sun, Wizards of the Coast Publishing (Renton, WA), 2000.
Downfall: Dhamon Saga, Wizards of the Coast Publishing (Renton, WA), 2000.
The Citadel, Wizards of the Coast Publishing (Renton, WA), 2000.
(Coeditor) The Best of Tales, Wizards of the Coast Publishing (Renton, WA), 2000.
(Coeditor) Rebels and Tyrants, Tales of the Fifth Age, Wizards of the Coast Publishing (Renton, WA), 2000.
Dalamar the Dark, Wizards of the Coast Publishing (Renton, WA), 2000.
(And author of introduction) Backstory 4: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1970s and 1980s, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2006.
Contributor of essays to film anthologies. Contributor to magazines, including Take One, Focus on Film, Film Comment, and Velvet Light Trap. Contributing editor, American Film, 1979-82.
Patrick McGilligan's knowledge of films and filmmaking has been hailed as exhaustive and encyclopedic. He brings that background knowledge to a series of film biographies, which have been praised for their meticulous research and, in most cases, their objectivity. Gregg Rickman of Film Quarterly referred to Robert Altman: Jumping off the Cliff; A Biography of the Great American Director as a "massive, devotedly researched, and extremely impressive biography" of the director whose career reached dizzying heights with such blockbusters as M*A*S*H and Nashville. McGilligan describes these success stories but also documents the dark side of Altman's career: the early days, the growing anger that sometimes manifested itself in his films, and the alienation from critics and studio executives that led eventually to a self-imposed exile from Hollywood. McGilligan focuses on Altman's professional work, according to Charles Champlin, who elaborated in the Los Angeles Times Book Review: "The private life … is of interest only as it is reflected in the work or as it appears to have got in the way of work." Champlin, like other critics, faulted the author for focusing excessively on Altman's dark side. Richard Panek complained in the Chicago Tribune that McGilligan's account "read[s] like the revenge of a disciple on a prophet who turned out to be human." Rickman explained that McGilligan "support[s] the view that Altman's marginalization is primarily his own doing." He concluded, however, that this biography of Altman is a "classic in television studies" and, despite some flaws, "McGilligan has written an invaluable book."
McGilligan's next biography, George Cukor: A Double Life; A Biography of the Gentleman Director was praised by New York Times critic Andrew Sarris as "that rarity of rarities among Hollywood biographies: a full-bodied study of a man and his metier, equally insightful about the life and the art." McGilligan documents the homosexual side of George Cukor's life and its impact on his career, but "this book is not built on psychosexual gossip for its own sake," insisted Caryn James in the New York Times. "Cukor's stylish but impersonal films reflect the tensions between his private and public lives." Cukor's sexual orientation was no secret to Hollywood insiders, but it was overlooked, McGilligan wrote, because the director discreetly concealed his private life from his work and from public scrutiny. Cukor appeared at social functions as the escort of the most beautiful women in film. McGilligan reported that Cukor's double life was publicly exposed when Clark Gable, in a fit of temper on the set of Gone with the Wind, crudely refused to work for a homosexual director. Cukor was fired from the set and retreated without argument into the role of a "woman's director." Los Angeles Times Book Review critic Gregg Kilday wrote: "McGilligan's biography is the defense that Cukor could never bring himself to write. Much more than just a posthumous ‘outing’ it gives Cukor his full due as a director of both style and wit, whose long career is all the more impressive given the double life he was forced to live."
Jack's Life: A Biography of Jack Nicholson is an unauthorized work, complicated by the fact that virtually no one close to the author would agree to an interview. McGilligan compensated for this by "apparently read[ing] every word ever spoken to a journalist either about Nicholson or by him," according to Entertainment Weekly reviewer Mark Harris. He also studied the many revealing interviews that Nicholson had generated in the past. Harris reported: "This book's strongest suit is its clear-eyed but sympathetic attention to Nicholson the professional." The book documents the actor's colorful life, for the most part without editorial comment or critical analysis. Robert Ward, writing in the New York Times found "the most enjoyable part of the book" is the "rich history of Mr. Nicholson's early days in Los Angeles." Other critics, like People contributor Alex Tresniowski, would have preferred more personal detail and "insight into Nicholson's complexity." Nicholson "the professional" is discussed through his film roles, and Ward called these sections "superb." He concluded: "Jack's Life is entertaining and illuminating—a good, if not definitive, book."
Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast emerged from detailed biographical research on a man whom Spectator critic David Caute characterized as "an unremitting self-publicist and mythologist." The German-born filmmaker has been described alternately as genius and visionary, sadist and murderer, perfectionist and tyrant, refugee from Hitler's Germany and Nazi collaborator. His films have been cited among the best German films ever made and alternately described as foolish, trite, and overly sentimental. McGilligan's scrupulous investigation focuses equally on the man and his work. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called him "the first Lang biographer to disentangle the truth." David Robinson reported in the Los Angeles Times Book Review that while "exposing the feet of clay with which [Lang] tended to kick at the world at large," McGilligan "manages to maintain an admirable detachment…. [H]e consistently recognizes that what now matters most about the man is his art." McGilligan evaluates Lang's many movies, which include Metropolis, the "Dr. Mabuse" movies, and the filmmaker's own favorite, "M." The Publishers Weekly reviewer predicted: "This stunning biography … should go far toward reviving Lang's reputation as a filmmaker."
Aside from his numerous biographies of Hollywood legends, McGilligan is also the editor of several volumes of interviews with screenwriters from the 1940s through the 1980s. His Backstory 3: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1960s collects fifteen such interviews, with writers including Horton Foote, Terry Southern, and Stirling Silliphant, who is best known for his screenplay for In the Heat of the Night. Writing in Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Andrew Horton noted that McGilligan "continued to render a valuable service for screenwriters, aspiring screenwriters, film students and scholars and the general educated public interested in Hollywood's constantly changing history" with this latest installment in the series. Horton went on to comment: "Taken as a whole, these interviews are fresh windows on the exciting but often extremely frustrating word of commercial film making in the Hollywood mode."
McGilligan offers a different sort of backstory in his 1997 nonfiction book, Tender Comrades: A Backstory of the Hollywood Blacklist. Working with Paul Buhle, McGilligan interviewed some of the survivors of the late 1940s and the 1950s blacklisting epoch in Hollywood, when, influenced by the activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearings, those with known or suspected Communist affiliations were banned from the studios. Richard W. Grefrath, writing in Library Journal, felt that "the sheer bulk of this book gives a sense of the enormous damage to the lives and careers of those blacklisted and the impact on filmmaking caused by losing this magnitude of talent." Similarly, Mike Tribby, writing in Booklist, thought that "periodically revisiting controversial times via primary sources is a good idea." Further praise came from Nation contributor Herbert Mitgang, who termed Tender Comrades "a skillful history of the blacklist told through the memories of thirty-six writers and directors."
McGilligan provides further interviews in his Film Crazy: Interviews with Hollywood Legends, in which he and his assistants speak with film greats from Raoul Walsh to Ronald Reagan and Ida Lupino. For Booklist writer Tribby, this work offers "great subjects; great reading," and for Library Journal contributor Rosellen Brewer, the work "lends new insight into the lives and works of such film greats as Alfred Hitchcock and George Stevens."
McGilligan returns to biography with his 2002 Clint: The Life and Legend of Clint Eastwood, in which the author highlights the actor and director Clint Eastwood "as he is, not as he is portrayed to be," as BookReporter.com Web site reviewer Rashmi Srinivas observed. Eastwood's acting career spans from the television series Rawhide to movies such as Play Misty for Me, and on to a late-career shift to directing movies that have won him critical acclaim and awards. Srinivas went to comment, "[McGilligan] effectively reveals the innermost Clint by imparting anecdotes, most of which are not flattering, from Eastwood's childhood, early adulthood, and the long years of success and stardom." For Library Journal contributor Brewer, the work was "a well-researched biography that shatters the aura of mystery around Eastwood." A Publishers Weekly reviewer, while finding that McGilligan was overly harsh on Eastwood's supposed womanizing character, also felt the book "is worth reading … when it delves into Eastwood's contributions as an artist who has produced a body of work that's won two Oscars and an AFT Lifetime Achievement Award." Similarly, a Kirkus Reviews critic concluded: "Not a flattering portrait then, but neither is it especially vengeful," and further noted that "Hollywood hopefuls and film buffs will find it most revealing." Eastwood was less than pleased with the unauthorized biography, however, especially by an accusation McGilligan made in the book that Eastwood was a wife beater. Eastwood sued McGilligan and his publisher for ten million dollars in 2002, and the suit was later settled out of court with the publisher agreeing to remove any such references from the book.
McGilligan turned his focus to another legend in his 2003 Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light. PopMatters Web site reviewer Lary Wallace felt that McGilligan was "certainly more sympathetic and less salacious than most [writers on Hitchcock]," but that "he is not hagiographic or even shy about those aspects of Hitchcock's character that were less than palatable." McGilligan demonstrates Hitchcock's darker side in the book, noting that he could be a tyrant on the set, abusive to actors, actresses, and writers. He also had, as Wallace noted, "a very abnormal, even disturbing, zest for the macabre and the downright horrific." But to his wife, Hitchcock was devoted; he was also a loyal friend, and, as McGilligan also shows, he was always true to his film craft. The author traces Hitchcock's life from his birth in London, through his early film successes in England, and on to his string of successes in Hollywood, including Rear Window, Psycho, Vertigo, and North by Northwest. Cineaste reviewer Royal S. Brown wrote: "McGilligan … gives the reader a decent, if sometimes sketchy, idea of just how thoroughly Hitchcock thought in terms of what has often been called ‘pure cinema,’ and just how ingeniously he was able to turn the rigid conventions of commercial cinema on their ear without even appearing to do so." While not finding Alfred Hitchcock the definitive biography of the man, Brown termed it "a good read." Entertainment Weekly critic Michael Sauter was more positive in his review, however, noting that this "prodigiously researched work may be the most comprehensive Hitchcock bio to date," as well as "a hugely satisfying portrait of the artist." People contributor Tom Gliatto also had praise for the work, terming it a "a surprisingly lively and for the most part persuasive counterportrait" to the usual view of Hitchcock as neurotic. Similarly, a Publishers Weekly contributor remarked: "McGilligan has crafted an inside look at this unique director and the studio machinations that sustained him," and a Kirkus Reviews critic called it "an authoritative life." Likewise, Booklist contributor Gordon Flagg thought the book was "so detailed and readable that it is hard to imagine another Hitchcock biography will be needed twenty years hence."
For his 2007 biography, Oscar Micheaux, the Great and Only: The Life of America's First Great Black Filmmaker, McGilligan picked the independent filmmaker Micheaux, who died in 1950 after a career of crafting two to three films per year for several decades, with all-black casts and realistic looks at contemporary African American life and mores. Born to former slaves and himself a failed homesteader and writer before turning to films, Micheaux was never considered in the mainstream during his life; posthumously his films have come to be seen as major documents in American social history. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted: "McGilligan does a fine job of reaffirming Micheaux's significance beyond the appreciation of cineastes." Other reviewers shared such an assessment. A Kirkus Reviews critic, for example, called the book "essential for anyone interested in racial issues and the history of American filmmaking; a well researched, passionately felt and endlessly fascinating look at a singular American life."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Film, July-August, 1982, review of Cagney: The Actor as Auteur, pp. 72-73, 76.
Booklist, March 15, 1997, review of Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast, p. 1220; October 15, 1997, Mike Tribby, review of Tender Comrades: A Backstory of the Hollywood Blacklist, p. 368; July, 2000, Mike Tribby, review of Film Crazy: Interviews with Hollywood Legends, p. 1989; October 1, 2003, Gordon Flagg, review of Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, p. 292; July 1, 2007, Gordon Flagg, review of Oscar Micheaux, the Great and Only: The Life of America's First Great Black Filmmaker, p. 18.
Chicago Tribune, November 12, 1989, Richard Panek, review of Robert Altman: Jumping off the Cliff; A Biography of the Great American Director, p. 3.
Choice, June, 1998, M.D. Whitlatch, review of Tender Comrades, p. 1717.
Cineaste, fall, 2004, Royal S. Brown, review of Alfred Hitchcock.
Cinema Canada, October, 1984, George L. George, review of White Heat, p. 34.
Economist, June 19, 1999, review of Clint: The Life and Legend of Clint Eastwood, p. 12.
Entertainment Weekly, March 18, 1994, Mark Harris, review of Jack's Life: A Biography of Jack Nicholson, p. 92; November 27, 1998, review of Fritz Lang, p. 73; September 6, 2002, review of Clint, p. 78; October 3, 2003, Michael Sauter, review of Alfred Hitchcock, p. 77; June 22, 2007, Michael Sauter, review of Oscar Micheaux, the Great and Only, p. 73.
Film Quarterly, fall, 1990, Fred Rickman, review of Robert Altman, pp. 60-63; summer, 1983, Ernest Callenbach, review of Cagney; summer, 1985, John Peavoy, review of White Heat; fall, 2004, Marshall Deutelbaum, review of Alfred Hitchcock.
Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, March, 1998, Andrew Horton, review of Backstory 3: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1960s, p. 152.
Hollywood Reporter, August 11, 2003, "Drugs, Murder, Assaults and Definitive Hitchcock," p. 46; August 7, 2007, review of Oscar Micheaux, the Great and Only, p. 42.
Interview, September, 2003, review of Alfred Hitchcock, p. 96;
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2002, review of Clint, p. 860; August 1, 2003, review of Alfred Hitchcock, p. 1006; May 1, 2007, review of Oscar Micheaux, the Great and Only.
Library Journal, April 1, 1997, review of Fritz Lang, p. 96; November 1, 1997, Richard W. Grefrath, review of Tender Comrades, p. 76; July, 2000, Rosellen Brewer, review of Film Crazy, p. 97; October 1, 2002, Rosellen Brewer, review of Clint, p. 96; September 15, 2003, Stephen Rees, review of Alfred Hitchcock, p. 61.
Los Angeles Magazine, July, 2007, Robert Ito, review of Oscar Micheaux, the Great and Only, p. 82.
Los Angeles Times, August 25, 2002, review of Clint, p. 7; September 28, 2003, review of Alfred Hitchcock, p. 4.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 30, 1989, Charles Champlin, review of Robert Altman, p. 7; December 8, 1991, Gregg Kilday, review of GeorgeCukor: A Double Life; A Biography of the Gentleman Director, pp. 1, 10; July 13, 1997, David Robinson, review of Fritz Lang, p. 5.
M2 Best Books, December 30, 2002, "Clint Eastwood Sues for USD10m."
Nation, April 13, 1998, Herbert Mitgang, review of Tender Comrades, p. 28.
New York Times, December 15, 1991, Andrew Sarris, review of George Cukor, p. 34; August 9, 1992, Caryn James, review of George Cukor, p. 3; April 10, 1994, Robert Ward, review of Jack's Life, p. 29; July 20, 1997, review of Fritz Lang, p. 11; November 30, 1997, review of Tender Comrades, p. 21.
New York Times Book Review, November 16, 2003, "Books in Brief: Nonfiction," p. 56; August 5, 2007, "The Independent," p. 16.
People, April 4, 1994, Alex Tresniowski, review of Jack's Life, p. 31; September 2, 2002, review of Clint, p. 41; October 27, 2003, Tom Gliatto, review of Alfred Hitchcock, p. 47.
Publishers Weekly, April 14, 1997, review of Fritz Lang, p. 61; October 27, 1997, review of Tender Comrades, p. 62; July 22, 2002, review of Clint, p. 168; August 18, 2003, review of Alfred Hitchcock, p. 68; April 30, 2007, review of Oscar Micheaux, the Great and Only, p. 151.
Sight and Sound, November, 1991, review of Backstory 2: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1940s and 1950s, p. 35; November, 1997, Robin Swicord, review of Backstory 3, p. 28; August, 1999, review of Clint, p. 34.
Spectator, July 26, 1997, David Caute, review of Fritz Lang, pp. 33-34.
Wall Street Journal, January 14, 1998, Michael J. Ybarra, review of Tender Comrades, p. A17; August 16, 2002, review of Clint, p. 8.
Bookreporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (January 1, 2008), Rashmi Srinivas, review of Clint.
Green Man Review,http://www.greenmanreview.com/ (January 1, 2008), Craig Clark, review of Alfred Hitchcock.
PopMatters,http://www.popmatters.com/ (January 12, 2004), Lary Wallace, review of Alfred Hitchcock.