Full of illustrations, profiles, and stories spanning the history of American movie-making, You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story (Running Press, $50) is a stunning tribute to the studio that produced The Jazz Singer, Casablanca, Bugs Bunny, Superman, and countless other iconic screen images. The text by Richard Schickel and George Perry chronicles the life of the studio, from the early days of Sam, Harry, Jack, and Albert Warner and the transition from silents to talkies, through the classic noir ’40s and ’50s, the troubled ’70s and ’80s, up to the present age of media conglomeration and the blockbuster.
Like many others, I love Fred Astaire. There was even an international conference devoted to him in Scotland this year. He was one of the 20th century’s greatest dancers. He was also one of its greatest singers, although he had a rather thin, reedy voice. He danced and sang his way into our hearts through a series of films from the 1930s through the 1960s, then on television through the 1970s. In his biographical essay, Fred Astaire (Yale Univ., $22), Joseph Epstein presents a thumbnail sketch of the life of this extraordinary man. Much of the book focuses on Astaire and his partners, beginning with Ginger Rogers, with whom Epstein believes he did greater work than he did with other dancers such as Audrey Hepburn, Cyd Charisse, and Judy Garland.