Book Review: JOHN GUILLERMIN: THE MAN, THE MYTH, THE MOVIES

4 out of 5 stars

Billed as a book on ‘one of the best Hollywood directors nobody knows’, John Guillermin: The Man, The Myth, The Movies is a fascinating look at the life and career of the director behind such films as The Towering Inferno, King Kong and The Death on the Nile. It’s a brilliant read, insightful, educational and passionate.

Movies In Focus is ashamed to say that I didn’t know who John Guillermin was – I knew his work, but like many (and to my shame) I didn’t know the man behind the movies. This book, edited by the late director’s wife, Mary Guillermin changed all that, offering-up a brilliant look at the life and career of the British/French director who was dubbed ‘The Wild Man’ by producer Dino De Laurentiis.  

The book sees passages from Mary Guillerman sit alongside critical essays from academics, filmmakers and fans such as Neil Sinyard, Brett A. Hart, Brian Hoyle, Olaf Moller, Kate Lees, Vic Pratt, Ray Morton, Sarah Street and Melanie Williams. These all help to deliver a richly textured understanding of the director’s life and his wonderfully varied career. 

The sheer scope of Guillerman’s filmography is astounding, from his early British ‘kitchen sink’ dramas to his big budget Hollywood blockbusters and everything else in between. He worked with some of the biggest stars of all-time including Charlton Heston, Sean Connery, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Fred Astaire, Jeff Bridges, George Peppard, George Segal, David Niven – the list is endless. 

John Guillermin: The Man, The Myth, The Movies shows that the director was driven by a passion to make his films as good as they could possibly be. That’s why he battled with so many producers and studios, ultimately to the detriment of his career. For all the big budget action pictures that he made, he was most proud of his low-key 1965 drama, Rapture starring Melvyn Douglas, Patricia Gozzi and Dean Stockwell. 

The book not only delves into the director’s work, but also his personal life. Mary Guillermin does not shy away from showing her husband husband’s flaws – this is a book which gives a fully rounded overview of an enigmatic man who had a passion for film…and for life. 

Thoughtfully written and exceptionally presented, John Guillermin: The Man, The Myth, The Movies is a fascinating book loaded with anecdotes and trivia about an enigmatic man and a tremendous array of films. The book is filled with great imagery, alongside reproductions of handwritten notes from Guillermin himself. It’s a book that will have you reaching back to watch the John Guillermin films you love, as well as seeking out those you never new existed.