Your Reading List for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon A Time In Hollywood opened in the number two slot recently, and if you've seen it and want to know more about the era and characters, I have some books you may enjoy.

Cliff Booth would have known of (and probably worshiped) Yakima Canutt, who stunted for every male star in Hollywood during its golden era. In his autobiography co-written by Oliver Drake, Stunt Man, Canutt describes not only the stunts he personally performed, but the ones he designed (like the chariot race in Ben-Hur) and the innovations in film safety that he came up with, which led to Canutt's receiving the only Oscar ever given to a stunt man. 

If you're interested in television westerns like Bounty Law and Lancer, there's Classic TV Westerns by Ronald Jackson. Lavishly illustrated with many rare photographs, Jackson's book includes a history of each show and plenty of commentary.

Speaking of westerns: despite his distaste for them, Rick Dalton makes a respectable living and gains a wife from spaghetti westerns. Once Upon A Time in the Italian West by Howard Hughes covers most of this genre, from Sergio Leone to directors who might be better off forgotten. Once again, there are plenty of illustrations, from stills to the typically over-the-top posters. Filmographies, biographies, and juicy anecdotes help tell the story of this period and type of film.

Of course, the Manson Family and the fate of Sharon Tate are a large subplot in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, and the definitive book on the subject was written by prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi. Helter Skelter won awards and was a best seller. From Charles Manson's childhood to his hold over women to his selection of the Polanski family for doom, Bugliosi takes us step by horrifying step. 

Always in the background of the movie, almost as ominous as the Manson Family girls, is the fact that Hollywood is in flux: the studio system is breaking down, and the young turks are taking over. Jonathan Kirshner writes about the dawn of New Hollywood in Hollywood's Last Golden Age. Polanski, Scorsese, and the other giants that would define the 1970s were in dialogue with the society they lived in and highly influenced by current events, including Third Wave feminism, civil rights, the Vietnam War, and the recession. The result was both a Shakespearean heightening and a greater interiority for characters. This book explains how great directors threaded the needle between artistic and commercial success.

And then there's Quentin Tarantino himself. One of the most recent and comprehensive books is Conversations on Quentin Tarantino, by Andrew J. Rausch. Over twenty years, Rausch interviewed as many of Tarantino's collaborators as he could, trying to gain insight into one of the most distinctive directors working today. If you're looking for what Tarantino is like, particularly what the people who have worked with him think of him, this is the right book.

Have more books that hit themes in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood? Tell us in the comments.

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