Christopher P. Stephens, Bookman

Chris Stephens has been a book dealer since 1965 - earlier if you count childhood buying and selling.

Stephens has sold major collections to university libraries all over the world. He has operated appealing bookstores in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, Hastings on Hudson, NY and several in NYC, NY. He is a wholesale dealer to other bookstores all over the world.

Chris loves books.

Stephens now maintains a lively internet operation out of his new home in Scranton, PA.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Steve and Chris Converse About Movies

     At first it looked like Stefan Kanfer and Christopher Stephens were going get lost in talking baseball.  "I always thought that Joe Torre was a clubhouse coach more than a field coach," said Steve.  Chris agreed.  Neither thinks Joe Girardi wields the same authority as Torre.
     Interesting, but then the conversation swung around to movies.   Even more interesting.
     Both men like dialogue.  They have movie dialogue at their finger tips too.  They played off each other, delivering dramatic turning points and classic bits from The Maltese Falcon, Third Man, Cincinnati Kid, My Favorite Wife, Casablanca.  It was great entertainment.
     The men spoke admiringly of Barbara Stanwyck's chilling performance in Double Indemnity and her marvelously lively performance in Ball of Fire.  In both of these movies Stanwyck walks down a staircase to great effect.
     Kanfer is working on a book now about Humphrey Bogart.  He's developed a superb impersonation.  Kanfer can talk like Bogart, rolling his words around like pebbles in his mouth.
     Right there in riverrun, he did Bogart as the terrifyingly wacko Queeg in Caine Mutiny, as Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep, Rick Blaine in Casablanca, Linus Larabee in Sabrina, Charlie Allnut in African Queen, Fred Dobbs in Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
     "That's a great movie, Treasure of the Sierra Madre," said Steve.  Chris disagreed.  "Too ugly," said Chris.
     They shared enthusiasm for the others though.  They agreed that Fred Astaire outstripped Gene Kelly as a dancer and a personality.  Kelly was all ego.  Steve told a story about Gene Kelly's first wife, Betsy Blair.  She thought something must be the matter with her.  The marriage didn't seem to be working.  Of course not, said Blair's psychiatrist.  There just isn't enough room in your marriage for you.   Kelly takes up all the space, all the oxygen. 
     Chris and I had watched The Man in the White Suit the night before.
     "It was an interesting idea at the time," said Steve.  "He's done some good films.  I had lunch with Alec Guiness.  I asked him his favorite movie out of all he'd done.  Without a moment's hesitation Guinness says, 'Bridge Over The River Kwai'.  'Really,' I said to him.  'I thought some of those earlier black and whites were better.'  'Ah,' said Guinness, 'but Kwai was the first movie I had a piece of.' "
     Chris laughed out loud.  Both of them did.  I didn't get it.
     "It's all about the money," explained Steve.  "It's just money for these guys.  It isn't the art."
     "So The Bridge Over The River Kwai was the first movie where Alec Guinness shared in the profit," Chris explained further.
     Chris and Steve both love the Marx Brothers' movies.  They reenacted favorite parts.
      "Louisa doesn't like them," Chris told Steve.
      "No, that's right," said Steve.  "Women don't like them."
      "Why not?" I asked him.  I hadn't realized it was a gender thing.
      "Because the Marx brothers are mean to women," said Steve.  "Especially Groucho."  Steve went on to relate a couple of relevant anecdotes from his book on Groucho.
      Steve has a rich repertoire of movie anecdotes from his years as at Time and his deep research for his biographies of actors. 
     I could have listened to them talk forever.  All of us, May included, love movies and watch an astonishing number of them - especially astonishing considering our reading habits.

My March 19 posting has a complete list of Stefan Kanfer's books and some websites.  Here are just his movie books:
         (executive decision: I'm not counting Stardust Lost or The Voodoo... in this category)
Cartooning:  Serious Business
Groucho Marx: Groucho: 
Lucille Ball: Ball of Fire
Marlon Brando: Somebody

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