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Thomson, David

Entry updated 16 January 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1941-    ) UK author, in the US from 1975; best known for his nonfiction studies of film, including the well-known A Biographical Dictionary of the Cinema (1975), which has been expanded several times; he has also written critical works on film noir, including America in the Dark: Hollywood and the Gift of Unreality (1977) and Beneath Mulholland: Thoughts on Hollywood and Its Ghosts (1997). A similar focus is reflected in his fiction. His three novels of some sf interest are also, in a sense, film studies. Suspects (1985) is a complex Fabulation, a portrait of an America populated – or infiltrated – by a vast extended family of characters who, the premise argues, have featured at some point in their lives as protagonists in innumerable films noirs from the period of Hollywood's prime and dark innocence (see California); at the black heart of the tale sits the sinister figure of George Bailey, the character portrayed by James Stewart in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946) who is constantly thwarted in his attempts to leave (almost literally, for he is never seen anywhere else) his cloyingly wholesome home town. Bailey and his clan are not Secret Masters of America as such; but – in some significant part through the actors who impersonate them – they do rule its dreams. In Warren Beatty: A Life and a Story (1987; vt Warren Beatty and Desert Eyes: A Life and a Story 1987), chapters which examine the eponymous actor's real life alternate with chapters of a Near-Future tale which dramatize the ideal life Beatty may be presumed to have indited upon the dream world of film. And Silver Light (1990) interweaves classic Icons from the cauldron of story of the Western into an emotional Fabulation, the mix including figures real or semi-real, like Dime-Novel victim Billy the Kid; and fictional, like Ethan Edwards from The Searchers (1956) directed by John Ford (1894-1973) (see Jonathan Lethem).

The later The Alien Quartet (1998) is a study of the four films Alien (1979), Aliens (1986), Alien³ (1992) and Alien Resurrection (1997), including Thomson's proposed storyline for an alternative fourth film. [JC/DRL]

David Thomson

born London: 18 February 1941


nonfiction (highly selected)


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