Bill Cunningham: on the Street (Clarkson Potter, $65) is absolutely mahvolous! Collecting hundreds of his On-the-Street photos, the volume is organized by decade to show not only the development of Cunningham’s career but also the evolution of fashion styles themselves. This retrospective artfully captures Cunningham’s highly influential taste—not getting photographed by Cunningham on a runway was once described as “death”—but also his wondrous and free-spirited sense of humor. We see pictures of New Yorkers in Prada galloping over puddles, facing off against blizzards in Balenciaga, and sauntering through sweltering summer heat in Salvatore Ferragamo. Between the sections are interesting essays on various moments and trends in Cunningham’s career by those who knew him best. We read Ruth La Ferla on the infamous faceoff between American and French designers in the show later to be known as the Battle of Versailles. We also get Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue, adding a personal touch with an essay on her relationship with Cunningham, his relationship with his bike, and his legacy. There are a handful of other pieces that shed light on Cunningham personally and on style more generally. A perfect gift for anyone interested in fashion and people-watching.
Beginning with the sobering and somber testimony Marlon Brando gave at his son’s sentencing hearing for murder, William J. Mann’s biography, The Contender (Harper, $35), interweaves three major motifs into each stage of Brando’s life and work. First, there’s Brando’s personal brand of masculinity; bucking traditional chauvinism, this included highly intimate, even romantic (as in the case of the French actor Christian Marquand), relationships with men. Then there’s the actor’s lifelong commitment to social justice. Brando participated in conventional protests—most famously the 1963 March on Washington, which Mann reconstructs in detail, including Brando’s efforts to drum up celebrity support—and unconventional activism, most famously, by having Sacheen Littlefeather appear on his behalf at the 1973 Academy Award ceremony to refuse the Oscar. Perhaps most significantly—or possibly most salaciously, as Mann never shies away from details—there’s Brando’s near constant romantic and familial drama, which Mann characterizes as the star’s greatest failure. Brando’s perennial affairs and his neglect of his family clash with the popular image of Brando as a
Bill Cunningham on the Street is absolutely mahvolous! This collection of hundreds of his on street photos cataloguing fashion trends is smartly organized by decade to show not only the development of Cunningham’s career but also the styles themselves. This retrospective artfully captures Cunningham’s influential taste and also his sense of humor. We see pictures of New Yorkers galloping over puddles in Prada, facing off against blizzards in Balenciaga, and sauntering through sweltering summer heat in Salvatore Ferragamo. Interspersed between the sections are interesting essays on various moments and trends in Cunningham’s career by those who knew him best.