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Russ Meyer, cult hero, creator of the sexploitation film, and the man the Wall Street Journal called the King Leer of Hollywood, made movies that filled the big screen with “big bosoms and square jaws.” In the first candid and fiendishly researched account of the late cinematic instigator’s life, Jimmy McDonough shows us how Russ Meyer used that formula to turn his own cra Russ Meyer, cult hero, creator of the sexploitation film, and the man the Wall Street Journal called the King Leer of Hollywood, made movies that filled the big screen with “big bosoms and square jaws.” In the first candid and fiendishly researched account of the late cinematic instigator’s life, Jimmy McDonough shows us how Russ Meyer used that formula to turn his own crazed fantasies into movies that made him a millionaire and changed the face of American film forever. This former WWII combat photographer immortalized his personal sexual obsession upon the silver screen, creating box-office gold with The Immoral Mr. Teas in 1959. The modest little film pushed all preexisting limits of on-screen nudity, and with its success, the floodgates of what was permitted to be shown on film were thrust open, never to be closed again. Russ Meyer ignited a true revolution in filmmaking, breaking all sex, nudity, and violence taboos. In a career that spanned more than forty years, Meyer created a body of work that has influenced a legion of filmmakers, fashionistas, comic book artists, rock bands, and even the occasional feminist. Bringing his anecdote- and action-packed biographical style to another renegade of popular culture, New York Times bestselling author of Shakey Jimmy McDonough offers a wild, warts-and-all portrait of Russ Meyer, the director, writer, producer, and commando moviemaking force behind the sexploitation classics Vixen, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and many others. Big Bosoms and Square Jaws blows the lid off the story of Russ Meyer, from the beginning to his recent tragic demise, creating in the process a vivid portrait of a past America.


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Russ Meyer, cult hero, creator of the sexploitation film, and the man the Wall Street Journal called the King Leer of Hollywood, made movies that filled the big screen with “big bosoms and square jaws.” In the first candid and fiendishly researched account of the late cinematic instigator’s life, Jimmy McDonough shows us how Russ Meyer used that formula to turn his own cra Russ Meyer, cult hero, creator of the sexploitation film, and the man the Wall Street Journal called the King Leer of Hollywood, made movies that filled the big screen with “big bosoms and square jaws.” In the first candid and fiendishly researched account of the late cinematic instigator’s life, Jimmy McDonough shows us how Russ Meyer used that formula to turn his own crazed fantasies into movies that made him a millionaire and changed the face of American film forever. This former WWII combat photographer immortalized his personal sexual obsession upon the silver screen, creating box-office gold with The Immoral Mr. Teas in 1959. The modest little film pushed all preexisting limits of on-screen nudity, and with its success, the floodgates of what was permitted to be shown on film were thrust open, never to be closed again. Russ Meyer ignited a true revolution in filmmaking, breaking all sex, nudity, and violence taboos. In a career that spanned more than forty years, Meyer created a body of work that has influenced a legion of filmmakers, fashionistas, comic book artists, rock bands, and even the occasional feminist. Bringing his anecdote- and action-packed biographical style to another renegade of popular culture, New York Times bestselling author of Shakey Jimmy McDonough offers a wild, warts-and-all portrait of Russ Meyer, the director, writer, producer, and commando moviemaking force behind the sexploitation classics Vixen, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and many others. Big Bosoms and Square Jaws blows the lid off the story of Russ Meyer, from the beginning to his recent tragic demise, creating in the process a vivid portrait of a past America.

30 review for Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film

  1. 4 out of 5

    Scott Rhee

    Russ Meyer took his two loves in life---filmmaking and huge boobs---and made a fairly successful empire out of it. A fascinating man, to say the least, Meyer was either a subcultural genius or a pervert with a very specific fetish who got lucky. Jimmy McDonough’s biography of Meyer, “Big Bosoms and Square Jaws”, takes as objective an approach to Meyer’s life as one can get, considering the subject matter. For the most part, he succeeds. His biography is lively, fun, energetic, and straightforwar Russ Meyer took his two loves in life---filmmaking and huge boobs---and made a fairly successful empire out of it. A fascinating man, to say the least, Meyer was either a subcultural genius or a pervert with a very specific fetish who got lucky. Jimmy McDonough’s biography of Meyer, “Big Bosoms and Square Jaws”, takes as objective an approach to Meyer’s life as one can get, considering the subject matter. For the most part, he succeeds. His biography is lively, fun, energetic, and straightforward, which is pretty much how I imagine Meyer was during his life. Born in 1922, Meyer grew up in California without a father and with a very strange, very overbearing mother, whom he doted on until her dying day. He also had a younger sister, Lucinda, who suffered from progressive mental illness, one that landed her in a psychiatric facility in her later years. Strangely, these two women in his life were ever-present and extremely important throughout his life, and they set the tone for his innumerable relationships with women. Through multiple divorces, tumultuous relationships with starlets, horribly vicious lawsuits, and, ultimately, a highly contested estate situation, Meyer’s women in life have either been his saviors, his biggest fans, or, occasionally, his worst enemy. Arguably, Meyer himself was his own worst enemy at times. Meyer found a taste for filmmaking during World War II as a combat photographer for the 166th Signal Photo Company. It was there, in Europe, during some of the bloodiest and most life-threatening situations that Meyer also developed some of his closest and longest-lasting friendships with the other men in his company. Indeed, he remained close to most of them until his death in 2004, making sure to invite them to all of his film premieres, weddings, and parties, and, later in life, making an effort to attend their funerals. Staff Sergeant Meyer wasn’t one to gush emotionally, but his fellow brothers-in-arms of the 166th always managed to bring a smile to his face or a tear in his eye. Back at home, after the war, Meyer was set on being a Hollywood filmmaker. Cutting his teeth as cinematographer for a few relatively forgotten independent films, Meyer’s first feature film was a low-budget “nudie” film, “The Immoral Mr. Teas”. While it only ran on the independent/exploitation circuit (which, in 1959, was extremely limited), the film still managed to rake in more than $1 million. Meyer never liked to consider himself a pornographer, especially in later years when hard-core and video porn became extremely popular and more easily accessible. He always thought hard-core was gauche, which may seem ironic coming from a man who once said, “The Great American Dream is to run into a woman that has no principles whatsoever---and a greedy pussy.” Still, by today’s standards, many of his earlier films are relatively tame. Heavy on the nudity but rather soft-core, at best, in the sex department, Meyer’s films were actually reliant on story and pretty unique camera-work. Granted, his story-telling was weird and often incomprehensible, as he injected some symbolism and imagery that was meant to be understand by Meyer only. His films were, essentially, in-jokes of his own psyche. When Meyer was hired on by a major studio---20th Century Fox---in 1969, it was a huge risk for both Meyer and the studio. With a screenplay by a young Roger Ebert, and a gorgeous new Hollywood starlet named Edy Williams (who eventually became Meyer’s third wife), “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” hit theaters in 1970. Controversial to say the least (the film is known for being the first film to earn an “X” rating by the newly formed Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating system), “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls”, while not a critical success, still managed to make $9 million domestically on a budget of roughly $90,000. Not bad considering most upscale suburbanites and good church-going folk of America wrote it off as sleaze and smut. (Still, someone was going to see the movie.) Several unsuccessful movies followed, mostly due to an attempt by Meyer to attract a “high-brow” crowd. Finally, Meyer got sick of trying to film other people’s words and went back to writing his own films. He got back into the grindhouse and immediately starting making movies that his fans wanted to see. Meyer’s basic philosophy about women in film was simple: women who took off their clothes was great. Women with enormous funbags who took off their clothes was even greater. His list of cinematic giant hooters is a who’s who of “nudie” film starlets: Eve Meyer (his first wife), Tura Satana, Lorna Maitland, Rena Horten, Haji, Alaina Capri, Erica Gavin, Uschi Digard, June Mack, Kitten Natividad, Melissa Mounds, Pandora Peaks---all of them found fame (if only about 15 minutes of it) in Meyer’s oeuvre. While many critics write Meyer off as a misogynist, McDonough’s biography dares us to question this. Clearly, McDonough acknowledges, these critics may have a point, but Meyer’s interior life was never an easy one to see. And while he did end up having some strained personal conflicts with individual women in his life, the many women he worked with throughout his filmmaking career almost unanimously agreed that he was a straight-up professional and a gentleman. There are even critics, McDonough points out, who believe that Meyer may have been a deeply-closeted homosexual, and McDonough doesn’t totally discount this theory, based on some compelling evidence. It is, however, ultimately irrelevant, since no one has ever substantiated it. Also, Meyer is now deceased, so we will never know for sure. What we do know is that Meyer had a vision. Yes, one that involved ridiculously large bazongas, but a vision nonetheless. He left behind a legacy of crazy and still-entertaining films, many of which are being taught in film courses on college campuses today. Granted, this either says a lot about Meyer’s films or a lot about today’s college campuses. You decide.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tim Pendry

    This book should be unedifying. After all it is the biography of a cult pornographer written by a gonzo journalist. In fact, it is highly educational on three different grounds. The man is interesting. The era is interesting (as far as popular culture and sexuality is concerned). And the insights it gives into the lives of women on the margins of Hollywood at the tail end of its Golden Age are interesting. The man first. Russ Meyer was a soldier before he was anything else - McDonough makes the po This book should be unedifying. After all it is the biography of a cult pornographer written by a gonzo journalist. In fact, it is highly educational on three different grounds. The man is interesting. The era is interesting (as far as popular culture and sexuality is concerned). And the insights it gives into the lives of women on the margins of Hollywood at the tail end of its Golden Age are interesting. The man first. Russ Meyer was a soldier before he was anything else - McDonough makes the point more than once and it deserves the repetition. He learnt his trade with the 166th Signals and had a 'good war'. His skills and connections brought him into industrial films and permitted him his half-hobby of glamour photography. When the latter started to pay it was but a small step to taking his film experience and entering the sexploitation market with 'nudie cuties', making use of the pool of burlesque and sex industry workers that had emerged in California on the fringes of the movie industry. The culture in which this took place needs to be understood and we have already produced two reviews - of Henry Miller's 'World of Sex' ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33... - in which he writes as a pre-war generation libertine surveying with dismay the aggression and cultural conservatism of post-war America) and of Taschen's edition of Men's Adventure magazine covers from the same period ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22... ) - that might assist. The point is that a generation of young men, often raised in straitened circumstances during the Depression, went to war, experienced fear, adrenaline and sex in close proximity for the first time and then had to return to a conservative settler culture dominated by female values as if nothing had happened. Far from patriarchal, the culture was matriarchal - it is the world of the West after Gary Cooper's High Noon experience - and male violence and sexuality had a tendency to be pushed underground and then merge in a form of bonding through misogyny that Meyer's films represented and exploited. We will get on to the role that Russ Meyer's films were to play in the liberation of parts of America from that closed culture but it was not a liberation that was understood or intended by Meyer (he attributed the revolution with some justification to Hugh Hefner's 'Playboy' which offered a softer, more 'romantic' view of women as distant beauties) or by his audiences who largely wanted relief from domestic pressures without questioning the American dream or Christian values. Many commentators have noted that Meyer's characters are often powerful castrating women with signature large breasts. McDonough notes how Meyer, filled with adrenaline as if film-making was combat, acted like the worst sort of bully in order to get his films done and dusted within budget and on time. But was this misogyny or simply the same creative obsession of many men with a 'project'? Other evidence suggests that he was pandering to a misogynistic response to a matriarchal culture (set within a wider patriarchal economic system) rather than that he was misogynistic himself ... There is certainly a misogyny in these films but not quite in a simplistic way. Much can be made of the monster of a mother behind Meyer and of Meyer's decline in powers being linked not just to his Alzheimer's but to her death. This is certainly one for 'Psycho-Style' analysis perhaps, but he would not have been able to make these films if he did not have hundreds of thousands of paying customers, largely married males or males still stuck at home under the thumbs of mothers but bonding in all-male work-places or living from forces reunion to forces reunion, who identified with this imagery - much as their mothers and wives identified with the romantic story-lines of films starring Cary Grant or Audrey Hepburn. This brings us on to the second theme of the book which in itself makes it well worth reading - the transition in American popular culture from repressed conservatism to 'anything goes' (in parts). Although there were mainstream movies (neutered from portraying sexual themes by the Hays Code) and there was hard core stag material in the 1930s and 1940s which were clearly exploitative in the very worst sense, there was little or nothing inbetween to look at as the soldiers returned from war. Early material (which brought Meyer into the business) was little more than showing nudity, with a Carry On implication of naughtiness, some ersatz anthropological interest or a fake moral condemnation inserted, certainly with no sight or sign of pubic hair, let alone genitals. Meyer used his experience and the pool of girls, whom he seems to have treated with sexual respect without use of the 'casting couch' that was still a factor in mainstream Hollywood (at least until very late in his career), to shift from these fake anthropological films to 'nudie cuties' with some limited story line to the 'classic' sexploitation movies like 'Faster Pussycat Kill Kill!' - all turbocharged female aggression designed to excite males who wanted to recognise both the wimp in themselves and to fantasise about the real men they would be if only they got the chance. Meyer played this to the hilt but he treated rather deep psychological matters with broad humour (again, much like the 'Carry On' franchise), no holds barred on suggestion, cartoonish violence and fast cutting - it was catharsis on film. Meyer was eventually invited to the collapsing Fox Studios because his formula was working but, with the usual lack of intelligence of corporate man, he was brought in at the end of a cycle and not at the beginning of one. The 1960s had brought new libertarian thinking on sexuality and, although 'Beyond the Valley of the Dolls' might be regarded as a bridge between eras, Meyer's vision was no longer going to be as meaningful in the 1970s, becoming a pastiche of itself (even though 'Supervixens' is creative enough that it will probably be one of those few films that you will leave not entirely believing that it had actually happened). Apart from his influence on later generations of art film directors such as Waters and Tarantino (from a stylistic point of view), Meyer can lay claim to two longer term 'effects' on American culture. The first is that the women he created had an unintended and paradoxical role to play in first gay and then sex-positive female iconography. What started out as a castration and domination fantasy for post-war traumatised and confused males was to transmute itself into the imagery of strong glamorous women who could defend themselves and kick red-neck ass. The crass Lady Gaga video (based on 'Faster Pussycat Kill Kill!) is merely the fag end of this cultural revolution, its degradation into the mass commercialisation of style over substance, but, more positively, Meyer's imagery played its role in turning burlesque from an economic refuge for abused women on the lam, into an art form by women for women, an ironic sex-positive statement where women choose to become erotic fantasies for themselves and other women rather than for the men. Men are now increasingly more likely to be found being fleeced (at least in the big cities) by corporate lap-dancers and strippers with full human resources departments behind them. The second is that Meyer, alongside the really hard core print pornographers like Larry Flynt, was instrumental in fighting First Amendment cases that opened the door for mainstream Hollywood to move into sex and violence on its own accord in the 1970s and enabled the hard core industry to push Meyer's style of cartoon sex and violence into the history books. The revolution in cultural acceptance of extreme violence and the slightly slower path to extreme sexual portrayal began under conditions of recession and technological innovation (largely the need for Hollywood to deal head-on with family-friendly competition from TV in the 1970s). The determined litigiousness of Meyer and his ilk, as usual demonstrating the truth that big business likes small business to create or defend new markets at its own expense before moving in on the territory itself, removed a layer of caution - legal costs are a major deterrent when you have stockholders to answer to. Perhaps the current recession and innovation in the internet will see similar changes in the current troubled 'old' media like print media. This was a worldwide phenomenon. Hammer Horror films, as an independent, began to crumble under recessionary pressures as mainstream pictures proved capable of being more visceral or psychological than their romantic Gothic approach (helped along no doubt by late Hitchcock). The Carry On franchise followed the same trajectory as the Russ Meyer films - a slow death as broad defusive humour was no longer required if sex could be portrayed full-on and, well, as sexual. The period before the 1970s in both the US and UK had relegated sex to the art movie house while mass sexual culture thrived on the titter (UK) and on the crude belly laugh (US) but what the market really wanted was the thrill of gore and, eventually, penetration. Meyer did not do penetration or hard core and only late came to the portrayal of non-straight sex. His sex was highly energetic but definitely vanilla. Meyer's eventual decline is charted in this book in almost cruel detail, partly explained by McDonough's reliance on personal testimony from those who worked with Meyer. The affairs of his estate were messy on his death and his last years were confused with many different opinions on how this senile old man was being cared for. Since everyone had an opinion and McDonough clearly has his own concerns, the last chapter or so turns into an unedifying 'he said, she said'. Nevertheless, despite his own occasional moments of adrenaline-fuelled linguistic excess (this is not a book to lend to Grandmamma), McDonough writes with verve and can tell an anecdote as if you were there yourself. There are times when any red-blooded male, despite himself, is going to belly laugh at some of the japes and jollities of Mr. Meyer and his crew of filmic bandits. But Meyer was a complex man - nice is not a word you would use about him. On set, he was a bully with a degree of cruel manipulation that shows either a strategy drawn out of the theories of Stanislavski or, more likely, an inner rage than came out when he was 'in combat'. McDonough makes the point more than once that film-making for Meyer was like his experience in the 166th Signals - deadly serious, live-or-die and that total loyalty was required from all those around him. Given all this, what is fascinating is the strange love and loyalty given to him by his starlets - and even those women with whom he had temptestuous relationships seem to have given as good as they got in the long run. Being married to Meyer or in a relationship sounds like the worst nightmare of any modern feminist but until his latter days when his standards clearly slipped, he seems to have behaved personally well to his starlets and they seem generally to have cared for him. It is hard to know what is going on here, especially as the treatment of women may go on the charge sheet of anyone determined to condemn him as MCP - the excuse 'that was then, this is now' always only goes so far. McDonough tends to lay out the facts and avoid theorising on 'gender relations' but there are enough facts to hazard a theory. Meyer seems to have been increasingly dysfunctional in actual relationships as time went on. Much of this can be put down to the relationship with that same, subsequently insane, mother, straight out of late Hitchcock, who helped inspire the castrating female fantasy that reached its apogee in Tura Satana's performance in 'Pussycat'. But even here, there is a progression in his life from a 'normal' marriage that did not work, through a 'business' marriage that foundered on his sexual artistic ambitions and risk-taking and onward through ever further deterioration to the extremely dysfunctional and on occasions violent (not by him) relationship with his last lover. In other words, there is no necessary link between his personal treatment of women close to him and his alleged misogyny except that he becomes more dysfunctional as his powers wane - a psychologist might speculate that creative frustration leads to a practised misogyny because he can't get rid of his frustrations on screen but that would be highly speculative. The starlets are a separate case again - some clearly nyphomaniac, some abused in the past, some not-so-bright but some also very together women with a practical approach to business and full control of their bodies. The women are as various as might be expected in any community with the only common denominator being that they tended to come from the 'softer' ends of the sex industry - modelling, burlesque, small roles on the fringes of Hollywood - and were certainly not linked to the 'hard' prostitution and stag film side of it. They were, by standards, mostly 'good bad girls' of a sort and one starlet had her mother accompany her to the shoot much to the irritation of Mr. Meyer. The impression given is that Meyer really was primarily interested in their roles as filmic or photo fodder (and there are some excellent photographs giving a flavour of the changing image of the women over the decades). They may have been abused in the past (and there are one or two nightmare tales in the book) but, given no social services to pick them up in the cruel world of American capitalism, the 'soft' sex industry was actually giving them a livelihood without any necessity for more abuse than they might get today working for Walmart. Meyer was offering them decent if not over-generous pay and a role as well as, except on set, basically respectful treatment by the American standards of the time. Meyer's 'decent' enemies come out no better than he. His 'golden age' was well before the rise of feminism. No doubt he would have felt the ire of feminists if his films had not slipped under the radar screen during their high point of influence and only returned to notice during the post-feminist sex-positive era. McDonough spends a little time on one Charles Keating who seemed to have made it his life's mission to crush pornography under his heel in Ohio. Meyer one of his prime targets. Interestingly, it was Keating who was central to the Savings & Loan scandal and the book has disturbing stories of implied sexual harassment that make Meyer look like a model employer. One of the problems that the sexual moralists have in America is that, no matter how sleazy the sex industry gets, lacking a consensus on socialist solutions to exploitation, there are enough moral monsters on their own side to ensure that sex industry figures can still look, relatively, like saints. So, this book is recommended as an entertaining read which is well written by someone with the ability to make us feel as if we know the subject and that we can make our own judgements as to whether we would want to know or do business with him. But it is equally recommended as a source of important data on the transition of American culture from a rural and small town conservatism to an urban-based libertarianism, a process that is still under way. It also raises interesting questions about morality under capitalism - though this is my interest not McDonough's. Meyer's films were an entrepreneurial response to a need in the market that the system could not satisfy. They almost certainly did no harm (though his last efforts are nastier, they are not much nastier than what was coming out if the recession-hit mainstream or what was going on in the drug-fuelled post-Vietnam street) and they may (arguably) have done some good in allowing steam to be let off periodically by all those involved. At the end of the day, the immorality probably lies mostly in the initial creation of the rage implicit in those market needs which comes from the tension that had emerged between male aspirations and female expectations under conditions of first poverty, then war and then conformity. The Hollywood romance had given 'nice' people the illusion that all was well in a way that was little different from the state-controlled media of the rival communist world. Meanwhile, insecurity and abuse on the margins of society (much like child abuse in the Catholic Church) was not merely ignored as unmentionable but misfits with a different sexual nature or who had been abused or whose families had broken up were excluded, forced to sublimate their feelings (as soldiers were not permitted to speak of their wartime experience or, indeed, Holocaust survivors of their losses), went mad (like Meyer's sister, the tragic Lucinda) or, if they were a bit feisty, made their way to a big city or Hollywood and took what jobs they could. The sex industry, soft and hard, may, in some cases, be the exploitative draw for sex traffickers but it may also - under free market conditions - be the means by which men and women can find their own economic freedom and social position and, ultimately, as in Meyer's films, contribute to culture. One of Meyer's starlets picked herself up and later became a small town teacher - in an instructive tale of the destructive affects of stigma, she feared her children knowing their mother's past when the biography was raised only to find that her kids had found the prints of the movie and wondered why she had not mentioned it. They seem to have been untraumatised and relaxed. The common denominator in Meyer's circle is that these were people from a marginalised society, often very disturbed but equally as likely to be as tough as nuts, and that they cohered as a community of sorts no different from the village of Ambridge. Meyer had his stock of actors and actresses and some of them he would use over and over again - until they upset him, of course. His wierd attitude to loyalty is a constant theme in the book but we have all met strange neurotics like that in business so it should not alarm us unduly. Indeed, many of Meyer's flaws are reproducible amongst all mildly sociopathic small businessmen in small towns across the 'free world'. He was, in fact, a typical anti-communist entrepreneur who just happened to have an obsession with large breasts and turned it to his economic advantage. Many other men have turned other less startling obsessions into businesses that made them wealthy. His little world was simultaneously abusive, quasi-feudal, a creative endeavour and a refuge for the marginalised i.e. the world of American capitalism writ small. Until 'moralists' understand that it is not enough to condemn the output of the sex industry but that they must be prepared to engage in some form of 'socialism' (government or community engagement) to deal with abuse and bullying at source before they can claim to have an opinion on these burgeoning industries, they are moral hypocrites. Even then, the demand for sexual imagery, adapted to the psychology of the time, for women as much as men, and for sexual services is going to be a 'given' for a long time to come in society. It is perhaps time to treat the industries themselves with as much regulatory attention as one might employ to protect the workers of Walmart (de minimis) and remove the air of stigma around sexual services so that at least the workers would get the full value of their labour, know that what they did was a matter of free economic choice in a culture that accepted them as persons in their own right and be able to use these jobs as way stations from the margins to the sort of family life or personal fulfilment that is their due.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    I first heard of Meyer--and John Waters, another maker of odd films--from a high school friend, Wayne. He had me see Vixen, a low-budget, very softcore comedy, at the 400 Theatre in Chicago, not far from Loyola University. I thought it rather silly and boring. I had a similar response later to Waters' Pink Flamingos. Still, Meyers was much talked about, an acquired taste for a increasing number of friends and a director taken seriously by the primary film reviewer for Chicago's Reader, the sourc I first heard of Meyer--and John Waters, another maker of odd films--from a high school friend, Wayne. He had me see Vixen, a low-budget, very softcore comedy, at the 400 Theatre in Chicago, not far from Loyola University. I thought it rather silly and boring. I had a similar response later to Waters' Pink Flamingos. Still, Meyers was much talked about, an acquired taste for a increasing number of friends and a director taken seriously by the primary film reviewer for Chicago's Reader, the source for recommendations as to what to see. Besides, he had even produced a film written by Roger Ebert, former boyfriend of a friend, and much respected cinema critic on PBS television. I gave him another try--three actually. The 400 was doing a Russ Meyer triple feature with Vixen, Up! and Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens. Dad, recently divorced, had moved back to the neighborhood and had become socially available, so I went with him. Vixen, as ever, was boring and unerotic, but Up! was so over-the-top silly that I liked it and Raven de la Croix was enough to make anything sexy. Even Dad was amused, or at least distracted from his woes. In the years following I saw several more Meyer films, including a copy of The Immoral Mr. Teas which a friend of mine, another reviewer, possessed. With the passage of time Meyer's films became quainter and quainter as they contain no real sex and harken back to cheesecake standards of beauty and excess, standards more of Dad's generation than of mine. They also had become for me "an acquired taste" of sorts. Thus, when I encountered McDonough's biography at a used bookstore, I bought and read the thing. Big Bosoms and Square Jaws is, like its subject, both funny and teasing. I left it still not understanding why so many reviewers take him seriously, but with some greater understanding of American popular culture. The Ebert film, Beneath the Valley of the Dolls, incidentally, while being the biggest budget film Meyer ever produced, is not, in my opinion, among his best--whatever that might mean. PS I later came to appreciate John Waters--well, some of Waters--as well, his Desperate Living (1977) being hilariously weird.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    I read this because I was fascinated by Jimmy McDonough's work. I knew little of Russ Meyer outside of a couple of his films, but I heard wonderful things about this author's writing style, and this book was the first one I found. McDonough's writing style deserves the praise I read. He channels Russ Meyer's frantic style. He interviewed numerous people to get every angle of his career and life - both the fascinating and disturbing parts. The book kept my attention until the end, even if the film I read this because I was fascinated by Jimmy McDonough's work. I knew little of Russ Meyer outside of a couple of his films, but I heard wonderful things about this author's writing style, and this book was the first one I found. McDonough's writing style deserves the praise I read. He channels Russ Meyer's frantic style. He interviewed numerous people to get every angle of his career and life - both the fascinating and disturbing parts. The book kept my attention until the end, even if the films and the stories behind them start to blend together (each one can involve Meyer being an asshole, sexual tension, and a bunch of jokes or puns about breasts). I can't give it 5 stars because in a post-#MeToo world, his treatment towards women needs to be elucidated more. Until he became old and senile, he straddled some strange line between being a chauvinist and empowering his female film starts in some gross, pre-feminism way. It's confusing and while it makes sense in Russ Meyer's world, it's horribly backwards in the 21st century. I don't find McDonough does a good job in extrapolating this. Even worse, sometimes the jokes flow a bit too freely and I feel he makes light of how demeaning Meyer was of women. The topic could have been handled better. That aside, it was an interesting biography that explored the strange world of underground cinema of the 60s and 70s. I would definitely recommend a biography by Jimmy McDonough....but probably not this one.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jim Nirmaier

    This entertaining and never boring (that’s an understatement) biography of one of the most colorful boundary-breaking filmmakers in Hollywood history, is essential reading for all film buffs due, in large part, to the sure-handed and excellent writing skills of Mr. McDonough. He also wrote Shakey: Neil Young’s Biography (2002) which is one of my top 5 all-time favorite rock bios. His style flows easily and smoothly from the page and his research is meticulous and his interviews expansive and inc This entertaining and never boring (that’s an understatement) biography of one of the most colorful boundary-breaking filmmakers in Hollywood history, is essential reading for all film buffs due, in large part, to the sure-handed and excellent writing skills of Mr. McDonough. He also wrote Shakey: Neil Young’s Biography (2002) which is one of my top 5 all-time favorite rock bios. His style flows easily and smoothly from the page and his research is meticulous and his interviews expansive and inclusive. Russ Meyer, while notoriously known as the peddler of drive-in nudie films and a pioneer of soft-core films and pushing behavioral film standards, it is no surprise he had a very unusual overall family dynamic with his domineering and somewhat trashy mother and his mentally ill but beautiful sister, who spent the majority of her life institutionalized with her medical care provided by her caring brother for her entire life. However, he initially developed his keen eye for photography and the camera while serving during World War II as a U.S. Army combat cameraman for the 166th Signal Photo Company, in General George S. “Blood and Guts” Patton’s Third Army. He supposedly lost his virginity in France thanks to a prostitute hook-up arranged by Ernest Hemingway himself! Those were the best years of Mr. Meyer’s young life and he learned many valuable lessons on how to use a camera and uniquely and distinctly frame a picture that made it memorable. Some of his actual combat film footage was ironically used in the Oscar-winning film Patton nearly 30 years later. He established a brotherhood bond with his fellow combat photographers and for years following the war, he was the den leader and organizer for all their annual reunions and get-togethers. Upon arriving stateside in the Go Go post-war America of the late 40’s & 50’s, he had developed a sharp photographic eye, and during and after a brief film apprenticeship in boring industrial corporate films (Standard Oil Co, etc.), he quickly began pursing his two major obsessions; photography and extremely large breasts. Through a war buddy, he hooked up with Globe Photos and began taking unusually good photos for the “girlie” magazines of the time – Gent, Fling, Escapade, Frolic, Pix, Vue, etc. This line of work was referred to commonly at the time as cheesecake, but in later years, Meyer would coin a more colorful and much more crass Meyerism for the endeavor: “tittyboom.” He began to develop a reputation within these unique specialized circles as a gifted man with a camera and even got some early Playboy layout assignments. His first real female obsession, photo subject and catalyst for the end of his first marriage to straight arrow Betty Valdovinos, was a full packet of dynamite originally named Blanche Banks, who was a self-described “freak with a forty-inch bosom.” Her fantastical bodily measurements of 39-24-39 were enough to put sweat on any man’s brow and after Meyer’s 1950 dramatic photo shoot, which featured high-contrast lighting, razor-sharp focus, and a bombastic sense of composition photo layout – just a girl on stage with some curtains in B&W – she emerged as Tempest Storm. She blew in and out of Meyer’s life quickly and, via the stripper circuit, into somewhat of a Tinseltown career and sensational tabloid romances with Mickey Rooney, Hugh O’Brien, Sammy Davis, Jr., Engelbert Humperdinck, and even the King himself; Elvis Presley. But, Russ Meyer was soon to be on his way as well. With his marriage on the rocks, Russ moved in with ex-military buddy Bill Teas in San Francisco above a gay nightclub called the “Black Cat.” After a brief dalliance with the stripper star, the “Alaskan Heat Wave” Lilly La Mont, his life took a turn that would change his future trajectory into wealth and fame, or infamy; depending on your perspective. After a boozy night of seeing the Dave Brubek Quartet in a Frisco jazz club, he met the exotic Eve Turner. She was a real wowser – wasp waist, blond hair, blue eyes, “a face to sink a thousand Dungeness crab boats.” And most importantly for Russ, a devastating pair of breasts that RM described as “conically maddening.” He also stated, “I knew I’d marry her the minute we met” and he would end up naming his filmmaking company Eve Productions. The couple married on August 2, 1952 and from 1952 – 1958 Eve Meyer in her birthday suit meant money in the bank and she was on display in just about every men’s pulp on the newsstand – Night & Day, Fling, Modern Man, Photo, Frolic, Ogle, etc.; as well as mail order 8 mm films and photo stills. His boundary-breaking film career started with the 1959 “nudie cutie” film called The Immoral Mr. Teas, a film of which I was completely unaware of. The year the film was made, Eisenhower was president, Charlton Heston was the top movie draw in Ben Hur, suburban sprawl was spreading everywhere, and Americans had money to burn. This low-budget $24,000 film, shot over a weekend, was again produced in the late 50’s during a time, as movie critic Kenneth Turan has written, “when nothing more than a glimpse of female flesh was enough to send strong men reeling and begging for more.” So, the film really didn’t show much, but just enough to become a minor sensation and earn a cool million at the box office. Again, it was also the door-opener for all the flesh on film to follow and the now multi-billion dollar porn and adult entertainment business. He followed up “Mr Teas” with a handful of “nudie cuties” starring his wife Eve and establishing RM as the “King of the Nudies.” Mr. Meyer however was a true auteur who wrote, directed, edited, photographed and distributed all his own films. He was able to finance each new film from the proceeds of the earlier ones, and became very wealthy in the process. He also partnered equally with his gorgeous wife Eve as co-producers and she was the real savvy one when it came to the money side of things. But, not to be lost in the bountiful bevy of bouncing boobs, was the fact that Russ Meyer was a truly gifted and very exciting filmmaker that created a unique and action-packed cinematic style without which we would not have had MTV, Quentin Tarantino, or the entire music video genre itself (at least not in the form it initially took due to his influence). After his very commercially successful film Lorna starring the alluring Lorna Maitland, he really hit his cinematic stride in the mid-60’s with a string of B&W films edited with breakneck cuts and filled with emasculated men and kick-ass hour-glass females. He followed Lorna with three other similar films, and would call this his “Gothic” period and considered by many as his creative peak: Mudhoney (yes, that’s where the band got its name) (1965), Motorpsycho (1965) and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (yes, that’s where the band got its name) (1965). Lorna was very successful commercially, making almost a million dollars. Mudhoney was more ambitious, based on a novel, and did not perform as well. Motorpsycho, about three men terrorizing the countryside, was a big hit—so much so that Meyer decided to make a film about three bad girls. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! was commercially underwhelming but would eventually be reclaimed as a cult classic. It has a following all over the world and has inspired countless imitations, music videos, and tributes. It stars the irrepressibly Amazonian kick-ass lineup of Tura Satana, Haji, Lori Williams, and Susan Bernard. The star performance of Ms. Satana was called by the esteemed Time magazine film critic Richard Corliss as, “the most honest, maybe the one honest, portrayal in the Meyer canon.” Again, the film was not commercially successful, but its influences continue to reverberate to this day. He finished off the 60’s with a series of color skin flicks including the very popular mockumentary Mondo Topless (1966) with the remnants of his production company’s assets and made two mildly successful color melodramas: Common Law Cabin (1967) and Good Morning…and Goodbye! (1967). Meyer made headlines once again in 1968 with the controversial Vixen! Although its lesbian overtones are tame by today’s standards, the film—envisaged by Meyer and longtime producer Jim Ryan as a reaction to provocative European art films—grossed millions on a five-figure budget and captured the zeitgeist just as The Immoral Mr. Teas had a decade earlier. He followed it with Finders Keeper, Lovers Weepers! (1969), and Cherry, Harry & Raquel! (1970), which utilized long montages of the California landscape (replete with anti-marijuana voice-overs) and curvy Ushi Digard (who, according to RM, had “the dedication of a Watusi gun-bearer. She’d run over bare coals and cut glass.”) dancing in the desert as the film’s “lost soul.” These plot devices were necessitated after lead actress Linda Ashton left the shoot early, forcing Meyer to compensate for 20 minutes of unshot footage. During this period also, RM worked frequently with KY native and long-time character actor Charles Napier, who certainly had the perfect “square jaw” that he preferred featuring with his leading men. The next phase of Mr. Meyer’s career marked his commercial and mainstream apex when he began collaborating with Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert and after studio head Richard Zanuck signed RM to a lucrative deal with 20th Century Fox after the wide success of the alternative-culture mega-hit Easy Rider. He was ostensibly signed to do a sequel to the commercially successful, but Hollywood trashy soap opera, based on Jacqueline Susann’s immensely popular novel, Valley of the Dolls. With a screenplay written by Ebert, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls was released in 1970. The “sequel” had absolutely nothing to do with the original movie and I recently saw an uncut version aired on TCM’s Underground weekly late-night cult film showcase. It is quite the cinematic experience in blazing Technicolor with a ton of hippie-dippy activity and topless go-go dancing, a decapitation, and much much more. A mess? Yes! Entertaining? Quite! At the time of its release, the industry rag Variety saw it “as funny as a burning orphanage and a treat for the emotionally retarded.” Contractually stipulated to produce an R-rated film, the brutally violent climax (depicting the aforementioned head removal) ensured an X rating (eventually reclassified to NC-17 in 1990). Though disowned by the studio for decades to come and amid gripes from the director after he attempted to re-cut the film to include more titillating scenes after the ratings debacle, it still earned $9 million domestically in the United States on a budget of $900,000. RM then made his Fox studio follow-up and most subdued film, The Seven Minutes (1971), an adaptation of the popular Irving Wallace novel. It was commercially unsuccessful. In 1975, he released Supervixens, a return to the world of big bosoms, square jaws, and his favorite shooting locale, the Sonoran Desert. The film earned $17 million in the United States alone on a shoestring budget. Meyer’s theatrical career ended with the release of the surreal Up! (1976) and 1979’s Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens, which were both his most sexually graphic films. Film historians and fans have called these last three films “Bustoons” because his use of color and mise en scène recalled larger-than-life pop-art settings and cartoonish characters. In 1977, Malcolm McLaren hired Meyer to direct a film starring his band The Sex Pistols. Meyer handed the script-writing duties over to Ebert, who, in collaboration with McLaren, produced a screenplay entitled Who Killed Bambi? According to Ebert, filming ended after a day and a half when the electricians walked off the set after McLaren was unable to pay them. (McLaren has claimed that the project was scrapped at the behest of the main financier.) The project ultimately evolved into The Great Rock & Roll Swindle. Russ Meyer’s last years were a sad decline into dementia, seclusion, and mismanagement of his estate by the scheming Janice Cowart, who began working as RM’s assistant and wormed her way into almost complete control of the man and his assets. Russ Meyer died at his home in the Hollywood Hills, from complications of pneumonia, on September 18, 2004. He was 82 years old. Almost all of his stable of cinematic beauties attended his funeral and to a girl, all loved RM deeply and affectionately. As they all said, “He never was a lech on set. A true professional.” As his youthful collaborator and protege the late Roger Ebert stated, “He was not a sleazy porn merchant. He was more of an All-American kind of guy. He was also dead serious. Even in the earlier films the humor is intended. Russ was very sophisticated. If you think you’re laughing at him, you’re not. He’s laughing at you.“ Whether he was the Sultan of Sleaze or the Progenitor of Pulp Cinema as we now know it, there is no denying Mr. Meyer’s influence on modern cinema. And the man was bigger than life and lived in one gear only, and it was in the fast lane. He was truly one-of-a-kind!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Wow. I'm blown away. In the end of reading this biography, you both hate and love Russ Meyer equally, which I'm sure is the reaction Russ would have wanted. I love Russ Meyer for his works, but as a person you come to find out he's a tyrant. A control freak, a prick, jealous all the time making sure his movie set had "no challengers" to his rule, obsessive/compulsive as he got older, this 400-page biography is filled with crazy stories and crazy drama. The guy was a grenade going off all the tim Wow. I'm blown away. In the end of reading this biography, you both hate and love Russ Meyer equally, which I'm sure is the reaction Russ would have wanted. I love Russ Meyer for his works, but as a person you come to find out he's a tyrant. A control freak, a prick, jealous all the time making sure his movie set had "no challengers" to his rule, obsessive/compulsive as he got older, this 400-page biography is filled with crazy stories and crazy drama. The guy was a grenade going off all the time. The ironic part of it is how he becomes in the last years of his life a character in his movies: the weak impotent bastard being taken advantage by controlling/violent women. And his childhood explains ALOT on how he became the man he is now known as. Great biography. And I hate, hate HATE how his movies are still expensive as hell, even on Ebay. Damn you money grubbing motherfuckers. I won't buy them until you bring the price down to something feasible!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    One of the best books I've ever read about a filmmaker, and as the real critics like to say, a bio on Russ Meyer could have gone wrong in so many ways. But Jimmy McDonough did an ouststanding job in portraying King Leer, warts and all. Every phase of his career is exhaustively covered here, from his peek-a-boo girlie mag days to his nudie cutie films to his legendary sex romps to his senile cinema classics (Up, Supervixens, etc). While there are parts that will make you laugh out loud there's an One of the best books I've ever read about a filmmaker, and as the real critics like to say, a bio on Russ Meyer could have gone wrong in so many ways. But Jimmy McDonough did an ouststanding job in portraying King Leer, warts and all. Every phase of his career is exhaustively covered here, from his peek-a-boo girlie mag days to his nudie cutie films to his legendary sex romps to his senile cinema classics (Up, Supervixens, etc). While there are parts that will make you laugh out loud there's an equal amount of pathos regarding many of Meyer's sexy players who all bravely transcended their traumatic backgrounds to create sleaze comedy gems like "Vixen" and "Faster Pussycat".

  8. 5 out of 5

    J.D. Graves

    This is a fantastic look under a very big rock. The biographer does an incredible job creating empathy for a very flawed human being. Being a big fan of RM's films for their complete iconoclastic nature and of course the study of the female form. This book is a fun breezy read until it isn't...just like his films. RM life declined as fast as the quality of his films. But at least a drinking game was formed afterwards.http://www.econoclash.com/2017/12/ben... This is a fantastic look under a very big rock. The biographer does an incredible job creating empathy for a very flawed human being. Being a big fan of RM's films for their complete iconoclastic nature and of course the study of the female form. This book is a fun breezy read until it isn't...just like his films. RM life declined as fast as the quality of his films. But at least a drinking game was formed afterwards.http://www.econoclash.com/2017/12/ben...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Adrian Bloxham

    The story of the cult film maker, I didn't know just how popular his films were in their hey day and knew nothing about his life so a really good read

  10. 4 out of 5

    Janice

    here is a paragraph that sums up why i bothered reading this book that, in the end, i feel kinda weird about: Used, abused, and still a bit nutty after all these years, Meyer's women fight to scratch out some sort of a living, waiting for the break that never came post-RM. They were too far ahead of their time, too big for this planet, and financially they have benefited the least from the work they helped to create. But somewhere out there a fourteen-year-old scowling bad seed of a girl is seein here is a paragraph that sums up why i bothered reading this book that, in the end, i feel kinda weird about: Used, abused, and still a bit nutty after all these years, Meyer's women fight to scratch out some sort of a living, waiting for the break that never came post-RM. They were too far ahead of their time, too big for this planet, and financially they have benefited the least from the work they helped to create. But somewhere out there a fourteen-year-old scowling bad seed of a girl is seeing Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill for the first time and thinking to herself that the world can't be all bad if Tura Satana's in it. i was that fourteen year old, or, more accurately, that nineteen year old, girl and i have since had a love/hate relationship with the world of Russ Meyer that i still have trouble reconciling. is it empowerment or exploitation? i still don't know, but here are some positive or interesting things about the book: 1 – mcdonough tells the story, albeit briefly, of each of Russ Meyer's stars, their strange childhoods and troubled adulthoods and interesting life philosophies, all of which is worth the time. these are fascinating women, and i would much rather read a book about them. 2 – all of Meyers films are put into a variety of socio-political contexts that i find compelling on their own. hollywood's struggle with the television set, meyer's fight against censorship, the rise of porn and voyeur culture, etc. etc. 3 – i've read all about the sex pistols' aborted film project from their perspective, or from the perspective of people writing about them -- it was interesting to see it from meyer's. or from the author's interpretation of meyer's perspective, anyway. some things i found nigh unbearable: 1 – mcdonough seems to think that his book should, for the most part, read like a meyer script, which adds up to all sorts of unneccessary bombast barreling right at you like a bat out of hell. or a v-8 engine out of … something. oh god, god, it's insufferable. 2 – despite the respect and support often given to the actresses that starred in meyer's films, it's obvious that the author's interest in meyer's films is mainly … of a prurient nature, and he seems to assume that people reading the book want to hear about that with some regularity. 3 – in the same vein, i don't want to know that much about roger ebert's sex life. 4 – meyer's a gross scumbag. still, if you're interested in film history, in gender studies, in art vs. utility, form vs. function, etc. etc., and can stand the sort of things i've mentioned above … while i can't recommend it wholeheartedly, i can recommend it with a half-hearted shrug.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    The chapters of this book are like Britney Spears music. It's all the same thing repackaged as something new, when in fact all it amounts to is page after page of almost identical mashed up content that is crapped out in a reconfigured stanza. The author of this book is a hack. His attempt at metaphors are cringe inducingly horrible. I realize Russ may not be the easiest subject to write about, he's your typical all American male from the WWII era. Politically incorrect, narrow minded, racist, s The chapters of this book are like Britney Spears music. It's all the same thing repackaged as something new, when in fact all it amounts to is page after page of almost identical mashed up content that is crapped out in a reconfigured stanza. The author of this book is a hack. His attempt at metaphors are cringe inducingly horrible. I realize Russ may not be the easiest subject to write about, he's your typical all American male from the WWII era. Politically incorrect, narrow minded, racist, sexiest and any other ist you can think of. On top of that it appears his life is lived on a constant unchanging loop. Discover newest starlet, oogle newest starlet, photograph newest starlet, make film starring newest starlet, terrorize new starlet, cast and crew, sleep with new starlet and inevitably ruins relationship with starlet, hit reset and start all over. Every once and a while the tempo changes when he actually marries, but even this is ludicrously predictable. However, that doesn't give the author the right to be lazy about his subject matter. If you are going to take on a towering Titan of pop culture you need to do it right and keep it interesting. I think the author really painted a one dimentional sketch of Russ Meyer instead of a full portrait of this man. This is a lazy attempt at nonfiction. Russ Meyer deserved something better than this Cracker Jack prize of a biography.

  12. 5 out of 5

    adam

    Russ Meyer was a man with a fetish for enormous titties. He was also a skilled filmmaker with an incredible eye for composition and a true innovator in editing. And he was also probably clinically insane. So it goes without saying that Meyer's movies are just awesome-the ultimate cult flicks-but I have a whole new appreciation for the man after having read Jimmy McDonough's detailed, superbly written, and engrossing biography. Meyer himself wrote a multi-volume autobiography called THE BREAST OF Russ Meyer was a man with a fetish for enormous titties. He was also a skilled filmmaker with an incredible eye for composition and a true innovator in editing. And he was also probably clinically insane. So it goes without saying that Meyer's movies are just awesome-the ultimate cult flicks-but I have a whole new appreciation for the man after having read Jimmy McDonough's detailed, superbly written, and engrossing biography. Meyer himself wrote a multi-volume autobiography called THE BREAST OF RUSS MEYER, but apparently it is mostly false and in any event completely unreadable. So McDonough's work is especially welcome, and it covers everything: Meyer's troubled upbringing in Oakland, his stint as a photographer in WWII, his job directing the first ever "nudie" film, production details on every single one of his movies, and finally his sad and tragic last years, during which an opportunistic secretary essentially seized complete control of Meyer's estate while he was sick with dementia. That is why it costs $50 to get a poor DVD transfer of his movies today, which is just a shame. The world needs SUPERVIXENS in Blu-Ray, dammit! I'm going to write my congressman about it right now.

  13. 4 out of 5

    notgettingenough

    For those who think there is nothing to Russ Meyer, I refer you to the idea that he is a Menippean satirist and since I had no idea what that meant, maybe you don't either. From wiki: The term is used by classical grammarians and by philologists mostly to refer to satires in prose (cf. the verse Satires of Juvenal and his imitators). Typical mental attitudes attacked and ridiculed by menippean satires are "pedants, bigots, cranks, parvenus, virtuosi, enthusiasts, rapacious and incompetent profess For those who think there is nothing to Russ Meyer, I refer you to the idea that he is a Menippean satirist and since I had no idea what that meant, maybe you don't either. From wiki: The term is used by classical grammarians and by philologists mostly to refer to satires in prose (cf. the verse Satires of Juvenal and his imitators). Typical mental attitudes attacked and ridiculed by menippean satires are "pedants, bigots, cranks, parvenus, virtuosi, enthusiasts, rapacious and incompetent professional men of all kinds," which are treated as diseases of the intellect. The term Menippean satire distinguishes it from the earlier satire pioneered by Aristophanes, which was based on personal attacks..... Critic Frye observed 'The novelist sees evil and folly as social diseases, but the Menippean satirist sees them as diseases of the intellect.' For more on Russ Meyer, I've written a bit about him here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    By turns heroic, absurd, and finally tragic, Russ Meyer's life is ably recapitulated by Jimmy McDonough in a biography that moves along at the same breakneck pace as its subject's films. Neither hagiography nor character assassination, Big Bosoms and Square Jaws is balanced in its assessment of Meyer, recounting his virtues and vices in equal measure. McDonough quotes from Meyer's mammoth self-mythology A Clean Breast, which is overwhelming in both content and presentation (I've never managed mo By turns heroic, absurd, and finally tragic, Russ Meyer's life is ably recapitulated by Jimmy McDonough in a biography that moves along at the same breakneck pace as its subject's films. Neither hagiography nor character assassination, Big Bosoms and Square Jaws is balanced in its assessment of Meyer, recounting his virtues and vices in equal measure. McDonough quotes from Meyer's mammoth self-mythology A Clean Breast, which is overwhelming in both content and presentation (I've never managed more than a few dozen of its 1,200+ pages at a given time), but helpfully juxtaposes those passages with more tempered accounts from other participants which help to contextualize both the events in question as well as Meyer's hyperbolic cant. One is left, sadly, with the impression that Meyer's legacy has been left to a couple pairs of unqualified and unsympathetic hands, even as one suspects an ironic or tragic justice at work in Meyer's lamentable fate.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mark Oconnor

    Great coverage of behind the scenes events in the life of Russ Meyer, but ultimately it feels quite hollow. Meyer isn't shown to have any real depth of character but instead is shown as petty and revenge-seeking to the last. Maybe the author could have taken the effort to come up with something more insightful instead of lazily relying so heavily on interviews from decades past and other outdated material. We simply dont get a very accurate picture of this man, instead he is just as much a caric Great coverage of behind the scenes events in the life of Russ Meyer, but ultimately it feels quite hollow. Meyer isn't shown to have any real depth of character but instead is shown as petty and revenge-seeking to the last. Maybe the author could have taken the effort to come up with something more insightful instead of lazily relying so heavily on interviews from decades past and other outdated material. We simply dont get a very accurate picture of this man, instead he is just as much a caricature as any of the characters from his movies. The ending is also rather sad with the deteriorating state of the man over his last years of life and the harpy of a woman who locks him away from anyone who had shown him a scrap of affection throughout his life.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rowan

    This may have been changed as I have a hardback that I bought used, but the book could have benefited from some fact checking and copy-editing. Otherwise, it provides interesting information and is generally presented well. The last 20 years of Meyer's life is somewhat jammed together and the chronology of the last couple of chapters is downright confusing. Due to the nature of the story during this period of Meyer's life, one could argue that this approach is intentional. I'm not convinced. Over This may have been changed as I have a hardback that I bought used, but the book could have benefited from some fact checking and copy-editing. Otherwise, it provides interesting information and is generally presented well. The last 20 years of Meyer's life is somewhat jammed together and the chronology of the last couple of chapters is downright confusing. Due to the nature of the story during this period of Meyer's life, one could argue that this approach is intentional. I'm not convinced. Overlooking the strained rock analogies (which really have no place in Meyer-land, anyhow), it was a very informative, interesting read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Brett

    Good biography with flashy prose on nutty old perv Russ Meyer. It's not really made clear why Russ Meyer was such a pioneer for clearing censorship for Hollywood (it's stated more than explained), but it's clear McDonough's done a lot of research, and the memories and anecdotes from the zany cast of characters are delightful.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Super Amanda

    This is the best of all the books on or associated with Russ Meyer. Jimmy has respect for the actresses and pulls no punches when it comes to Meyer and his split misogynist/female worshipping persona. The rose tinted view by Ebert is replaced here by a great unbiased biography of a great artist and his muses.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sheehan

    If you ever wanted to know more about Russ Meyers and his films, this is a good biopic of his work/life. It's pretty engaging, and amazing what he got to print given his meager budgets. He's a bastard, but a prolific precedent-setting trailblazing bastard...so you gotta give him that.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gene

    the book was actually better than expected. it took me a while to get used to the author's writing style, but it really fit the subject/tone of the book. Was surprised to learn a fair bit about Russ Meyer the person. His post film life and eventual death was a sadder than I expected too.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rodeo

    Long and boring, just like a Meyer film.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Henry

    Russ Meyer was a legend and a TRUE Independent filmmaker.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andy Mascola

    Loved this compelling bio of the larger than life auteur.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    One of the best film bios around, eclipsed only by McDonough's bio of Andy Milligan. You'll have a new respect for Meyer after reading this.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jason Coffman

    Jimmy McDonough, author of the incredible Andy Milligan biography, does the same for Russ Meyer. The result is comparably life-changing.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Daddy Bookworm

    Not as great as McDonough's bio of Andy Milligan (by contrast, Meyer isnt as strange as Milligan).

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth

    I registered a book at BookCrossing.com! http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/12393900 I registered a book at BookCrossing.com! http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/12393900

  28. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    I really enjoyed reading this. Made me an even bigger fan of Meyer. Some amazing quotes.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marion Whyte

  30. 4 out of 5

    F.C. Schaefer

    This book had sat on my shelf for a year or so after getting it as a Christmas gift and I finally got around to reading it and can say with authority that it was well worth the wait. I am a life-long movie buff and I especially like to read books about the creative process of film making, my last such book was a bio of John Ford, and I can say with absolute certitude that though Russ Meyer was about a million miles from the great Master of the Western Genre, they shared a few things in common, m This book had sat on my shelf for a year or so after getting it as a Christmas gift and I finally got around to reading it and can say with authority that it was well worth the wait. I am a life-long movie buff and I especially like to read books about the creative process of film making, my last such book was a bio of John Ford, and I can say with absolute certitude that though Russ Meyer was about a million miles from the great Master of the Western Genre, they shared a few things in common, mainly a cantankerous disposition, which they used to get their way, and a great passion for movie making. BIG BOSOMS AND SQUARE JAWS by Jimmy McDonough is an in depth look at the great renegade film maker and King of the Nudies, one that does not spare his subject his less than flattering attributes, but also lets the reader come away with a true understanding of this unique man. McDonough, a journalist in the mode of Hunter S. Thompson, finds just the right voice to tell Meyer’s story, from his lowly beginnings to his glory days through his eventual sad decline. Meyer was born in California in 1922 and raised by a single mother after his police man father left the family when Russ was an infant. Like many of his generation, the defining event of Meyer’s life was service in World War II, where an early love of cameras landed him in the 166 Signal Photographic Company. As a combat photographer, he would see plenty of action and make the life-long friendships that would become a sort of first family for Meyer as he would remain close to his army buddies for the rest of his life. His wartime experience got him a job making industrial films, while working a sideline as a photographer for the many skin magazines of the era. It was a sideline that brought him in contact with strippers and budding actresses and allowed Meyer to indulge his fetish for the well-endowed and full-figured female form. At the same time, he was learning everything about the film making process, so by the time he was ready to make a low budget picture of his own in the late 50’s, the he was virtually a one man film crew all his own. Starting with THE IMMORAL MR. TEAS and continuing for the next two decades, Russ Meyer would churn one low budget “nudie” film after another, filled with gorgeous women, the men they drive crazy, and the violence that ensues when his combustible characters meet. MUDHONEY; COMMON LAW CABIN; FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL KILL; VIXEN, HARRY, CHERRY, AND RAQUEL; BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS and BENEATH THE VALLEY OF THE ULTRA VIXENS are among his titles that have developed a true cult following. Though he would often be called a pornographer, Meyer was nothing of the kind, his movies had actual plots, and the nudity in many of them would barely qualify for an R rating these days. The women in his films were anything but passive victims, most of them being able to handle anything a man dished out and then give back to him twice over, Some, like Tura Satana’s Varla in PUSSYCAT, are down-right man destroying killing machines; when it came to the kick ass female protagonist, Russ Meyer was way ahead of everyone else. He would briefly work at 20th Century Fox in 1970, and would produce a profitable X-rated epic for them before a change in studio management ended any chance of mainstream success. Which was a shame, one wishes he could have found a producer in the 70’s who could have raised the kind of money that would allowed Meyer to take it too another level; yet one gets the feeling that he would not have traded away the freedom to make his movies, his way, for any amount of money. And if truth be told, there were probably many Academy Award winning directors working within the studios who must have envied Meyer his freedom. We meet Meyer’s second family, the varied individuals with whom he made his movies, especially the women, most of them characters in their own right: the aforementioned Tura Satana, Haji, Lori Williams, Erica Gavin, Rena Horton, Alaina Capri, Babette Bardot, Uschi Digard and Edy Williams. What a loss it was that most of them never found mainstream success. The famously square jawed Charles Napier was the one Meyer regular who went on to a real career, co-starring in RAMBO and becoming a regular in the late Jonathan Demme movies. And of course there is Roger Ebert, the film critic and passionate Meyer fan who wrote screenplays for him and become a lifelong friend. McDonough wrote this book in 2005, and sadly, a number of these people have passed away in the years since. Meyer was among those, like Hugh Hefner, who in post war America, helped bring the notion of a sex life out from behind bedroom doors and closed curtains; it was an attitude that met with more than a little resistance. The author details Meyer’s battles with the censors and decency crusaders like the arch-hypocrite, Charles Keating, where he knocked down doors for the others to enter. McDonough doesn’t spare any details in describing Meyer’s sad last years when dementia ravaged his mind and he was taken advantage of by some less than scrupulous hanger-ons. The culture had moved on, and Meyer’s peculiar brand of sex and violence had become the normal. Meyer, the man, could be rude and crude, a real 20th Century American male who detested Communists, and despite his reputation, preferred straight missionary style sex according to his many bedmates. He was a great self promoter who knew what he liked, and believed many of his fellow Americans would like the same things if given a half a chance. He was proven right and made millions in the process. Why should we remember him? Because his influence has been enormous, John Waters, Tim Burton and Quinton Tarantino have sung his praises; as a faithful watcher of TRUE BLOOD, I can say for certainty that Mayer’s presence is still being felt. Whether you are member of the cult of Meyer or just merely interested in movie history, BIG BOSOMS AND SQUARE JAWS is a must read. Thank you, Jimmy McDonough for writing it; I think Russ would be pleased.

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