I've done the occasional book review from something in my movie book library here at Cinema Styles before with the most recent one being a review of Lotte Eisner's The Haunted Screen. Then on a year-end post just around three weeks ago I announced that I wanted to do that more often, picking a book from the shelves and writing about it. Not a review proper but an impression of what it means to me. Well, consider this the first intentional post in that area after some previous random, scattered offerings.
The ongoing series is titled simply, From the Library, and to start things off I decided to go not with a revered tome like The Haunted Screen but a lark of a book, a quiz book to be exact, the one you see at the top of this post, The Illustrated Movie Quiz Book by Rob Burt. That cover at the top is a scan I did of my copy (just as the Eisner review used a scanned photo of my own copy) because I don't want you to see some Amazon.com cover picture, I want you to see my cover, from the copy I own, because it means something to me. I got it in 1981, a time in which I had grown confident enough of my movie knowledge that surely I could easily breeze through the quizzes in this book without a problem. I was wrong. But it wasn't all my fault. Many of the questions in the book are of the "who was the 2nd Unit director on..." variety and the like. Really, there are a lot of questions like that. Also whose birthday is when, where was this star born and what was their non-famous brother's name. I don't know. Who the hell wants to know? Who cares? But there are also plenty of questions concerning the big stuff that you might think you know but probably would have to slide on over to IMDB just to make sure. Of course, at the time, there was no IMDB but fortunately the answers were provided in the back of the book. And I read them all.
My goal was to study the book like a text and test myself on it, which I did often. I checked off ones I knew, marked stuff in the back to re-learn and when pondering a difficult question, drew on the cover (which you can see in the top photo). I followed this process for years and it helped tremendously, not only with the acquisition of movie knowledge but in providing a checklist of titles in my head of movies that needed to be seen. Yes, I admit it, I was a teenage cinedork. I'd be at a party drinking and smoking with friends while all the time thinking, "I can hardly wait to get back home and learn some more movie minutia!" Full-Flower-Cinedork.
It's been years since I've seriously quizzed myself from the book and most often now when I look at it, I can't recall half of the answers anyway. But a rush of nostalgia permeates my brain every time I do look at it and that's the principle reason I'll never get rid of it. It no longer contains any information that can't easily be found online, it's missing the last thirty years of film history and most of its trivia is of no value even to a cinephile. But oh the volumes it speaks to me about who I was at that particular moment in my cinephiliac infancy. When I pick it up, I'm there! I'm back! Back in high school, laying on my bed memorizing the answers. Back in college, packing it in my bags to make the 600 mile interstate journey to my dorm room because I couldn't, wouldn't be without it. Back in my basement apartment just after college, already starting to use it as nostalgic defense against the world around me. It's literary value is almost non-existent but to me, it's priceless. And prized. It wasn't the first movie book I ever got and it's far from the last but it's one of the most important to me. And always will be.
As a post-script, I'd like to highlight some of the pages contained within to give you an idea of how the book is set-up. It's quizzes are defined as "Specialist" or "General." All of the below pics can be clicked on to enlarge.
The individuals are divided up between The Players and The Movie Makers with the latter being used for both Actors and Directors and The Players restricted to just actors. Here's one of The Players quizzes, on Carole Lombard. You can of course answer all of these by looking her up online, but how many can you answer cold?
Another type of quiz in the book, The Big Picture, centers around a specific movie. This one is all about David Lean's Great Expectations (1937).
Finally, most of the pages are filled with multiple items. Some have a Mystery Movie with a picture of the poster and the title blocked out, others have Screen Test quizzes about actors and their roles and some, as on this page, have Star Couples, a song quiz, a Gregory Peck quiz and a Mystery Star quiz. See how many of the songs you can connect to the movie they debuted in without hitting IMDB, Google or Wikipedia. Good luck.