Michael Newton

Michael Newton teaches 19th-century literature at Leiden University.

In​ ‘On the Circuit’, a poem about the circle of purgatory reserved for touring poet-lecturers, W.H. Auden mentioned the moments of unanticipated connection:

Or blessed encounter, full of joy Unscheduled on the Giesen Plan, With, here, an addict of Tolkien, There, a Charles Williams fan.

If Auden were on the circuit now, he’d still find plenty of Tolkien addicts, but...

The Thrill of It All: Zombies

Michael Newton, 18 February 2016

In Brussels​ in 2008 I stumbled on my first zombie apocalypse. I was with some friends when we came across a large assembly of the amateur undead lurching up the boulevard towards us. My friends’ toddler staggered towards the zombies; the zombies staggered towards him. Soon they were among us. Blood congealed around eye sockets; cuts slashed down cheeks; eyes whited out. One...

Where am I in all this? Pola Negri

Michael Newton, 19 February 2015

In​ Singin’ in the Rain (1952), the curtain rises on Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on the night of the premiere of The Royal Rascal (‘The Biggest Picture of 1927’). The crowd outside jostles and gawks at Monumental Pictures’ galaxy of stars. First to arrive, to cheers and wolf whistles, is Zelda Zanders, ‘darling of the flapper set’, an...

What a Ghost Wants: Laurent Binet

Michael Newton, 8 November 2012

Laurent Binet has written an excellent novel about the absurdity of writing any kind of novel at all. HHhH retells the story of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, one of the architects of the Holocaust, by two Czech special agents, Jozef Gabčik and Jan Kubiš, their subsequent deaths and the terrible retaliation enacted by the Nazis on the Czech people, which culminated in the...

Lost in Beauty: Montgomery Clift

Michael Newton, 7 October 2010

Montgomery Clift was a lush, a loser and a masochist; for more than 15 years he was also one of the finest actors in America – as Clark Gable put it, ‘that faggot is a hell of an actor.’ His beauty, his drinking, his homosexuality, his failure and his unaccountable talent have all re-formed themselves as elements of the icon that stands in for Clift, a potent image of the...

Before it was a classic film, Gone with the Wind was a classic PR stunt. The film’s producer, David O. Selznick, announced that he would launch a nationwide search for the young woman who would play Scarlett O’Hara. The move provoked a furore; Margaret Mitchell’s novel, published in 1936, was already a national bestseller – it seemed that everyone was reading it –...

Babylon with Bananas: Tarzan's best friend

Michael Newton, 29 January 2009

To make things clear, yes, Me Cheeta: The Autobiography is a celebrity memoir, to shelve alongside such classics as Mickey Rooney’s Life Is Too Short and Katharine Hepburn’s modestly entitled Me. The putative author is indeed Cheeta, the superannuated chimpanzee star of just short of a dozen Tarzan movies and the sidekick of American beefcake Johnny Weissmuller. Cheeta opens the story of his life by saying it will be a celebratory list, an expanded acknowledgments page. As it happens, the book works out rather differently.

I’m not an actress: Ava Gardner

Michael Newton, 7 September 2006

One day Ava Gardner dropped by the studio publicity department at MGM. She wanted to take a look at all those cheesecake photos they were always taking of her: throwing a beach-ball; licking an ice-cream cone. A drawer full of images was spread out before her. After a little while, according to Lee Server’s new biography, she ‘kind of shrugged, and she said: “Jeez...

In his autobiography, Something of Myself, Rudyard Kipling tells how he returned to Bombay from public school in England. He had been away for 11 years, but once again walking the streets of Bombay, the town of his birth, the teenage Kipling found himself uttering whole sentences in the native tongue – presumably Marathi, a language he had entirely forgotten. He now found to his own...

From The Blog
8 December 2009

Most reviewers thought Woody Allen’s Vicky Christina Barcelona was a fabulous return to form. The film even won the director a belated Oscar. I found it hard to reconcile the general praise with my own sense that the movie represented the most catastrophic artistic collapse since Ben Jonson’s ‘dotages’. That sense has been confirmed by Allen’s new film, Whatever Works. I wanted to love it, because I have loved so many Woody Allen films. But as in VCB, the characters are reduced to crude sketches of embodied attitudes, resembling no human being who ever lived or ever will. One of them is a ‘romantic’: we know this a) because he lives on a houseboat and b) because on several occasions he tells someone so.


Amis Resigns

21 June 2012

Contrary to what Adam Mars-Jones suggests, Martin Amis was not the first to use the term ‘murderee’ (LRB, 21 June). ‘It takes two people to make a murder,’ Rupert Birkin argues in Women in Love, ‘a murderer and a murderee. And a murderee is a man who is murderable. And a man who is murderable is a man who in a profound, if hidden lust, desires to be murdered.’

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