About 10 years ago, George Lucas approached publishers about the idea of a book detailing 50 of the top-grossing movies of all time-- half made prior to 1970, the balance after that. He soon encountered a major stumbling block: at the time there was no comprehensive, centralised database of movies; sites such as IMDB.com were in their infancy.
So the filmmaker encouraged journalist/editor Lucy Autrey Wilson to develop her own movie database, and as the project took shape, its scope expanded. The result is a 944-page book modestly and concisely entitled George Lucas's Blockbusting: A Decade-by-Decade Survey of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets of their Financial and Cultural Success; it goes on sale this week.
Like the best Lucas movies, he didn't write the tome, which was edited by Wilson and The Hollywood Reporter's Alex Ben Block and utilized a total of 17 contributing writers. According to the blurb, George did pick the 300 movies featured.
While Lucas' name in the title is no doubt a smart marketing ploy, I think it's also misleading…but something you'd expect from a filmmaker with a colossal ego. To be fair to George, it seems he was partly motivated to commission the book out of a desire to place Star Wars in the context of the changes sweeping through the industry of that era, rather than as a game-changer in its own right.
“There is a misperception that movies like Steven Spielberg's Jaws (1975) and George Lucas's Star Wars (1977) changed the movie business,” Wilson told StarWars.com. “Looking back over 100 years of movie history, it is clear there have always been big blockbuster films. By setting successful films against each decade's major motion picture industry developments, George Lucas wanted to show that what has transformed the movie business is not the result of any individual film, but rather the result of technological advances and changes in production, distribution, marketing, and exhibition as well as changes in the social, political, and economic climate.
“For example, breakthroughs such as sound, colour and now digital; changes in studio ownership, resulting in non-filmmakers running movie companies; the emergence of multiplexes with stadium seating; and war, economic depression and more have all had an enormous impact on what kind of movies get made, what they cost, how they are distributed, viewed and even remembered.”
The 300 films selected are a mixture of the most financially successful and those which garnered critical acclaim. They range from the silent movies of 1910s and 20s, including Charles Chaplin's The Kid and King Vidor's The Big Parade, to blockbuster franchises such as Shrek and Harry Potter. They encompass every genre from the 1941 film noir classic The Maltese Falcon to the 1952 musical Singin' in the Rain to the 1967 romantic drama The Graduate to the sci-fi/fantasy Star Wars films from the '70s through 2005.
I like the fact that Lucas ignored some films' lack of box-office success when compiling the list, so Erich von Stroheim's little-seen Greed (1924) ranks alongside such crowd-pleasers as Gone with the Wind, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather.