Vincente Minnelli biographer Mark Griffin ’90 is returning to Emerson on Valentine’s Day to introduce a screening of Minnelli’s Oscar-winning 1958 film, Gigi.
“Oftentimes, people tend to be a little bit dismissive of a movie that was released in 1958,” Griffin said of Gigi. But Griffin points out that Gigi is more than just a vintage Hollywood piece: It won all nine of the Academy Awards it was nominated for.
The screening is happening Thursday, February 14, at 7:00 pm in the Bright Family Screening Room.
Griffin is an expert on all things Minnelli. His book, A Hundred or More Hidden Things: The Life and Films of Vincente Minnelli (Da Capo Press, 2010), profiles the celebrated director known for classic films such as An American in Paris and for a tumultuous marriage with Judy Garland. Minnelli and Garland are the parents of entertainer Liza Minnelli.
“That’s only something you can watch and learn from,” Griffin said. “These movies were made by the most impeccable people in the film business.”
Griffin describes his Minnelli biography as a “three–year research odyssey” during which he interviewed some of Minnelli’s most famous “celebrated collaborators,” from Lauren Bacall to Kirk Douglas to Angela Lansbury. “As a lifelong lover of vintage classics, I really gave myself to [the project] heart and soul.”
A self–described “inveterate movie buff,” Griffin notes a longstanding interest in the three disciplines of theater, film, and writing. Those passions shaped his journey from Emerson, where he was a movie reviewer and arts editor for The Berkeley Beacon, to jobs at a Florida theater company and later as film writer at The Boston Globe after doing graduate work at New York University.
Griffin became enamored with Minnelli’s work at a young age.
“When I was a very little boy, our local public broadcasting station must have bought a package of those great and glorious MGM movies from the ’50s,” he said. “I started to notice these films were all directed by one person.”
After reading Minnelli’s 1974 biography I Remember It Well, Griffin began digging deeper into the life and work of the famous director.
“Even when I was a little whippersnapper, I started doing research on my own,” said Griffin. “Sometimes the people who are behind the camera are just as interesting as the ones who are in front of it.”
Griffin said of researching and writing his book, “It was very exhausting and also exhilarating at the same time.”
“It was a dream project,” he continued. “It demanded so much of me. I had never worked at that kind of level before.”
Both Griffin and his book title draw inspiration from the “hidden meanings” of Minnelli’s work. “You can choose to look a little bit beneath the surface and see that Minnelli really layered all of his movies,” Griffin said. “He’s imbuing his films with a lot of messages about coming to terms with the authentic self. That was a theme that I was intrigued with as well.”