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George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones

Erich Mayer

A well-researched unauthorised biography of George Lucas by Brian Jay Jones.
George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones

 Book cover image: George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones. Image via hachette Australia.

Even to the lovers of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies it may come as a surprise that Star Wars Episode III merchandise ‘brought in more than $3 billion’ to the Lucas empire.

This well-researched but unauthorised biography by Brian Jay Jones takes the reader from George Lucas’s birth in May 1944 to his current semi-retirement. Wisely, Jones deals succinctly with Lucas’s parents and grandparents but gives a revealing insight into the young ‘scrawny’ George – lover of comics, lover of motor cars, bubbling over with ideas, and bored with conventional schooling. In hindsight, the love of – indeed, the obsession with story-telling through comics leads naturally to film-making but no such trajectory was in young Lucas’s mind at the time. What he did not want to do was work in his father’s successful business, although in spite of himself he seems to have inherited his father’s business acumen, including a strong aversion to debt.

The book is broken up into three parts, aptly called ‘Hope 1944–1973’, ‘Empire 1973–1983’ and ‘Return 1983–2016’, preceded by a prologue which dramatically describes the problems of film direction on location without adequate funding and in unfavourable weather.

Except for his early days, the biography focuses mostly on Lucas’s professional life and relationships, perhaps because, until later in life, that was almost everything that mattered to Lucas. He comes across as an extraordinarily talented person, a workaholic and a control freak. He is immensely loyal to his friends and can be spiteful to those who have wronged him. And he consistently rebels against the established Hollywood film community which over time he outwits and outperforms.

Lucas’s skills include what he loves to do most: film editing. This, and the need for special effects, involves him in technological development, which he embraces at times reluctantly but then becomes a leading sponsor and innovator in the field.

There is of course much more to the man than this. It is worth reading this excellent biography to understand how Star Wars came into being, how Indiana Smith morphed into Indiana Jones and how a person not particularly interested in money, except to the extent it was needed for film production, became one of the wealthiest people in the world.

The book includes a handful of well-annotated good quality photographs. Perhaps cost or copyright problems explains why there are so few of them, but given the subject of the book that paucity of photographs is unfortunate.

This is, however, a very well researched work. Brian Jay Jones includes more than 50 pages of notes, a bibliography, a list of relevant documentaries and a list of relevant movies on DVD. There is an excellent index.

So for readers of biographies, this book is a must. For Star Wars fans and Indiana Jones aficionados, it will cast new light on how the fascinating stories in those movies came into being. For readers in neither of those categories this is a study of a person who enjoyed enormous success through talent, hard work and persistence in spite of his shortcomings and with that smattering of good luck that we all wish for. If none of these reasons will persuade you to read this book, watch the first Star Wars movie (labelled Episode IV) and then re-read this review.

 

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones

Category: 
INDIVIDUAL FILM DIRECTORS
FILM-MAKERS
BIOGRAPHY: GENERAL 
PROSE: NON-FICTION
Trade Paperback
Published: DEC 13 2016 
9781472224330
hachette Publishing Australia

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Erich Mayer is a retired company director and former organic walnut farmer. He now edits the blog humblecomment.info

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