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Aljean Harmetz is a Hollywood journalist and film historian. She was on the staff of The New York Times from 1978 to 1990 as their Hollywood correspondent.
Her film books include: The Making of The Wizard of Oz, a detailed book about the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, Round Up the Usual Suspects: The Making of Casablanca : Bogart, Bergman, and World War II (NY: Hyperion, 1992), On the Road to Tara: the Making of Gone with the Wind, and Rolling Breaks and Other Movie Business, which was a collection of her articles.
Harmetz is also the author of the fictional work "Off the Face of the Earth," a suspense novel of a boy's abduction and the efforts to free him.
She has written for variois national magazines, publishing poetry in the Atlantic (magazine) and a Best First Story in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. She has contributed articles in Esquire (magazine), The New Republic, Cosmopolitan (magazine), The New York Times, TV Guide, Architectural Digest, the Los Angeles Times, etc.
She is related by marriage to the corporate lawyer, Lloyd Harmetz.
Early life & education
Harmetz grew up in Southern California, where her mother worked in the wardrobe department of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. She is a graduate of Beverly Hills High School and a Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude graduate of Stanford University.
The Making of The Wizard of Oz
Main article The Making of The Wizard of Oz
In the mid-1970s, Harmetz began writing her first book about the production of the 1939 MGM film, The Wizard of Oz (film).
She managed to interview over 50 surviving cast and crew members from the film, including: Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, producer Mervyn LeRoy, writer Noel Langley, songwriter Yip Harburg, and Wicked Witch actress Margaret Hamilton (who became a personal friend of Harmetz).
The book was published by Knopf in 1977, and has never been out of print. The book has been re-released five times, most recently in 2013 for the 75th Anniversary of the film.
Harmetz hosted a tribute to The Wizard of Oz (film) at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1982. The event featured a legendary panel of six remaining cast and crew members, moderated by Harmetz.
In 1979, Harmetz wrote and narrated a documentary about the making of The Wizard of Oz (1939 film) for KCET titled, The Wizardry of Oz. The documentary included interviews with Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Margaret Hamilton, and producer Mervyn LeRoy. The documentary was shown three times nationally on PBS, and was nominated for a local Emmy.
A documentary, Casablanca: Round Up the Usual Suspects, based on her book, began screening on Showtime in September 1992.
Harmetz also wrote and narrated a documentary on video games for The Disney Channel.
Off the Face of the Earth
Off the Face of the Earth, a thriller about a missing child, was published by Scribner in August 1997 and reprinted as a mass market paperbound by Pocket Books in 1998.
The Sunday New York Daily News called the book "a sizzling summertime thriller" and added, "Harmetz spins her tale with taunt, wiry prose, and her pages are filled with insight and intrigue. You might have nightmares after reading this book, but you won't regret it." Publishers Weekly called Off the Face of the Earth "engrossing," a "tightly controlled, intelligently told, acutely creepy debut thriller." Glamour (magazine) called it the "best of the beach reads....a terrifying but revealing take on the most universal of horror stories." And the Sunday New York Times Book Review used these words to describe the book: "well above the classic thriller fare...powerful...psychologically complex." The Times said the book "lingers in the mind well after the reader has raced through its pages to the conclusion."
Awards & Recognition
Harmetz is a recipient of Yale University's Poynter Fellowship, an award for distinguished journalism.
In 1993, her book The Making of The Wizard of Oz was named one of the 100 best books ever written on the movies by The Book Collectors (Los Angeles), and was honored at a reception hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Harmetz continues to write, publishing more than 25 celebrity obituaries for The New York Times since retiring in 1990.
She is a mother of three, and lives in Los Angeles with her husband.
List of Works
- The Making of The Wizard of Oz Knopf (1977) ISBN 978-0786883523
- Rolling Breaks and Other Movie Business Random House (1983) ISBN 978-0394528861
- Round Up the Usual Suspects: The Making of "Casablanca" Hyperion (1992) ISBN 978-1562827618
- On the Road to Tara: The Making of Gone with the Wind Harry N. Abrams (1996) ISBN 978-0810936843
- Off the Face of the Earth Scribner (1997) ISBN 978-0684836171
In 1988, Spy Magazine called Harmetz “the most inexplicable journalist in Hollywood,” classifying her stories as “either (a) wrong, (b) late, (c) trivial or (d) designed to advance the career of one of her sources. Or all of the above.” The Soviet film director Elem Klimov called her "a fool."