My own aunt was Merle Oberon, so movie stardom was not a faraway mystery to me as a child: it was part of the family business.
I do not start with a full knowledge of the facts; the whole attraction of writing history is to educate myself: it is an exploration into the unknown - 'a journey without maps,' to borrow Graham Greene's phrase.
I have an admiration for Mr. Eastwood that borders on the kind that I have for the Grand Canyon. Like it, he is craggy, worn, awesomely impressive and unique, a living four-star tourist attraction that, in the formulaic words of the Guide Michelin, 'vaut le voyage.'
The biggest fool in the world is he who merely does his work supremely well, without attending to appearance.
I attended first a military academy, then a public school in Beverly Hills, where we lived, and many of my classmates were the children of movie stars and studio executives.
I once attended a birthday party where Danny Kaye dropped in to entertain the birthday boy and his guests; I was sometimes taken for lunch on Saturdays by my father to The Brown Derby; and my favorite meal is still the Cobb salad in the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Much of my publishing life was consumed by the memoirs of movie stars - or by attempts to get them to write a memoir.
The freedom to fail is vital if you're going to succeed. Most successful people fail from time to time, and it is a measure of their strength that failure merely propels them into some new attempt at success.
When I was a child in England before the war, Christmas pudding always contained at least one shiny new sixpence, and it was considered a sign of great good luck for the new year to find one in your helping of the pudding.
I'm always astonished when I go into Barnes & Noble at the number of people buying books, of course, but also at the variety of books they do buy and the extent to which they are not the big bestsellers.
Never walk away from failure. On the contrary, study it carefully and imaginatively for its hidden assets.
My father and his brothers never mentioned to their English wives and children that they were Jewish. Being Hungarian was exotic and foreign enough to begin with, and so long as they were not asked, they found it easier, from 1919 on, to let the matter drop.
There used to be a strong belief that if you wanted to know what was really going on in a country, the best thing to do was to go there and ask a taxi driver.
My father fought on the side of the Central Powers, as a soldier in the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Army, my maternal grandfather fought in the British Army, on different sides, and both were so traumatized by the experience that they never talked about it.
In 'Gran Torino,' Eastwood moves towards the climax of the movie not by staging a shoot-out, but by putting his weapons to one side and confronting the bad guys armed only with a cigarette lighter, guessing that as he reaches for it they will think he's drawing a pistol.
I never met Peter O'Toole, but he one was of those rare actors whose success was defined by a single role. His incandescent performance in David Lean's 'Lawrence of Arabia' is one that nobody who saw it will ever forget.
It is not necessary to agree with the Arab point of view about their own history, but it is foolish to ignore it.
T. E. Lawrence was far more than a glamorous, swashbuckling, heroic figure in flowing robes mounted on a camel, leading the Arab tribes against the Turks in World War One.
Most biographers are apt to be discouraged by the sheer volume of papers left behind by their subject.