Solid Ivory Memoirs

James Ivory

Book - 2021

Academy Award-winning filmmaker reflects on his extraordinary life and career.

Saved in:
Gay autobiographies
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2021.
Main Author
James Ivory (author)
First edition
Physical Description
x, 399 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references.
  • I. Growing Up
  • Klamath Falls
  • Eating in the Depression
  • Dramatics: Blomie
  • II. Oueer as Jack's Hatband
  • The Boy Who Would Not Speak
  • Jimmy Boyd
  • Fraternity Sickness
  • At Dr. Zeck's
  • Another Bill
  • III. With Letters of Introduction
  • Venice
  • Kabul
  • IV. Making Movies
  • What I Do
  • Standing By in Bhopal: In Ismail's Custody
  • Maestro
  • Call Me by Your Name
  • V. Portraits
  • Kenneth Clark
  • George Cukor
  • Lillian Ross: A Day with Wonder Woman
  • Dorothy Strelsin
  • Raquel Welch
  • Vanessa Redgrave
  • Bruce Chatwin
  • Lillian Ross, Continued
  • Stephen Tennant
  • Susan Sontag
  • Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
  • Ismail Merchant
  • VI. Etcetera
  • The Great Ball at Wilton
  • The Ismail Merchant Collection
  • A Rajput Dinner Party
  • Lake of the Woods
  • Solid Ivory
  • Acknowledgments
Review by Booklist Review

That famous filmmaker James Ivory has led a charmed life is evidenced by this fascinating memoir that takes him from a comfortable childhood in Klamath Falls, Oregon, to adult adventures in India, Afghanistan, Europe, and, finally to his present home in upstate New York. Along the way, he shares incidents and insights into a life that has been anything but ordinary. He begins his story chronologically, moving easily from childhood to age 20. Thereafter he proceeds more episodically and anecdotally, gathering his material in such chapters as "Queer as Jack's Hatband" (yes, he's gay), "Making Movies," "Portraits," and more. He seems to have known everybody. Here are such eminences as George Cukor, Vanessa Redgrave, Stephen Tennant. Some of these encounters are more sketches than portraits, but others are full-dress accounts with such notables as author Bruce Chatwin (with whom he had a cheerful on-again off-again sexual relationship), actress Raquel Welch (difficult to work with) and, of course, his Merchant Ivory colleagues: partner and producer Ismail Merchant and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. The highly readable text is enriched with a generous collection of black-and-white photos. Ivory is always good company, kind hearted, generous, and thoughtful. His memoir will delight film buffs, of course, but it will also appeal to general readers who value intelligent writing and insights into the lives of accomplished people.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

The director of A Room with a View and other glossy Edwardian costume dramas looks back on his craft, interactions with showbiz personalities, and a slew of sexual encounters in this urbane memoir. The first third of Ivory's episodic ramble is a lush remembrance of his youth in Klamath, Ore., in the 1930s and of trysts with other boys and men from age six to his time in film school and the military, rendered with no shortage of descriptive prose. He moves on to his experiences learning the filmmaking trade--mainly from Indian director Satyajit Ray--and his insights into the technicalities of scene construction, shot-making, and the like. Later sections consist of vivid thumbnail sketches of lovers, colleagues, and acquaintances, including his Merchant-Ivory producing partner (and life partner) Ismail Merchant, screenwriting partner Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, and various celebrities ("The very first person I see is Prince Charles, who runs past me, mopping his brow and looking desperate"). Throughout, Ivory relates this often bawdy, gossipy narrative with a dry, catty wit: "As she lay there, Kael pronounced caustically, in her... girl-of-good-family, shaking voice, to whomever would listen, on this and that current film she'd seen, and this and that director, omitting for once her usual four-letter words." Cineastes will find it a tasty, engrossing browse. (Nov.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Revisiting his life and decades-long career, filmmaker Ivory (b. 1928) presents richly evoked tales of his career, travels, and sexuality. Ivory and his filmmaking and romantic partner, Ismail Merchant, made dozens of films, including A Room with a View and The Remains of the Day, and the label "A Merchant Ivory Film" became shorthand for beautifully filmed and acted works of art. In this wonderfully entertaining, keenly observed book, Ivory discusses his childhood in Oregon; his sexual exploration as a gay teen and young adult (including a tender recollection of a boy Ivory observed from afar at age 15, whose name he never learned); movie sets in India and England; high-society gatherings; and interactions with a host of figures, from Vanessa Redgrave to Bruce Chatwin. He also offers poignant sketches of Merchant and longtime collaborator Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. VERDICT Much like a Merchant Ivory film, this memoir is filled with lush detail, enchanting stories, and memorable characters that will thrill fans both of Merchant's movies and of film and culture in general.--James Collins, Morristown-Morris Twp. P.L., NJ

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Reminiscences of a legendary film director. Even fans of Ivory's work would have to admit his films differ radically in quality, from the unpolished early features to some of the greatest ever made, including A Room With a View and Howards End. The same unevenness is evident in this leisurely memoir. Born to a sawmill owner in 1928, Ivory grew up privileged--his mother and their chauffeur picked him up from Army basic training "in the family limousine"--before attending USC film school. There, he made his first film, a documentary that would "tell the story of Venice through art." Ivory eventually met writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and producer Ismail Merchant to form a creative team that endured for decades. The book's first third is devoted to Ivory's childhood in Klamath Falls, Oregon. A not insignificant portion of the volume describes his many sexual liaisons with men, both before and during his open 44-year relationship with Merchant. He frequently describes the genitals of the men he's slept with or seen naked, often featuring odd word choices. Travel writer Bruce Chatwin, with whom he had an affair, had "an uncut, rosy, schoolboy-looking" penis that was "all ready for Maypole dancing." A classmate's was "cherubic." Further references abound. The highlights of the book, most of which is told in a stream-of-consciousness style readers will find either sloppy or charmingly unfocused, are stories about his filmmaking process, the grand houses he has visited or shot films in, and the luminaries he's worked with, including Vanessa Redgrave; Raquel Welch, who would "fight with everyone about everything" while filming The Wild Party; and Luca Guadagnino, with whom he was to co-direct Call Me By Your Name--a role from which he was dropped without explanation--and whose production company "would not pay my hotel bill" after the first day of shooting. A unique amble through seven decades of film history. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.