Friday, December 22, 2017

Error Level

I often notice mistakes when reading non-fiction books.  The problem, of course, is not just the mistake, but the question it raises: how many others am I not catching?

But not all errors are the same.  Some or worse than others.  Let me give an example.

I just read a biography of Gene Kelly, He's Got Rhythm, written by Cynthia and Sara Brideson.  (They're twin sisters. Sadly, Sara died earlier this year, only 26 years old.) I found more than one mistake in the book.

Early on, they mention a young Gene Kelly read H. G. Wells' Outline Of History.  Except they spell it "Welles"--twice on page 23 and once more in the index.

This is a pretty bad mistake, but I can almost forgive it because their subject is a movie star, and the writers are probably more aware of Orson Welles than H. G. Wells.

But later, on page 360, in discussing the Kelly-directed film version of Hello, Dolly! (1969), we get this: "As the two clerks at the store were fledgling dancers Michael Crawford and Tommy Tune..."

I wouldn't call Tommy Tune a fledgling dancer at this point, but that's not the problem.  Much worse is that the two clerks are played by Crawford and Danny Lockin (who, by the way, was murdered in 1977, only 34).  Tune is in the movie--in a major role, in fact--but is not one of the clerks.

This error is far worse than the other I mentioned, because it means either the authors didn't view all the films they discuss in the book, or they watched Hello, Dolly! but weren't paying close attention.

I can understand getting the name of a writer who isn't central to Kelly's career wrong, but not a basic fact about his films.  This is the kind of thing that makes you wonder about everything else in the book.


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