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Nicholas Ray spent the glory years of his career creating films that were dark, emotionally charged, and haunted by social misfits and bruised young people—from his career-defining debut, They Live by Night, to his enduring masterwork, Rebel Without a Cause, with James Dean; from the noir thriller In a Lonely Place, pairing his wife Gloria Grahame with Humphrey Bogart, to the cult classic Johnny Guitar, a campy showcase for the tempestuous Joan Crawford. Yet his work on-screen is more than matched by the passions and struggles of his personal story—one of the most dramatic lives of any major Hollywood filmmaker.

In Nicholas Ray: The Glorious Failure of an American Director, Patrick McGilligan offers a revelatory biography of Ray, a self-destructive man whose troubled life was marked by creative peaks and valleys alike. From carousing with musicians such as Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie to romancing starlets such as Marilyn Monroe, Shelley Winters, and a teenage Natalie Wood, Ray's story is irresistibly alluring. Meticulous and compulsively readable, this is an extraordinary life of one of the most fascinating figures in American film.

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