Review – This Is No Dream: Making Rosemary’s Baby


By Afonso Almeida.

Horrifying. Shocking. Tense. Masterful. Vile. Brilliant. Iconic. Several words could come to mind when attempting to describe Roman Polanski’s 1968 film Rosemary’s Baby.  However in their new book, author James Munn and photographer Bob Willoughby attribute a whole new sentiment towards the movie. Intimate.

The book is reminiscent of Peter Biskind’s bestselling work Easy Riders and Raging Bulls (This should come as no surprise as it features extensive coverage of Roman Polanski’s work on Chinatown) which chronicles the rise of several filmmakers during the 60’s and 70’s in captivating detail. But Munn’s voice and talents as a raconteur are not lost in imitation. He paints a vivid picture of the inception of the project, from purchasing the rights to the movie from novelist Ira Levin, bringing a promising European director into the Hollywood system, the feuds and complications that ensued in the production through to the aftermath of the film.

"Rosemary's Baby" Mia Farrow 1967 © 1978 Bob Willoughby

Rosemary’s Baby: Mia Farrow, 1967. © 1978 Bob Willoughby

Regardless of how one feels about the film or the people involved, and Munn does not shy away from covering the gruesome details of Polanski’s personal life, it is undeniable that the book offers an intriguing and inviting insight into the makings of the movie. Through its detailed description of not only the events at play but also the lives of the people involved, the book allows for the reader to be wholly immersed in that moment in time. Structured in true cinematic fashion, the author offers glimpses into the infamous relationship between John Cassavetes and Polanski as well as Frank Sinatra’s difficult intrusions at the start, but reveals them only in due time.

Not second to Munn’s narrative, is Bob Willoughby’s on-set photography. As an up and coming photographer who had just been featured on the cover of Life magazine, Willoughby worked tirelessly to chronicle the making of the film, all the while remaining invisible behind the front lines.  His photos perfectly match that sense of intimacy portrayed by Munn’s words. Featuring never before seen photos, this work allows the reader to glimpse into the world of the film beyond what was captured in the frame. It showcases a wonderful selection of behind-the-scenes images of Mia Farrow and her fellow actors in their most candid and earnest moments.

The book is clearly split into two parts. The first being Munn’s narrative, which allows for even a casual reader that for some inexplicable reason has never heard of Rosemary’s Baby to not only understand the machinations behind a film production but also to understand the basic plot elements of the film. Following this are 100 pages of Willoughby’s photography, bringing life and texture to the words that preceded it.

"Rosemary's Baby" John Cassavetes, Sidney Blackmer 1967 © 1978 Bob Willoughby

John Cassavetes, Sidney Blackmer, 1967. © 1978 Bob Willoughby

It is almost pointless to state that this book is a must read for fans of the film and the director. However, through their anecdotal retelling of the events of the production, coupled with the capturing images of Willoughby’s photography, the authors have made This is No Dream into absolute must for anyone who has an interest in cinema, photography, or simply looking for a glimpse into that particular moment in Hollywood history.

"Rosemary's Baby"Mia Farrow1968© 1978 Bob Willoughby

Rosemary’s Baby: Mia Farrow, 1968. © 1978 Bob Willoughby

All images by Bob Willoughby © MPTV Images / Reel Art Press

All images are cleared for reproduction in the context of This Is No Dream: Making Rosemary’s Baby and can only be used in the context of the book.

This Is No Dream: Making Rosemary’s Baby by James Munn is published by Reel Art Press RRP £29.95/$39.95.
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