Film buffs of a certain vintage may wish to rejoice. William J Mann’s The Contender: The Story of Marlon Brando (HarperCollins) is the season’s big Hollywood biography, a deeply textured and ambitious portrait of the 20th century’s greatest movie actor. The reviews have been extremely positive, and Mann has been showered with praise for the diligence of his research and the even-handedness with which he has unpicked what only can be described as the very messiest of celebrity lives.

Meanwhile, movie fans whose notion of cinema has been shaped by the superhero blockbusters of the 21st century may wish to pick up Danny Fingeroth’s A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee (Simon & Schuster). Again, the reviews have been good — and why not? Stan Lee, we are told, invented Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Hulk, the X-Men and more than 500 other iconic characters. His name has appeared on more than a billion comics, in 75 countries and in 25 languages. His work has spawned a multibi...

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