January 31, 1994 12:00 PM

by Roddy McDowall

This fourth book of celebrity photographs by sometime actor McDowall is full of soft-focus portraits that are informal but rarely intimate. The accompanying verbal “appreciations” tend to the pretentious and/or precious and are equally spurious. Writer-director Nora Ephron slavers over cartoonist-playwright Jules Feiffer with a humorless, redundant encomium that calls him “kind, sweet, dear” and “darling.” Actor Richard Thomas rhapsodizes over dancer Peter Martins: “His power and personality as a performer were married to the self-effacing virtues of the true danseur noble.” Kenneth Branagh not only calls Derek Jacobi “one of the greatest actors I have ever seen,” he adds, “I just love him.”

The most unusual juxtaposition is Jessica Tandy commenting on Harrison Ford. Tandy admits to knowing Ford only well enough to say “How do you do?” but she writes that “he will have a long and rewarding career. He’s a stayer.”

The photographs, mostly in black-and-white, are heavy on moody lighting and tight cropping. McDowall is better with women, as seen in his portraits of Natalie Wood, Brooke Shields and pal Elizabeth Taylor. While stars of McDowall’s era had a more forthright approach to publicity in general and photos in particular, he should include more pictures of contemporary personalities and fewer of dead ones if he publishes a Take Five. As it is, the stiff, idolatrous nature of the photos and text too often makes this expensive volume seem like a scrapbook collection of pages from a 1930s fan magazine. (Morrow, $65)

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