By Allan Hunter

It is starting to feel as if the end is nigh for the cine bibliophile. Annual editions of traditional film guides have migrated on-line or gone to dusty death. Generously illustrated, cut-and-paste volumes on fashionable stars appear to be a thing of the past. Dig a little deeper and there is a sense that any reduction in quantity has been matched by a rise in quality when it comes to the possibilities for the book-loving movie buff on your Christmas list.

Alan Strachan is a man on a mission with his Vivien Leigh biography Dark Star (I. B. Tauris, £25). Leigh is best remembered today for her Oscar-winning screen roles in Gone With The Wind (1939) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and for a tempestuous marriage to Laurence Olivier that made them the golden couple of post-War British theatre. Strachan believes that Leigh’s professional legacy has long been undervalued, firstly by the focus on her striking beauty and secondly by the long shadows of Olivier’s reputation. Past writers have suggested there was only room for one major talent in that relationship. Gaining access to a treasure trove of letters, diaries and photographs recently acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum, Strachan’s meticulously researched, elegantly written volume is an eye-opener. Strachan’s attention to detail is striking, especially in building a picture of Leigh’s impact on stage. Lady Diana Cooper, for instance, recalled Leigh’s Blanche Du Bois as a “ heart and body-shaking performance”. The villain of the story is critic Kenneth Tynan who seemed to feel that his hero worship of Olivier required him to constantly denigrate Leigh’s abilities. Strachan doesn’t shy away from confronting the tragedies of Leigh’s life and the extreme effects of her bipolarity but he also provides a valuable, authoritative record that supports her status as a great stage and screen actress.

Like Leigh, Sally Field belongs to an elite group of performers who have won two Academy Awards. Field’s Best Actress wins came for Norma Rae (1979) and Places In The Heart (1984). Her memoir In Pieces (Simon & Schuster, £20) feels like a lengthy therapy session in which Field is tough on herself and the people around her. Field turned sixty-five the day her mother died. She has spent the past seven years working her way to an understanding of their relationship and the events that shaped her life. Field reveals a lonely childhood permanently marked by the abusive acts of her stepfather , the stuntman and actor Jock Mahoney. The fact that her mother seemed to know nothing about it, left her as the sole bearer of the shame and chronic insecurity that followed. The desire to become a respected actor was the catalyst that allowed her to access all her anger and conflicted emotions. There are tales of key moments in her professional life from working with acting guru Lee Strasberg to securing her Emmy-winning breakthrough in Sybil (1976) and her fight to convince Steven Spielberg to cast her as Mary Todd in Lincoln (2012). She talks candidly of her time with the late Burt Reynolds whose insecurities transformed him into another controlling, domineering father figure. She described their relationship as “ A perfect match of flaws”. This is far from a typical show business tale and some Fields fans may regret the lack of coverage of many acclaimed films from her career. Instead, this is a painfully honest attempt to confront and understand all the personal heartbreak that contributed to making her feel like the “ poster child for self loathing”. An unusually intimate, heartfelt voyage of self-discovery.

Bernard Cribbins celebrates his 90th birthday this month. His long career runs the gamut from Carry On capers to the classics via Doctor Who, Jackanory, chart-topping music success and beloved family favourite The Railway Children. The self-deprecating title of his autobiography Bernard Who? (Constable, £20) seems very typical of the man. His matey memoirs achieve his self-proclaimed aim of capturing the feel of a natter and a pint down the pub with an old friend. There are tales of his time as a paratrooper during National Service and an abundance of anecdotes concerning Peter Sellers, Lionel Jeffries, James Mason, David Tennant and many more. A gentle, endearing read that is just the thing for a cosy, fireside read on a winter’s afternoon.

Eric Idle also provides a fair amount of jollity with Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life: A Sortabiography (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20). Idle looks back in glee at a career dominated by Monty Python but stretching over five decades of film, television and stage success. Names are dropped as casually as a sweetie wrapper with Idle recounting tales of close personal friends from Robin Williams, and George Harrison to David Bowie and Micke Jagger. Idle clearly believes that laughter is the best medicine and his “ sortabiography” is breezily entertaining.

Film magazine Little White Lies has dipped a toe into the film book market with a series called Close-Ups. Matching the ethos of the magazine, they combine attractive illustrations with lively writing and comprise pocket-sized volumes on Isle Of Dogs director Wes Anderson (by Sophie Marks Kaufman), a survey of New York Movies (by Charles Bramesco) and reflections on Vampire Movies (by Mark Asch). Published by William Collins and priced at £9.99 each they are the kind of handy stocking fillers that you thought didn’t exist anymore.