The 50 Greatest Movies Never Made, by Chris Gore (Griffin paperback, $13.95). Some of these unmade films hold the unfulfilled promise of greatness -- or (what is sometimes better) at least an offbeat and interesting couple of hours: David Lean's "Nostromo," which got as far as constructed sets before the director died in 1991; a planned collaboration between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali in a mixed animation and live-action love story called "Destino"; a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock about a blind man finally gaining sight and then seeing the world for the first time. Others -- such as a last Bing Crosby/Bob Hope road picture, with the stars playing grandfathers; and "The Disappearance," a sci-fi film in which the entire female gender would have vanished from the earth -- seem dispensable. Most haunting are the movies that got partly made and then scrapped, notably Joseph von Sternberg's "I, Claudius," whose surviving footage contains the germ of a superb performance by Charles Laughton that never got to flower.
Andy Kaufman Revealed!, by Bob Zmuda with Matthew Scott Hansen (Little Brown, $24). Inasmuch as Andy Kaufman had fantasized aloud about faking his own death -- it could have been perhaps the ultimate act of irreverence in a comic career that was replete with them -- a mutual friend of the author of this book and of Kaufman himself was only being thorough when he stepped up to the open casket in which Kaufman lay and tried to get a rise out of him. The rest of the world had accepted that Kaufman -- the zany man who had wrestled women on live TV, played the whimsical innocent Latka Gravas on the hit sitcom "Taxi," and disguised himself as a madman to warn people away from his show at Carnegie Hall -- had died of cancer at the age of 35. But to the doubting friend, it was entirely possible that Kaufman had pulled off the most grandiose hoax of all. Alas, it was not so. In a backword to this edition, Jim Carrey, who plays Kaufman in a forthcoming film, plays the Kaufman-like trick of writing a message that can be read only in a mirror.
The Greek Achievement: The Foundation of the Western World, by Charles Freeman (Viking, $39.95). In this sweeping examination of Classical Greece, the author suggests that the decline of a classical education has not been entirely a bad thing. "What has disappeared are two things," he writes: "first, the treatment of Greek texts as if they presented an intellectual obstacle race in which a search to grasp the meaning and etymology of every word and an analysis of grammatical rarities was an end in itself, and, secondly, the ideologies which sustained a distorted and sanitized image of ancient Greece. . . . [There is no longer] the same need to justify the Greeks as there was when a ruling class's survival, including its educational system, seemed to depend on the Greeks for their legitimacy."