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Reading New Book: "Clark Gable: Tormented Star"!


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> {quote:title=georgiegirl wrote:}{quote}

> And what do most other bio writers have to go on? Unless it's autobiographical, all bios are hearsay and speculation. They do research, speak to family and friends, read letters to and from, and review newpaper articles, etc. I doubt this Bret just pulled this stuff out of his head and wrote it down. I'd bet he did research, just as others do, and came to his own conclusion. I searched him online and as far as I can see, he's never been taken to court by present family members of the stars he's written about, and, my God, there are plenty! He did do a book on a living legend, Doris Day, and that seems to have gone without a hitch.

>

> I have never read any of his books, don't plan on it now that I got the gist of this Gable expose, but some authors take the high road, others not so much, but that's life. It still boils down to folks getting upset over this man speaking out on the possible flip side of our icons and what we deem as unacceptable behavior. Which, in realilty, for some is everyday life and as normal as good old apple pie.

 

Problem is, there's precious little difference between "intuition" and "fabrication" for some writers when dealing with a dead subject. One I remember from a few years back - Marion Meade pulled a real honey out when she all but said Buster Keaton was illiterate (no, it doesn't make any sense). Contra being sued, the dead cannot be libeled. A writer can really go to town on a dead star, and it's not in the least actionable. Someone could write that Humphrey Bogart had no use for Mayo Methot except as a beard, and his real longtime lover was Allen Jenkins, and nobody could do a thing (except point and laugh at the writer).

 

Whenever you see the words "tormented" in the title of a bio, be ready for a wild ride of psychosexual speculation. A number of biographers have a bad habit of putting too much of their own neuroses into a book and not being objective. Some end up writing books that read like they're chipping a marble statue to the subject. Others who usually sell better try to dig up any old piece of scandal associated with their subject and make them into an image of something only they see. Understand, there's plenty of Hollywood gossip that's true, but also much more that's false or misrepresented. On autobiographies, I usually read people who were at the margins of Hollywood rather than the stars. They tend to be more incisive and honest. On bios, you just gotta look at the track record of the writer. How anyone believed anything in Hollywood Babylon is beyond me. It's almost the perfect self-negating book. If some pieces were true, it was impossible to separate from the stench of the absurdly phony.

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*And what do most other bio writers have to go on? Unless it's autobiographical, all bios are hearsay and speculation. They do research, speak to family and friends, read letters to and from, and review newpaper articles, etc*

 

All good biographers of classic film use a variety of research tools, the Margaret Herrick Library at the Academy, they haunt the archives of various universities reading the papers of David Selznick, Louis B. Mayer, Jack Warner, etc.

 

Studio heads weren't the only ones to leave their papers to archives, stars did as well, from Gloria Swanson in Texas to Colleen Moore to Cecile B. DeMille, university archives across the country and around the world are filled with papers, letters, manuscripts, etc.

 

Good biographers like Scott Eyman devote years to the research and provide footnotes and bibliographies rather than make up or try to reconstruct conversations via a third person the way David Bret does.

 

Georgie, you are more than welcome to read his book and support his writings. I have no qualms with that. As I said earlier, many of the posters in this thread are trying to alert people who may not be aware that David Bret has a long reputation for writing fiction and calling it non-fiction.

 

As for suing, as a writer I'm betting you are aware of the libel laws. Writers like Bret and Kenneth Anger skirt that law very careful but always make sure that what they write can't be taken to court. Many family members refuse to give credence and publicity to these hacks believing that it only serves the hack writers and not the defamed star or their family.

 

*It still boils down to folks getting upset over this man speaking out on the possible flip side of our icons and what we deem as unacceptable behavior.*

 

Again it has nothing to do with "this man speaking out on the possible flip side of our icons and what we deem as unacceptable behavior." and everything to do with his methods.

 

There's a reason that David Bret is not held in the same esteem as Scott Eyman, Jeanne Basinger, Molly Haskell, Gerald Clarke and other classic film biographers, and it's not because of what he choices to write about but the methods he employs to make those claims.

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I couldn't get back on the board until now, and earlier I had to keep logging out, closing the browser and starting all over each time I wanted to comment, and I'll have to do that to post this when the time comes, so I'm sorry for the delay in my replay.

 

CelluloidKId, the original poster, commented this book is worth the read. Obviously, he enjoyed it and the presumptions of the author don't appear to have been an issue for him/her. I didn't read the review he posted, nor did I read the posts that followed his initial post, I replied to his personal, in bold, comment alone and had no idea there was any controversy until it was brought to my attention.

 

Bret, whether he is looking through gay colored glasses or not (I don't know this man's sexuality, nor do I care), took another avenue than the, let's say, upper echelon biographers have chosen. I'm sure those who want to be taken seriously in the field take a more conservative and painstaking road to compile their thoughts, thus their unsoiled reputations give them better access to those closest to the people who knew the stars they write of and pay homage. This author chose another route, but that shouldn't cancel out what he says, especially because we don't like his methods of gathering information, or what he has to say. Some folks believe the *Bible* is complete and utter bunk with no back-ups to support such claims, yet...Now that may sound foolish, and let me make this clear, I'm not comparing Bret's work to the Bible, just saying about considering the source of biographers.

 

Masses in the public hated Kitty Kelly when she wrote her book on Frank Sinatra. There was outrage over that, and it sold in the millions thanks to those who came out against it and made *her* an issue and front page news. Ironic. People were quick to dismiss Christina Crawford's book *Mommie Dearest*. Right away she was called a blood sucker, making money off her dead mother's good name because she was left a pittance from Joan. If she was a victim of child abuse, she did not deserve to be taken down as she was by so many Joan fans. But we didn't want to hear it, so shoot the messenger.

 

We can pick and choose which biographer we like and which we feel is telling it like it is, but how can any of us be so sure what we read are the facts in either case- good or bad? We believe what we want, and when it comes to our idols we tend to want to hear only the good and bury the bad, or what some perceive as bad.

 

I still stand behind what I've said, I see homophobia here from some, and a mind set that being called gay is defamation. To each his/her own. All of us are free to think and feel as we wish, and that's a wonderful thing. Discussion, but never disrespect, makes life more interesting. :-)

 

Message was edited by: georgiegirl

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So, now you're accusing "some" of homophobia, are you? That's pretty serious stuff and totally uncalled for. How many different people need to explain to you that it's NOT being gay/bisexual that's the issue here, but the unsubstantiated claims of it? Please do cite specific examples here of the "mind set that being called gay is defamation" so we can all become enlightened and see the error of our ways.

 

"This author chose another route, but that shouldn't cancel out what he says, especially because we don't like his methods of gathering information, or what he has to say."...uh, yes, it should, because he's trying to pass it off as a legitimate biography rather than as a work of fiction/fantasy.

 

"I doubt this Bret just pulled this stuff out of his head and wrote it down."...it wasn't his head from whence he pulled it.

 

Go ahead, see if you can find this "book" in a library. I'd bet you can't. Stick to the garage sales or start dumpster diving.

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I'm in the publishing business, and I have been doing research for biographers of not only stars, but people in the field of literature and medicine, for 20+ years.

 

Nowadays, in order to sell a biography, the writer has to come up with a new angle. The angle most of them pick is the gay/bisexual one, as long as the subject is dead. This way, the writer can't be sued and the publisher, who only wants to sell books, doesn't have to worry about their legal department wanting them to cut something out.

 

The Clark Gable bio was dismissed by critics as garbage because the information in it is unsubstantiated. This is the easiest type of bio to do, obviously, because you don't have to source it. Real biographers spend years doing research. They speak to family and close friends, they read the studio files, they look at all of the newspaper clippings and even fan magazines, because even though the fan mags were controlled by the studios, there's always a kernel of truth to be found in the stories. They also look at letters the person wrote and received. In one case, I transcribed something like 100 hours of phone conversations.

 

At the end of any major biography are source notes which detail where each piece of information in a chapter came from.

 

Good biographers do not choose conservative routes. They choose the routes that will bring them to the truth about a person. They present facts and let the reader draw their own conclusions. A real, true biographer does not have an agenda. No decent biographer would write about, say, Lorenz Hart or Cole Porter or George Cukor without discussing their sexual preferences, because these are documented and well-known.

 

Kitty Kelly is not my idea of a good biographer, as she speaks to disgruntled employees and slants her writing. Case in point: Frank Sinatra used to go to the White House and have lunch with Nancy Reagan. When Kelly writes it, it's Frank Sinatra used to go to the White House and have "lunch" with Nancy Reagan. There's a difference. A discerning reader knows that Kelly cannot have any idea what went on behind closed doors. A discerning reader knows that a trash **** like Hector Arce could not possibly know what Tyrone Power was thinking when he was alone. And a real biographer would not print that Howard Hughes was gay on the basis of hearing it from Larry Quirk, whose uncle told him. And by the way, that is where that information about Hughes came from, exactly that route. No one who really wanted to write a serious and informative book would take anything like that as a fact and print it.

 

If a writer says they have certain things on tape, they need to be able to produce the tapes. Diana Maychik, who claimed to have taped interviews with Audrey Hepburn, could not produce them in court. She also thanked people in her introduction who never spoke to her.

 

One of my favorite Gable rumors is that he got George Cukor kicked off of GWTW because Cukor knew he used to be a gay hustler. I've always loved that rumor because it's so prevalent and yet so totally untrue and makes no sense.

 

Selznick's memos are full of how unhappy he was with the fact that Cukor was moving too slowly. A letter to Margaret Mitchell indicates that Cukor was also unhappy, stating that he thought the script was bad (it was eventually rewritten), he wasn't clicking with the material, and that, as an artist, he had to take his time. He was replaced.

 

There are two urban legends about Gable having Cukor fired. This first was that Gable didn't like the fact that Cukor was good at directing women, that it was his speciality. The second legend is the one I referred to above.

 

Clark Gable was the only actor whom the public demanded as Rhett Butler. Selznick was SO DESPERATE to get him that he gave away part of his film to MGM. Does anyone REALLY BELIEVE that a) Clark Gable didn't know Cukor's expertise in directing women before he started filming; or B) George Cukor knew some secret about him before he started filming? Does anyone believe that Cukor walked up to Gable during filming and said, I know something embarrassing about you, Clark," just to antagonize him when they were making a movie together? Does anyone REALLY BELIEVE that if Clark Gable didn't want to work with Cukor, he wouldn't have said UP FRONT, "I can't work with him?" Does anyone REALLY BELIEVE that Selznick wouldn't have said, "Goodbye George, and don't let the door hit you on the way out?" rather than lose Gable? Not to mention, Gable and Cukor had already worked together on "Manhattan Melodrama," and as far as I know, Cukor got to finish the movie. If people would just think through these things, they wouldn't jump on them so quickly.

 

Bottom line, Gable's sexuality is a non-issue. He could be gay, bi, straight - the point is what he projected on the screen and the legacy he left us, which is a great one. But biographers who are sloppy about research and information do these public figures and their families a disservice by printing half-truths and rumors that have had 50, 60, 70, 80 years to grow and be embellished. We all deserve better.

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Stars' families cannot take biographers to court - as someone else said, once you're dead, someone can say whatever they want about you with no consequences. You can bet that his Doris Day book didn't have one untrue comment in it, because she could sue, and the publisher's lawyers wouldn't have let anything like that go. When it comes to dead stars, they don't care if you make it up.

 

No real biography is based on hearsay and speculation.

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Thank you for your comments.

 

Contrary to belief, I do not know the laws of writing a bio on deceased persons, but I do find it interesting a family member cannot sue for slander or defamation of character once you've crossed-over.

 

I guess once you're dead, you're fair game, and it'd probably be too hard for family to disprove and dispel rumors and such once they're out there, and it would come down to he said she said and that only serves to bring more attention to the book, thereby giving it exposure to those who may not have noticed it at all. Living or dead, it appears proving slander is a toughie, a very expensive proposition, and just not worth the time or hassle.

 

It really doesn't matter to me if the author is a top notch or bottom rung. I don't believe everything I read anyway, regardless of who wrote it. It's like old Ben said, ?Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.? Words to live by, for me, anyway. :-)

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> {quote:title=chandler5710 wrote:}{quote}

> Stars' families cannot take biographers to court - as someone else said, once you're dead, someone can say whatever they want about you with no consequences. You can bet that his Doris Day book didn't have one untrue comment in it, because she could sue, and the publisher's lawyers wouldn't have let anything like that go. When it comes to dead stars, they don't care if you make it up.

>

> No real biography is based on hearsay and speculation.

 

No legit bio is so based, but unfortunately many of the better sellers are (as you've shown). Critics will lace them, but it doesn't matter much. Sales are made on scandal. I'm really stunned that few knew that you cannot libel the dead. I'm hardly a lawyer and I've known that for 25 years. Better books, as long as they show an actor/producer/director as a real person, I'm fine with them, even if the writing is turgid. It's the psychoanalysis of the dead that really annoys me, and is often a feature of bad bios.

 

There are lots of interesting bits out there if you like researching the past. I remember reading a contemporaneous story in a Kansas City newspaper about the tiffs and egos on the set of Wonder Bar, which was then opening. If it was a studio plant, it had to be the most disastrous one I've ever seen, as it razzed the star Al Jolson mercilessly and made it seem most of the actors were unhappy with the picture. Not a great ad for a big musical. Bits and pieces like that are often much more fun to read, not because it's real juicy scandal, but due to figuring who on earth would have bothered printing the story and why. Fan mags are often useless (I've seen a number of their articles which whitewash the peccadilloes of actors), but you do see how the studio machine would ascribe a personality and image to an actor and build on that for publicity.

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Well, the fan mags did build on something true to write the story - Tyrone Power told Mai Zetterling that those stories always had some truth to them. When I first started working for a biographer, he wanted some fan magazines, and I questioned it, and he said, well, the basis for the stories is usually factual.

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Well, the libeling of the dead is a legality, which is that the dead have no rights under the law. That's why families can't sue. That doesn't mean that a lawyer who has a client with deep pockets won't try. Diana Maychik was sued by Audrey Hepburn's family - it cost Sean Ferrer something like $200,000, and he was told upfront by my boss that the suit wouldn't fly. Sure enough, the judge tossed it. I remember when the Liz Taylor TV movie was made, she tried to stop it. Her lawyer knew darn well that as a public figure, there was nothing she could do, but he took her money and tried to file an injunction anyway. Errol Flynn's kids tried to sue too when the Higham book came out.

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Audrey Hepburn's son sued Diana Maychick because she claimed to have written an authorized (by Audrey) biography of the star. Sean Ferrer claimed that the book was not authorized and that Maychick had deprived her heirs of their own opportunity to realize money from doing an authorized biography.

 

The suit did not claim that Audrey was libeled although I expect that she was. But since dead people and their heirs have no right with regard to libel, that was not the grounds for the suite.

 

Which brings us back to Gable and all the other great stars that sleaze like Bret want to 'out'. None of them were gay but Bret and his ilk can write anything they want about anyone who is dead without any fear of retribution. Its too bad really. I think there should be some kind of law to protect the families of dead celebrities from being assaulted by this crap.

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> {quote:title=chandler5710 wrote:}{quote}

> Well, the fan mags did build on something true to write the story - Tyrone Power told Mai Zetterling that those stories always had some truth to them. When I first started working for a biographer, he wanted some fan magazines, and I questioned it, and he said, well, the basis for the stories is usually factual.

 

Yes, but which part is true? Any truth in them usually has to be teased out through other sources. I recently read a fan-mag profile of Lee Tracy (I specialize in precode era), and one thing stuck out - the claim that he wasn't a drinker. When you see a claim that's an obvious lie, I don't see how you can't trust anything in the rest of the story without other sourcing.

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Yes, you definitely have to have other sources, and as far as habits like drinking - forget it, I doubt a fan mag would ever have owned up to that.

 

When researching a biography, you always need more than one source where possible anyway. I recently read three books, all autobiographies, in fact, that covered the same period of an actor's life. The book wasn't about the actor per se, but all three authors were involved with him at the same time. So it was really fascinating and basically gave the same picture of the man, plus you got the individual's interactions with him. So in the end, you had a fairly complete picture.

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One of the funniest (funny because it was so far-fetched and outrageous) books I ever read was _The Girls_ by Diana McClellen. The bulk of the book was devoted to two claims: a) Marlene Dietrich was a Commie and B) that she had met and seduced Greta Garbo while Garbo was in Berlin making Joyless Street, and that Dietrich had made a fool of Garbo, earning Garbo's life-long hatred. Were these things true? Possibly. Weimar-era Berlin was a crazy place. It was fashionable among the hip and cool to have communist leanings and given that Garbo was the new "hot topic" it's not unlikely that Dietrich (who loved to be very hip and now) would have gone after her. Did she get her? The only people who know are long dead, but Dietrich made a lot of very disparaging comments about Garbo over the years. (sour grapes?)

 

The point of this is that in the intro to the book, the author admits that much of what she wrote was the result of "reading between the lines" and "listening to what people didn't say." Was this to make her seem more legit--that she admits upfront she's working from conjecture? I don't know. The book was entertaining and nothing in it changes my admiration for any of its subjects one bit.

 

As for classic stars being "outed" by biographers--It's entirely possible that many of these stars were a lot more, um, flexible about their sexuality than the average run of humanity. But they were also very protective of their images, as were their employers and their employers had a lot of money and a lot of power to quietly sweep scandals under the rug (and in those days, being gay would have been quite a scandal). That being the case, I would think that there would be very little left behind by way of tangible evidence documenting a star's proclivities (unless you were Marlene Dietrich and kept every letter you ever wrote or received. In triplicate). A biographer's only sources for such info would have to be personal interviews. Friends of a star, mindful of the star's image and reputation, would likely whitewash the truth, even today. Or tell outright lies. So would family, unless they had an axe to grind. So, "legitimate" sources would be hard to find.

 

I guess this means the biographers shouldn't write at all? I don't know the answer to that. Maybe I'm just a nasty little gossip, but I find the whitewashed autobiographies of many classic stars to be dull as dishwater (which may be maligning dishwater--at least it has little squidgy bits floating about to liven things up). It can be argued that a person's sex life is their own business and in the case of your average person, that's probably true. But if you are a public figure and the object of fascination by millions, and someone writes a book about what makes you tick, then sexuality has to be included. It's an undeniable part of what makes a person who he/she is.

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I'm not a proponent of whitewashed biographies. While I agree gossip about celebrities can be fun, to me, there's no point to it if it's not true.

 

As far as Garbo and Dietrich, I worked on the Garbo book by Barry Paris. Garbo and Dietrich met once, and they weren't involved.

 

As far as if people were gay and hiding it, there's not much documentation, that isn't true. As far as actors who were truly gay, there's plenty of documentation in studio notes and in their private papers - and usually, while the studio may have covered it up and the press didn't report it, everyone else knew about it. It's an open secret that was probably hinted at in Confidential magazine. There's no documentation for people who have been called gay without evidence and where the claims came out 30 years later.

 

Also, if I had a lot of info on gay stars, if I'd been involved with one or more than one, why would I talk to some author like William Mann and let him make the money? I'd do my own book, even if I had to use another name. We've only seen a couple of those from boyfriends. Are the rest of them shy people who don't care about money? Didn't seem to stop anyone who ever met Elvis Presley or Marilyn Monroe.

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"You're right, I didn't read what was written here about the book, I just saw that a book was out and I got excited. I've read many books on Gable and have one sitting on my bookshelf. But I really don't care if Clark Gable was bisexual or not. I wasn't married to him, and that's who should have been concerned with his sexual proclivities.

 

They say Tyrone Power, Cary Grant, Marlon Brando, Randolph Scott, James Dean, Lawrence Olivier and so many others were closet homosexuals/bisexuals, but that doesn't mean anything to me as a fan of theirs. Rumor and speculation does nothing to take away from the men I fell in love with on the screen. I, of course, didn't know the real men, it was their characters that I was drawn to, and if they were gay in real life, wow, they had me fooled, and so be it. lol"

-----

 

Why would you buy a book to read about someone and then not care if what is written is accurate?

 

 

 

This book thing is slowly annoying me. Why is it this guy only writes about dead celebrities? I read several pages of this book (it's available free online) and he spins everything negatively. Every sentence oozes disdain. I guess Clark hosed everyone around him, got into daily fights, only does things if they benefit himself? etc. He seems drawn to gay people, too. Apparently half of Hollywood in that era was gay according to him. Look at his page on Wiki. Just sounds to me like he's picking the big names and trying to sensationalize the hell out of it.

 

And BTW, stop saying "it's okay if Gable was gay." First of all, he's not gay. Why not just say he's Australian and afraid of bunnies while we're at it? Second, Elton John is gay, and no one has to okay him on that. It's like saying "it's okay that you're Irish." Oh, good, glad to have your permission.

 

Point being that this book is poison, much, it seems, like the rest of his stuff. He's just writing about these guys because if he'd write about living people, he'd either have a lawsuit on his hands or they'd kick his butt.... or he'd have to be accurate. And of course, since so much has been written and he's got bills to pay, it's okay to write anything about these guys once they've passed and can't defend accusations.

 

Gah! Okay, rant over...

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I came across a second-hand copy of "Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr" by David Bret, which dishes some of the same dirt about Gable. My biggest objection to the book, and presumedly to the Gable book, is that a good third (or at least a quarter) of the text is comprised of his (sometimes mistaken and generally opinionated) summaries of the plots of the films. Although it can be argued that it makes sense to organize a career retrospective around a chronology of the film work, this is, in my opinion, an easy out for a "biographer" to flesh out an already slim volume. I'm gay and I have the usual gay person's curiosity about these things, but I know that you have to consider the source, and this source seems to be suspect.

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