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speedracer5

Best and Worst Autobiographies/Biographies

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Since the Barbara Stanwyck biography thread seems to be deviating into a thread about autobiographies and biographies in general, I thought I'd make a spin-off thread.  For me, personally, I'm hoping that this thread can give me and others who enjoy reading about people's lives some ideas on what to (and not to) read.

 

Like I stated in the Barbara Stanwyck thread, I prefer autobiographies but also research for well written biographies.  Not every star wrote an autobiography, so if I want to read more about them, I try to research decent biographies.  Like I said earlier, if I'm reading an autobiography written by someone I love, I like the fact that they're "still alive" at the end of the book.  If they're deceased, of course I am aware; but I like the book ending on a positive note.  Like someone stated on the other thread, sometimes the stars will embellish certain details of their lives and omit details that will put them in a bad light.  Books that seem brutally honest, like Desi Arnaz' A Book for example, are refreshing and I tend to regard the information presented as truthful.  Errol Flynn's My Wicked, Wicked Ways is surely full of embellishment, but the book is hilarious and entertaining to no end. 

 

When considering reading a biography, I read reviews to get fellow readers' impression of the book.  If an overwhelming number of people complain about how the book is written (general conventions, grammar, etc.) then I usually stay away.  I cannot stand poorly written books (magazine articles, etc.).  While I'm all about learning about different aspects of someone's life, I don't need to know the backgrounds of all of their elementary school teachers, college professors, etc. I don't care.  I also cannot stand books whose main reason for existing is to ruin someone's reputation, share salacious details, etc.  Biographies need to also have good sources for their information.  I've found that if the author has actually spoken with people associated with their subject, or even the subject themselves, those books are usually better.  Also, if they've accessed the subject's personal archives, or documents from a reliable source, then they tend to present more reliable information.  I don't want to read a book whose entire research consists of Wikipedia articles.

 

My favorite autobiographies so far:

Errol Flynn, My Wicked Wicked Ways- Hilarious.  While I'm aware Flynn had someone helping him write the book, I have to imagine he played a large part in the writing.  Flynn was a very smart man-- very well read.  His book was very educational.  Aside from learning about Flynn himself, I learned many vocabulary words that I had never heard before. I didn't want to put this book down.  I was at the last 10 or so pages, and while I could have easily finished the remaining 10 pages in one sitting, I actually read only like 1 or 2 pages at a time just so that I could stretch it out.  Finally, I had to reluctantly finish it and bring it back to the library.  I'm definitely getting a copy for myself. 

 

Desi Arnaz, A Book- Arnaz was brutally honest in his book.  He told it like it was and I could hear his voice in his writing.  His book was also hilarious.  It is truly a riches to rags to riches again story.  Arnaz, grew up wealthy until a revolution in 1936 in his native Cuba took all that away from him and his family.  The Arnaz family fled to Miami.  Now dirt poor, Desi's father survived by building mosaic fireplaces for people using pieces of broken tile he was given (or bought for a tiny sum, I can't remember).  Desi cleaned out canary cages.  Desi and his father lived in an unheated warehouse and survived on cans of beans.  At night they would take turns killing rats.  Then Desi got a job with an orchestra and his stock slowly rose.  He took jobs in bigger orchestras and finally was on Broadway.  He came out to Hollywood to film the movie version of his Broadway show, where he met Lucille Ball.  While his movie career never really took off, he was a popular orchestra leader in the 1940s.  In 1951, Lucille Ball was offered a show on television.  She insisted that her husband Desi Arnaz was cast as her husband.  On October 15, 1951, I Love Lucy premiered, and the rest is history.  Desi's story is truly inspiring and a testament to where perseverance, hard work, risk taking and just plain luck can lead you.

 

Lucille Ball, Love, Lucy- While Lucy's story wasn't quite as harrowing as her husband Desi's, it was also very interesting.  Her story is more about never giving up on your dreams.  Lucy's dream was to be an actress.  Despite being repeatedly told that she was never going to make it as an actress, she never gave up.  While modeling in 1933, Lucille Ball was discovered by a Hollywood talent scout and offered a small part in Hollywood.  Lucy took the train from NYC to Hollywood and never looked back.  She worked her way up from background extra, to small 1 line parts, to slightly bigger parts, to supporting player and finally star.  Even though she never attained A-list status like her contemporaries, Ginger Rogers and Jean Harlow, she worked consistently.  She finally hit her stride when she performed in her radio show, My Favorite Husband, which lead to her television show I Love Lucy.  Like Desi's, Lucy's story ends a little bit after their divorce.  Her book wasn't even published in her lifetime.  After her death, her daughter, Lucie Arnaz found the manuscript hidden in some of her mom's old file cabinets and decided to get it published. 

 

Least favorite:

Stefan Kanfer, Ball of Fire- This biography was written about Lucille Ball.  I didn't care for it as it contained incorrect information about Lucy and I just didn't enjoy the writing.  Mostly the wrong information bothered me the most.

 

Simon Callow, Orson Welles: Road to Xanadu, Vol 1- I tried reading this book and it was so bogged down with trivial information that I gave up on it and returned it to the library after 50 pages or so.  I don't care about how Orson Welles' school was built or what types of lives his teachers led.  The problem with all the extra information presented was that it in no way related to Welles.  The extraneous information presented didn't share how it directly influenced or affected Welles.  It was not interesting.

 

 

I'm sure there is more to share here; but this is my jumping off point.

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A few favorites:

 

The Moon's A Balloon by David Niven -- The gold standard for movie star memoirs. Wonderfully entertaining.

 

Notes On A Cowardly Lion by John Lahr -- About his father Bert. John would go on to become a distinguished theater critic.

 

Groucho and Me by Groucho Marx. Not very reliable but very funny. Harpo's Harpo Speaks, published the next year, is more reliable but less amusing. Joe Adamson's Groucho, Harpo, Chico, & Sometimes Zeppo is one of my favorite film books, if that qualifies here.

 

Act One by Moss Hart is not about film, but is fascinating for anyone interested in the show business of the 1920s, as is Howard Teichman's bio of George S. Kaufman. Too bad S.J. Perelman never finished his memoir The Hindsight Saga.

 

Neil Simon's books, especially the first, give insight into the writer's life.

 

Robert Parrish -- a child actor who became an Oscar winning editor, then an uneven director -- wrote two entertaining books full of great stories. Michael Powell's memoirs are also worth reading.

 

When The Shooting Stops, The Editing Begins by film editor Ralph Rosenblum (I mentioned it in the Robert Osborne thread). Are They Really So Awful? by Christopher Challis gives the cinematographer's perspective.

 

Least favorite:

 

ANYTHING by Darwin Porter. His books are twisted sex fantasies masquerading as biography.

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A few favorites:

 

The Moon's A Balloon by David Niven -- The gold standard for movie star memoirs. Wonderfully entertaining.

 

Notes On A Cowardly Lion by John Lahr -- About his father Bert. John would go on to become a distinguished theater critic.

 

Groucho and Me by Groucho Marx. Not very reliable but very funny. Harpo's Harpo Speaks, published the next year, is more reliable but less amusing. Joe Adamson's Groucho, Harpo, Chico, & Sometimes Zeppo is one of my favorite film books, if that qualifies here.

 

Act One by Moss Hart is not about film, but is fascinating for anyone interested in the show business of the 1920s, as is Howard Teichman's bio of George S. Kaufman. Too bad S.J. Perelman never finished his memoir The Hindsight Saga.

 

Neil Simon's books, especially the first, give insight into the writer's life.

 

Robert Parrish -- a child actor who became an Oscar winning editor, then an uneven director -- wrote two entertaining books full of great stories. Michael Powell's memoirs are also worth reading.

 

When The Shooting Stops, The Editing Begins by film editor Ralph Rosenblum (I mentioned it in the Robert Osborne thread). Are They Really So Awful? by Christopher Challis gives the cinematographer's perspective.

 

Least favorite:

 

ANYTHING by Darwin Porter. His books are twisted sex fantasies masquerading as biography.

I've been wanting to read the David Niven one.  Have you read "Bring on the Empty Horses" ? I was considering borrowing that one from the library, I heard it was good.

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I've been wanting to read the David Niven one.  Have you read "Bring on the Empty Horses" ? I was considering borrowing that one from the library, I heard it was good.

 

Yes, Empty Horses is very entertaining (BTW it devotes a chapter to your boy Errol), but Balloon is the must-read (Niven's childhood and pre-Hollywood adventures in the army could make a great movie). Horses is essentially anecdotes that couldn't fit into Balloon.

 

If you're skilled at reading between the lines, you can get an interesting picture of Niven and Flynn from the books. Before WWII, when Flynn is a superstar, he and Niven are inseparable pals, grown up schoolboys playing countless pranks. After the war and Flynn's trial, he is barely mentioned -- instead, Niven starts telling stories about hanging out with the new superstar Humphrey Bogart.

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My favorite - and not just because she's one of my favorite actors - is Myrna Loy's Being and Becoming.  Honest, charming and detailed (completed shortly before her fabled memory began to fail her), the story of her life takes us through so much of Hollywood and American history.  She was there for the transition from silent films to talkies, before, during and after the Code, the unionization of actors, the studio system and its breakdown, redbaiting and blacklisting, etc.  And beyond being outspoken in her beliefs - in an era when that was not common and often had significant consequences - she put her money and, more than that, her physical energy where her mouth was.  Our political sensibilities happen to align, but her dedication to civic engagement should be universally inspirational. 

 

Emily Leider's posthumous biography, Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood, is a pretty good one as celebrity biographies go, but it's largely redundant -- she borrows heavily from the autobiography and fills in with details that generally don't add much (e.g. synopses of Loy's films).  And, fundamentally, when a fiercely private person offers up a frank memoir, I'm a bit put off by someone coming along after her death to write about the few details she opted not to disclose.

 

From the other thread:

 

This may sound silly, but I also prefer reading autobiographies, because if I'm reading about someone I absolutely love it's nice when they don't die at the end of the book. Of course, going into the book, I'm aware whether or not that person is deceased; but it's nice to feel like they're still with us in the end.

 

I'm weird that way, too, especially when a biography delves into the final days/years of ill health. 

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Also want to mention two hilarious if a bit frightening books by Oscar Levant: Memoirs of an Amnesiac (autobio) and The Unimportance of being Oscar (anecdotage).

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Yes, Empty Horses is very entertaining (BTW it devotes a chapter to your boy Errol), but Balloon is the must-read (Niven's childhood and pre-Hollywood adventures in the army could make a great movie). Horses is essentially anecdotes that couldn't fit into Balloon.

 

If you're skilled at reading between the lines, you can get an interesting picture of Niven and Flynn from the books. Before WWII, when Flynn is a superstar, he and Niven are inseparable pals, grown up schoolboys playing countless pranks. After the war and Flynn's trial, he is barely mentioned -- instead, Niven starts telling stories about hanging out with the new superstar Humphrey Bogart.

Sounds like it'd be best to read 'Balloon' and 'Empty Horses' back to back then.  That's good to know about Errol's appearance in 'Empty Horses,' I do love me some Errol.  It sounds like perhaps Errol and Niven began to drift apart.  I read on another thread here that while Errol was still living it up with drinking and ladies and all that, Niven was beginning to separate himself from all that, growing up, so to speak?  I could see David Niven and Humphrey Bogart hanging out and talking over martinis or something.

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My favorite - and not just because she's one of my favorite actors - is Myrna Loy's Being and Becoming.  Honest, charming and detailed (completed shortly before her fabled memory began to fail her), the story of her life takes us through so much of Hollywood and American history.  She was there for the transition from silent films to talkies, before, during and after the Code, the unionization of actors, the studio system and its breakdown, redbaiting and blacklisting, etc.  And beyond being outspoken in her beliefs - in an era when that was not common and often had significant consequences - she put her money and, more than that, her physical energy where her mouth was.  Our political sensibilities happen to align, but her dedication to civic engagement should be universally inspirational. 

 

Emily Leider's posthumous biography, Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood, is a pretty good one as celebrity biographies go, but it's largely redundant -- she borrows heavily from the autobiography and fills in with details that generally don't add much (e.g. synopses of Loy's films).  And, fundamentally, when a fiercely private person offers up a frank memoir, I'm a bit put off by someone coming along after her death to write about the few details she opted not to disclose.

 

From the other thread:

 

 

I'm weird that way, too, especially when a biography delves into the final days/years of ill health. 

 

On the Goodreads social networking site I belong to, it recommended the Myrna Loy autobiography to me.  I'll have to see if the library has it.  I really enjoy Loy and would love to not only learn more about her life; but also get more first hand accounts of what it was like to be in that industry during that time in Hollywood. 

 

I am also put off by people coming along just to fill in the blanks in a person's autobiography.  It just seems like a deceitful way to make a few bucks off a person's career.  If you were genuinely a fan of someone and wanted to focus on an aspect of their life that isn't well known, than that's fine.  However, in many actors' autobiographies if they mention a rendezvous they had with a fellow celebrity or perhaps a negative incident involving them and someone else famous, many of the actors are too polite to name names, probably because the other party was still alive at that time.  Errol Flynn for example, discusses some of his romances with actresses in his book, but never mentions names-- too much of a gentleman it seems. 

 

I don't like it when an actor's sole purpose of writing their book is to share who they've slept with for example.  While that information would be interesting, it also seems like a desperate attempt to either stay relevant or to jump back into the public eye for a few months.  I believe Shelley Winters wrote a tell-all book where she named all the men she had slept with-- it just seems like a very trashy thing to do.  Gossipy biographies don't interest me.  I like interesting anecdotes about people or funny things that happened on a movie set and other things like that-- something that offers more of an insight into the subject, their thoughts on a particular event, place, time of their life, etc.  

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It sounds like perhaps Errol and Niven began to drift apart.  I read on another thread here that while Errol was still living it up with drinking and ladies and all that, Niven was beginning to separate himself from all that, growing up, so to speak?  I could see David Niven and Humphrey Bogart hanging out and talking over martinis or something.

 

My point is, Niven essentially moved away from the former superstar, and insinuated himself with the new superstar. Sheridan Morley's bio of Niven, The Other Side Of The Moon, paints a portrait of him as someone who was "an expert player of the Hollywood game" (in co-star Stewart Granger's words).

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My point is, Niven essentially moved away from the former superstar, and insinuated himself with the new superstar. Sheridan Morley's bio of Niven, The Other Side Of The Moon, paints a portrait of him as someone who was "an expert player of the Hollywood game" (in co-star Stewart Granger's words).

Gotcha.  That makes sense.  He was a newcomer when he befriended Flynn who was already famous.  It would make sense that being buddies with him for a while would help elevate him in Hollywood and get him into some more exclusive social circles. When Flynn's reputation took a hit it would make sense that Niven would surround himself with someone like Bogart who was respected and an esteemed member of the community.  Niven's ascent to stardom via knowing the right people would make for a very interesting read.

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"We'll Always Live In Beverly Hills" by Ned Wynn.  Ned writes of his life growing up with famous father, grandfather, stepfather and some of Hollywoods most celebrated stars.  The story is about his life, but provides details and insights into his family and famous friends that are only revealed as they pertain to him.   Very funny guy, great read.

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I really enjoyed Robert Matzen's Errol and Olivia.  He's the author of Fireball, which is the story of Carole Lombard and the plane crash that took her life; that book is currently offered on the TCM site. In Errol and Olivia, Matzen uses studio notes and memos of the shooting of the Warner films with Flynn and DeHavilland to reconstruct a narrative of their early careers and relationship.  He also writes a good deal about their early lives.  While some may disagree with how he sometimes gets into the characters' heads and writes from their point of view, I found the book insightful and entertaining.  Some of the stills are beautiful; there are candids that I've never seen anywhere else.

 

I'm partial to Basil Rathbone's In and Out of Character.  It's more of a memoir than an autobiography, but it's full of wonderful anecdotes about his early life, his war experience, and his film and theater career, as well as his reflections on art, music, and culture in general..  The writing and tone are more articulate than the average "star" autobiography.  If you're looking for dirt, though, you won't find it, as he comes off as an extremely gracious man.

 

I have a copy of John Kobal's People Will Talk, which contains interviews with actors, directors, and other film folk.  It's an older book, but I still enjoy reading chapters of it now and then.

 

Bette Davis' Mother Goddam is great fun.  I managed to get it for a $1.00 at a library book sale in Andover, MA.  As luck would have it, it was autographed by Bette herself and I'm sure would fetch more than that.

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I have a copy of John Kobal's People Will Talk, which contains interviews with actors, directors, and other film folk.  It's an older book, but I still enjoy reading chapters of it now and then.

 

If we're including interview books then I have to mention Kevin Brownlow's The Parade's Gone By, his classic collection of interviews with silent stars.

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I really enjoyed Robert Matzen's Errol and Olivia.  He's the author of Fireball, which is the story of Carole Lombard and the plane crash that took her life; that book is currently offered on the TCM site. In Errol and Olivia, Matzen uses studio notes and memos of the shooting of the Warner films with Flynn and DeHavilland to reconstruct a narrative of their early careers and relationship.  He also writes a good deal about their early lives.  While some may disagree with how he sometimes gets into the characters' heads and writes from their point of view, I found the book insightful and entertaining.  Some of the stills are beautiful; there are candids that I've never seen anywhere else.

 

I'm partial to Basil Rathbone's In and Out of Character.  It's more of a memoir than an autobiography, but it's full of wonderful anecdotes about his early life, his war experience, and his film and theater career, as well as his reflections on art, music, and culture in general..  The writing and tone are more articulate than the average "star" autobiography.  If you're looking for dirt, though, you won't find it, as he comes off as an extremely gracious man.

 

 

1) I'll definitely have to check out Errol and Olivia.  I do love me some Errol Flynn.

 

2) I might be being dense here, but what is the difference between a memoir and an autobiography? I always thought they were one and the same?

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As mentioned in the Stanwyck thread, I prefer autobiographies.

 

Here is my top five:

imgres-26.jpg

1. A Book, by Desi Arnaz which the original poster did a beautiful job describing. 

 

http://www.amazon.com/Book-Desi-Arnaz/dp/0446891533/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403793654&sr=1-1&keywords=desi+arnaz+a+book

 

imgres-116.jpg

2. The Times We Had: Life with William Randolph Hearst, by Marion Davies.

 

http://www.amazon.com/The-Times-We-Had-Randolph/dp/034532739X

 

1mtm.png

3. After All, by Mary Tyler Moore. Some stand-out chapters-- the one where she describes her son's death is heartbreaking; the one where she has an audience with the pope is unique; and I liked the chapter about the movie she made with Elvis (the chapter is called 'The King & I'). Her friendships with Bernadette Peters and Betty White also add a special quality to some of the chapters. This is a very well-written book, even if you are not necessarily a fan of MTM.

 

http://www.amazon.com/AFTER-SIGNED-author-Tyler-Moore/dp/B007PVDYUU/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403793612&sr=1-6&keywords=after+all+mary+tyler+moore

 

m1ajcax7du56pnapcdqud_a.jpg

4. Refugees from Hollywood: A Journal of the Blacklist Years, by Jean Rouverol. Jean was a professor and mentor for me in film school. One day we were sitting after class, a group of us, and she launched into a story about when she and her husband were in exile in Mexico. It was utterly captivating. I told her, you have to publish this story. She said she had been working on a book for years but it hadn't quite come together. Then, a few years later, after I had graduated and was still corresponding with her, she told me the book was about to be published. It is one of my prized possessions.  I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in learning about the Hollywood blacklist, especially from a woman's point of view.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Refugees-Hollywood-Journal-Blacklist-Years/dp/0826322662/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403793736&sr=1-1&keywords=jean+rouverol+refugees

 

images21.jpg

5. I'm Just Sayin' by Kim Zimmer. Kim is known to millions as a multiple Emmy winner for her work on daytime dramas. But she has also been in films, notably with Kathleen Turner in BODY HEAT. I think this is one of the best books about life on and off the set of a soap opera. If you liked TOOTSIE or SOAP DISH, even if you are not really a fan of soaps, you will still like this book. What I like most about Kim's writing is that the chapters are arranged almost like a set of dominos, and at certain points, she lets them all fall down to give us a glimpse of the personal struggles she has had to face that people may not know about.  She's very candid. I also like the way her book illustrates her life with her husband and family in sort of a sitcom type of way-- so you have her as a diva on daytime show, then you have her as an anti-Donna Reed in her personal life. She just seems like a fun person with a fun life, despite all the surrounding drama. 

 

http://www.amazon.com/Im-Just-Sayin-Husbands-Daytime/dp/B007F7R8LA/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403794063&sr=1-1&keywords=kim+zimmer+just+sayin

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1) I'll definitely have to check out Errol and Olivia.  I do love me some Errol Flynn.

 

2) I might be being dense here, but what is the difference between a memoir and an autobiography? I always thought they were one and the same?

If you are a Flynn fan, Matzen's Errol and Olivia is a must.  This the Amazon link.  http://www.amazon.com/Errol-Olivia-Obsession-Golden-Hollywood/dp/097116858X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403800461&sr=8-1&keywords=errol+and+olivia  It's worth it just for the pictures.  I wasn't able to put it down the first time I read it.

 

The difference between an autobiography and a memoir is that an autobiography usually tells the entire story of the person's life, while a memoir is more a collection of reminiscences.  I would categorize Rathbone's book as a memoir, although he calls it an autobiography.  There are very many missing pieces in his book, such as much about his first marriage, his relationship with his son, etc.  

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i'd like to mention Niven and Bogart and their original association with The Rat Pack I. (there were two Rat Packs, Sinatra was a member of both. btw, the second group preferred to be called The Summit or The Clan and never The Rat Pack. it was the press and the public that used the term Rat Pack in reference to the second group.)

 

after his WWII service Niven returned to H-wood, and took up with Bogart and his friends in an informal group that called themselves The Rat Pack. (btw Lauren Bacall is credited with the name The Rat Pack because one morning the group's debris from the night before or their condition from carousing all night made her mutter "...looks like a pack of rats" which someone overheard and then repeated.) Niven outlines his involvement with this group in The Moon's a Balloon. while he distanced himself somewhat from Erroll Flynn during this post WWII period, Flynn was still an associate of the partying Rat Pack I. Niven didn't just drop Flynn as a friend.

 

one more thing, the first group even had (facetious) titles. Bogart was "rat in charge of public relations", Judy Garland was 1st VP, and Sinatra was Pack Master or Chairman of the Board among the many titles going around.

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I'm Just Sayin' by Kim Zimmer.

 

I keep meaning to look for that at the library.  I could not stand her character - nor her portrayal of that character - when I watched Guiding Light, but I keep hearing what a fun read her book is.

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A few I  recommend:

 

Natasha:  The Biography of Natalie Wood by Suzanne Finstad

The Elephant to Hollywood by Michael Caine

Jane Fonda:  The Private Life of a Public Woman by Patricia Bosworth

Million Dollar Mermaid by Esther Williams with Digby Diehl (?--hope that's the name)

 

Also, a biography of Oscar Levant that came out a few years ago, neither the title nor the authors names I can remember, sad to say.

 

I love reading everyone's recommendations, as autobiographies and biographies are somehow all I read lately.

 

 

 

 

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I keep meaning to look for that at the library.  I could not stand her character - nor her portrayal of that character - when I watched Guiding Light, but I keep hearing what a fun read her book is.

It is truly fun. There is a great scene she includes about a young man who steals an Emmy trophy from her house. You will have to read the book and let her describe it for you. It shows how strange people can be, and also how silly and topsy turvy a star's life can be-- because the way her husband handles it is quite hilarious. 

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I just read that Burt Reynolds' bio will be out next year. I think it will be an interesting and entertaining read. He seems so likeable and down-to-earth, someone I'd like to know. Problem is I can't justify spending money on books when the library is so full of interesting lives. Any Reynolds fans?

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If you are a Flynn fan, Matzen's Errol and Olivia is a must.  This the Amazon link.  http://www.amazon.com/Errol-Olivia-Obsession-Golden-Hollywood/dp/097116858X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403800461&sr=8-1&keywords=errol+and+olivia  It's worth it just for the pictures.  I wasn't able to put it down the first time I read it.

 

The difference between an autobiography and a memoir is that an autobiography usually tells the entire story of the person's life, while a memoir is more a collection of reminiscences.  I would categorize Rathbone's book as a memoir, although he calls it an autobiography.  There are very many missing pieces in his book, such as much about his first marriage, his relationship with his son, etc.  

 

Have you read Every Frenchman Has One by Olivia DeHavilland?    I was luckly to find a hardbound version at a used book store.  It is a very easy read and Olivia talks mostly about her time living in France.   So it is light on any inside movie stuff but still provides nice stories related to an American living in Paris.

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Sorry to resurrect this thread, but I know many of us enjoy a good "movie" book-not only biographies, but "making of" movie books and academic movie books. 

How many here have shelves bulging with "movie" books?

 

 

Anyone here a fan of book reviewer Laura Wagner?

 

Not only do her reviews make me howl, but she certainly saves me the angst & disappointment of buying a bad book. I especially enjoy her end-of-the-year roundup...

 

"years best" this year is Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel by Christina Rice.

 

Without naming the titles, she says of some "worst books";

 

"A meandering, repetitive, shoddy error filled book with a lot of confusing sentences.

and

"His "shocking" stories are gross and highly unbelievable. Ego, disguised as fake modesty runs rampant in these pages. A faux tell-all."

and 

"A truly sad example of what's published these days"

 

(I picture Eve Arden when reading Wagner)

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Glad you resurrected this thread.  I read a lot of film autobiographies/biographies and just finished one of the oddest  --  Mary Wickes, I Know I've Seen That Face Before by Steve Taravella.  Not a horrible book, but very poorly organized with barely a nod to behind the scenes information about the films Mary Wickes appeared in and the people she worked with.  Chronology is all over the place as the author lurches from decade to decade.  Typos and mistakes abound:  Excuse me, it is Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, not High Spirits, The Man Who Came To Dinner was not released in 1939, etc., etc. But, I think what disturbs me most about this book is that it primarily reads as the author attempting to play amateur psychologist, constantly delving into poor Mary Wickes' psyche.  Minor incident after minor incident is related to prove that Mary is either: Helpful and caring (she does a lot of volunteering at hospitals OR Cranky and reclusive (she lives with her mother until the day Mom dies.)  Another disturbing aspect to this biography is that the author devotes an entire tasteless chapter to the question:  Was Mary Wickes a lesbian or wasn't she? and then later asks the question:  Were Mary Wickes and Lucille Ball ever lovers?  Yet, amazingly, the author also postulates the theory that Mary Wickes (a college educated woman who worked her entire career on the stage and in film/TV) had no idea that most of the men who escorted her around town were gay or even fully understood that alternate lifestyles even existed.  Unbelievable!  The final chapters of the book are the best since it seems the author finally interviewed some folks who actually had spent time with Mary (Lucie Arnaz being one of his best sources, apparently) to give some insight into her last years.  I know this author has written several other film bios.  After this one, I doubt I'll be rushing out to buy any others.

 

Lydecker

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The first two that came to mind that I own are both good. They are "The Dark Side of Genius: Alfred Hitchcock" by Donald Spoto and "Suicide Blonde" about Gloria Grahame, but I can't think of the author's name.

 

 

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