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Best and Worst Autobiographies/Biographies

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I was in a rush before. 

 

I Only Know Who I Am When I Am Somebody Else by Danny Aiello. Slim but largely enjoyable memoir, with one funny story about how he told Lauren Bacall to go **** herself on the set of Ready to Wear. Apparently she was a real terror on the set.

 

I Must Say by Martin Short. Very good, very funny, and surprisingly very moving in the sections about his wife's illness.

 

Currently I'm reading Kevin Brownlow's The Parade's Gone By, and its been fantastic so far.

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I was in a rush before. 

 

I Only Know Who I Am When I Am Somebody Else by Danny Aiello. Slim but largely enjoyable memoir, with one funny story about how he told Lauren Bacall to go **** herself on the set of Ready to Wear. Apparently she was a real terror on the set.

 

I Must Say by Martin Short. Very good, very funny, and surprisingly very moving in the sections about his wife's illness.

 

Currently I'm reading Kevin Brownlow's The Parade's Gone By, and its been fantastic so far.

I have been wanting to read I Must Say for a long time.  I have always  there was a lot about his wife's illness in this book  and I have been therefore avoiding it even though I have access to it.

 

Contrast this with Peter Ford's biography about his father which I don't have.  He had a very complicated life, a full life, and he fascinates me.  I do want to read Glenn Ford: A Life.  But I do not know when I will feel ready to read it.

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Currently I'm reading Kevin Brownlow's The Parade's Gone By, and its been fantastic so far.

Lawrence, if you're interested in David Lean, Kevin Brownlow's biography of Lean is first-rate. I loved this quote from one of Lean's friends (David Lean was married six times): "He married his wives when other men would have been divorcing them."

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Currently I'm reading Kevin Brownlow's The Parade's Gone By, and its been fantastic so far.

I read this pretty recently, in the last few months. I loved it - it's really dense with information about the Silent era, but the writing is good (not overly academic).

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if you're interested in David Lean, Kevin Brownlow's biography of Lean is first-rate

 

Thanks, I'll take that recommendation!

 

HOLLYWOOD HOOFBEATS came to me as a library loan. It's ok, has decent information on the stable of horses used in movies & TV. Not well flowing, some of the sentences sound like they were written by high schoolers, but interesting enough info to mildly entertain.

 

I'm glad to have the chance to read it and glad I don't like it enough to buy a copy.

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A good, possibly definitive biography;

 

"Love Is Nothing", by Lee Server--Biography of Ava Gardner, covering her Grabtown, North Carolina roots to struggle for fame (MGM had her under contract for 5 years before two loan-out films secured her a place in Metros' star line-up ("Whistle Stop" & "The Killers", both 1946), to her final film performances.  Covers everything along the way, including insights to her attitude toward MGM, her devastating inferiority complex, and career-destructive behavior on certain films.  An entertaining, informative, but somewhat saddening read--but one of the best biographies I've read. 

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Flynn was an animal lover. He had a menagerie of various animals living with him in his Hollywood heyday (including that little marmoset monkey from, I believe, The Sea Hawk).

 

Yet, in his book about the actor, Conrad makes reference to a time when Flynn crashed a rock hard on the head of a nasty barking guard dog, knocking the animal out (and maybe doing worse than that, who knows?). How, the author asked, even though he approved of the action at the time, could an animal lover do that? A part of the contradictions of the man's personality.

 

I've speculated that it might have been the risk taker in Flynn overcoming the animal lover. The dog involved was vicious and would have made a mess of him if he had caught him. Flynn loved a challenge so knocked out the dog, but in a decidedly cruel manner.

 

He was also buddy buddy with Howard Hill, who often hunted with bow and arrow and made many films on the subject.

 

It is called "tough love".

 

I have to admit that I read Mike Eliot's Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince back in the 1990s as a library book. I wouldn't have dared purchasing it. Loved every page regardless of how factual it was. Especially loved all of the claims of his obsession with cleanliness a.k.a. Howard Hughes and cooperating with J. Edgar Hoover to help round up the Commies in exchange for finding his "real" parents because he was never sure they were really his. Huh?

 

There was also hilarious speculation as to whether or not Walt was ten years older than he really was on account of his birth certificate missing because he seemed to age faster than expected. My answer to that one: if you smoke like a chimney, you age fast. Even Bette Davis didn't chain smoke nearly as much as Uncle Walt did, which is why she lived almost two decades longer.

 

Speaking of entertaining... and mostly falsified, but occasionally truthful... "trash", I have always loved Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon books even though they created some "urban legends" that didn't need creating. He writes very well in that delightful "old hat" narrative style that was fashionable in the seventies and eighties before wikipedia and other online sites were created to correct so many silly rumors. Book #2 published around 1984 or so is particularly good in that it destroys the Republican Party's "Valentine" image of Ronald Reagan with his over the top Cold War theatrics early in his presidency (quickly forgotten after Gorbachev) that may be more accurate than inaccurate in hindsight: the Cold War came close to getting hot and atomic in 1983 on account of him being so belligerent.

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I cannot rate these books in a best or worst category, but I just can say why I enjoyed them!

 

"Elvis" by Albert Goldman 
 

This book is amazingly researched and gives incredible background info on E's family, with even genealogical stuff and revampings of many legends of the star, for example though it was  always said that Elvis Aron was born first before twin Jesse Garon, that was just another legendary fact that was untrue.
 

"Ecstasy and Me" by Hedy Lamarr
 

The most egotistical autobiography I have ever read and perhaps the most hilarious. Hedy recounts the men she has engaged with in various activities to the penultimate degree. Fun fun fun!

 

"The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock" by Donald Spoto
 

Just like the Elvis book, Spoto has gone deep into the life of the director and unearthed the good, the bad and the ugly. All is mesmerizing!

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I found "After All", Mary Tyler Moore's autobiography at the thrift store for 99¢ and couldn't resist. I know I had read it when it first came out, but my perspective as an older person will be very different. Eh, I needed something to read-it's summer.

 

It starts off with her talking about how she wanted to be a STAR. She wanted love & adoration from the masses, she hungered for attention. She realizes (now as she writes) that it had nothing to do with being a great dancer or actor, she just wanted attention. 

 

She wasn't interested in WORKING toward her goal, nor consider what her actual talents may be....she just wanted ATTENTION. Seemingly, adoration from strangers for doing nothing.

 

I think that's very insightful & honest of her to write & sadly, see this idea too often (in far less talented people) who still haven't figured it out. 

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I found "After All", Mary Tyler Moore's autobiography at the thrift store for 99¢ and couldn't resist. I know I had read it when it first came out, but my perspective as an older person will be very different. Eh, I needed something to read-it's summer.

 

It starts off with her talking about how she wanted to be a STAR. She wanted love & adoration from the masses, she hungered for attention. She realizes (now as she writes) that it had nothing to do with being a great dancer or actor, she just wanted attention. 

 

She wasn't interested in WORKING toward her goal, nor consider what her actual talents may be....she just wanted ATTENTION. Seemingly, adoration from strangers for doing nothing.

 

I think that's very insightful & honest of her to write & sadly, see this idea too often (in far less talented people) who still haven't figured it out. 

 

Thanks, TikiSoo, for the heads up on Mary Tyler Moore's autobiography.

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I used to dismiss Ginger Rogers.  I didn't really see what her appeal was outside of her films with Fred Astaire.  I had seen her in I'll Be Seeing You and Bachelor Mother, but still didn't think much about her.  Then my wonderful friends here on the board suggested The Major and the Minor which at the time, was scheduled within the upcoming week.  I took their suggestion, DVR'd it and watched the film.  It was hilarious.  I loved Ginger Rogers in this film.  I watched it again during the recent Billy Wilder retrospective and have since purchased the DVD.  I'm watching it right now in fact.  

 

With my new interest in Rogers, I watched Kitty Foyle, which I had recorded before The Major and the Minor, but I think I'd originally recorded it, not necessarily for Rogers, but because it was an Oscar winner.  I thought Rogers was excellent in this film.  I can see why she won the Oscar.  I have since added Kitty Foyle to my list of films to acquire.  

 

I've been wanting to watch all ten of her films with Fred Astaire.  I've seen some of them, but not all of them. However, I own all of them.

 

I have seen:

 

42nd Street

Gold Diggers of 1933

Flying Down to Rio

The Gay Divorcee

Roberta

Star of Midnight

Top Hat

Stage Door

Bachelor Mother

Kitty Foyle

The Major and the Minor

Tender Comrade

I'll Be Seeing You

The Barkleys of Broadway

Perfect Strangers

We're Not Married!

Monkey Business

 

Apparently I've seen more of her films than I thought, however, most of these I recorded due to who she was appearing with or because it was such a well known film.  I'd love to see more of her work.

 

I have The Traveling Saleslady on the DVR, and have Change of Heart and Fifth Avenue Girl scheduled to record.

 

Anyway, with my new stance and interest in Rogers, I checked her out her autobiography from the library.  Right now, I'm up to her filming Swing Time and considering divorce from Lew Ayers.  Her autobiography is very interesting so far.  I learned that her father abducted her when she was a baby and her mother had to travel from Missouri to Texas to steal her back.  Her father tried to abduct her again a year later, but her mother managed to thwart his attempts.  I also learned that her career started in the mid-1920s when she won the Texas State Charleston contest.  

 

She comes across in her book as very confident and frank.  She was deeply religious and that is referred to often in her book.  It doesn't bother me however, because it gives me a better sense of who she was.  I also like the fact that she had a weird sense of humor and would play all kinds of strange practical jokes on people.  

 

Anyway, I recommend Rogers' autobiography, it was published in 1991, it's called: Ginger: My Story.

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     Two books I highly recommend are RUNNIN' WILD and BOMBSHELL.  They are excellent

biographies of Clara  Bow and Jean Harlow respectively. David Stenn authored both books and

he really did extensive research. For BOMBSHELL he researched thru the hospital records when

Jean Harlow died and finally dispelled the decades old myth that Harlow's mother killed her because of her Christian Science beliefs.

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     Two books I highly recommend are RUNNIN' WILD and BOMBSHELL.  They are excellent

biographies of Clara  Bow and Jean Harlow respectively. David Stenn authored both books and

he really did extensive research. For BOMBSHELL he researched thru the hospital records when

Jean Harlow died and finally dispelled the decades old myth that Harlow's mother killed her because of her Christian Science beliefs.

 

Those sound great. 

 

Recently another poster and I were talking about Tallulah Bankhead in a series of private messages. There's a great book about her, written by Lee Israel. And Lee Israel's life is just as colorful as Tallulah's ever was.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Israel

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Anyway, with my new stance and interest in Rogers, I checked her out her autobiography from the library.  Right now, I'm up to her filming Swing Time and considering divorce from Lew Ayers.  Her autobiography is very interesting so far.  I learned that her father abducted her when she was a baby and her mother had to travel from Missouri to Texas to steal her back.  Her father tried to abduct her again a year later, but her mother managed to thwart his attempts.  I also learned that her career started in the mid-1920s when she won the Texas State Charleston contest.  

 

She comes across in her book as very confident and frank.  She was deeply religious and that is referred to often in her book.  It doesn't bother me however, because it gives me a better sense of who she was.  I also like the fact that she had a weird sense of humor and would play all kinds of strange practical jokes on people.  

 

Anyway, I recommend Rogers' autobiography, it was published in 1991, it's called: Ginger: My Story.

 

This interests me, because my reaction was the complete opposite of yours.  I bought and read the book because I had been a fan of the Astaire/Rogers musicals, expecting to enjoy it as with most other movie star books.  It remains the only book of its kind where I ended up completely disliking the subject to the point where I can barely manage to watch any of her films. 

 

There were a lot of aspects I found off-putting, but I won't elaborate because I respect the fact she's no doubt well loved around here. 

 

I do have one movie for your list:  Romance in Manhattan (1935).  It's a nice romantic story about a Czech immigrant (Francis Lederer, who is a favorite of mine) who is helped by a kind chorus girl (Ginger, who exudes much warmth here) when he runs into problems with the authorities.

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the decades old myth that Harlow's mother killed her because of her Christian Science beliefs.

 

Midnight, I was always under the impression that Jean was ill (appendicitis?) and unable to consent to surgery. Her mother, next of kin was Christian Scientist, so she denied any surgery for her daughter and consequently she died.

So people said Jean's Mother "killed" her circumstantially.

 

I just picked up BECOMING MAE WEST by Emily Leider at a used bookstore. It's pretty big with lots of photos. I can only hope it's well written. I hate having big unreadable books around.

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the decades old myth that Harlow's mother killed her because of her Christian Science beliefs.

 

Midnight, I was always under the impression that Jean was ill (appendicitis?) and unable to consent to surgery. Her mother, next of kin was Christian Scientist, so she denied any surgery for her daughter and consequently she died.

So people said Jean's Mother "killed" her circumstantially.

 

I just picked up BECOMING MAE WEST by Emily Leider at a used bookstore. It's pretty big with lots of photos. I can only hope it's well written. I hate having big unreadable books around.

 

I'd have to refer back to David Stenn's bio but if I remember correctly Harlow contracted scarlet fever while at

a summer camp in 1926. One of the side effects of scarlet fever is kidney disease. At that time there was no way to diagnose

it nor was there any treatment. Jean's kidneys over the following years slowly deteriorated. Her drinking during her last 3-4

years only hastened the kidney failure.

 

Jean did have appendicitis in the fall of 1933. She was rushed to a hospital and her surgery went smoothly, especially considering how serious an appendectomy was in those times.

 

Once again I'd highly recommend BOMBSHELL for anyone who has any interest in Harlow.

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I just finished Rutanya Alda's "The Mommie Dearest Diary"; she played Carol Ann.  It is a light, quick read and is interesting primarily because it reinforces what most of us already suspected:  that Faye Dunaway was not, to put it nicely, the most generous of co-workers.

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This interests me, because my reaction was the complete opposite of yours.  I bought and read the book because I had been a fan of the Astaire/Rogers musicals, expecting to enjoy it as with most other movie star books.  It remains the only book of its kind where I ended up completely disliking the subject to the point where I can barely manage to watch any of her films. 

 

There were a lot of aspects I found off-putting, but I won't elaborate because I respect the fact she's no doubt well loved around here. 

 

I do have one movie for your list:  Romance in Manhattan (1935).  It's a nice romantic story about a Czech immigrant (Francis Lederer, who is a favorite of mine) who is helped by a kind chorus girl (Ginger, who exudes much warmth here) when he runs into problems with the authorities.

 

I can understand why some people may be turned off by Ginger after reading her book.  Even though I'm only halfway through, I do get the sense that Ginger was very confident (maybe to the point where some may find it arrogance).  She also seems to always be the victim in any negative altercations she has with other people (Katharine Hepburn, Mark Sandrich, etc.).  I would have to imagine that Ginger probably owned some of the blame as well.  I completely believe her account of her relationship with Howard Hughes.  In Ava Gardner's book, she also has a relationship with Hughes and many of her experiences with Hughes match Ginger's. 

 

Anyway, the reason why I like Rogers after reading her book is that she had the tenacity to fight for something more for her career.  She wasn't content in just being Fred Astaire's dance partner.  She didn't want to be known as "a chorus girl" or just a dancer.  She wanted the chance to take on meatier roles and she would stop at nothing to get them.  I admire her nerve and persistence to have the career that she wanted.

 

Thank you for your film recommendation for Romance in Manhattan, I will keep an eye out for it.

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speedracer said:


Ginger was very confident (maybe to the point where some may find it arrogance)  


 


and went on to say:


 


she had the tenacity to fight for something more for her career.  She wasn't content in just being Fred Astaire's dance partner.  She didn't want to be known as "a chorus girl" or just a dancer.  She wanted the chance to take on meatier roles and she would stop at nothing to get them.  I admire her nerve and persistence to have the career that she wanted


 


Two sides of the same coin-you can't have one without the other.


I find this to be true of several autobiographies. 

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I just finished Rutanya Alda's "The Mommie Dearest Diary"; she played Carol Ann.  It is a light, quick read and is interesting primarily because it reinforces what most of us already suspected:  that Faye Dunaway was not, to put it nicely, the most generous of co-workers.

 

 

I read it too, not too long ago. I found what was going on in her personal life more interesting than the on set conflicts. Was hoping for more dirt on that, but she had a small part (that got smaller thanks to Dunaway) so wasnt witness to a lot that went on. But it was interesting.

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speedracer said:

Ginger was very confident (maybe to the point where some may find it arrogance)  

 

and went on to say:

 

she had the tenacity to fight for something more for her career.  She wasn't content in just being Fred Astaire's dance partner.  She didn't want to be known as "a chorus girl" or just a dancer.  She wanted the chance to take on meatier roles and she would stop at nothing to get them.  I admire her nerve and persistence to have the career that she wanted

 

Two sides of the same coin-you can't have one without the other.

I find this to be true of several autobiographies.

 

I would think that almost all performers, especially the big stars, would have to have some ego. Otherwise, they would never have made it. Someone who acts falsely humble all the time a la Taylor Swift, can be equally as obnoxious as someone with a big head.

 

My biggest turn off in autobiographies are those who try to "out" everyone or share embarrassing details about others--basically exploiting others for the sake of improving sales on their book.

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I was reading a gossip item the other day that Michael Jackson hated Ginger Rogers and called her the B-Word. He met her through Fred Astaire- with him he apparently had a friendship/mutual admiration, and apparently thought she was racist.

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I was reading a gossip item the other day that Michael Jackson hated Ginger Rogers and called her the B-Word. He met her through Fred Astaire- with him he apparently had a friendship/mutual admiration, and apparently thought she was racist.

I could make a tasteless joke here, but I will refrain. Granted, I'm only 50% through Ginger's book, but I haven't gotten that sense at all. My only opinion about her so far, is that she was religious and a bit of a goody goody. But nothing that would give me an aversion to her. She was also friends with Lucy :-) Lucy and Ginger were also distant cousins.

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I could make a tasteless joke here, but I will refrain..

About how Michael must not have been white when she met him? I don't think it's tasteless at all, honestly it's not even a joke. Swear to God, I almost went back and edited it to add that just for clarity.

 

Jokes about people's appearances is a tricky business, but with Michael he made the choice, and as such is fair game.

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