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Best and Worst Autobiographies/Biographies


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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.

 

What I find fascinating in this "remembrance" as well as other accounts that I've read, is that almost all involved believed that they were making an important, serious film which would garner multiple Oscar nominations.  I mean, no one had a clue after watching the daily rushes?

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What I find fascinating in this "remembrance" as well as other accounts that I've read, is that almost all involved believed that they were making an important, serious film which would garner multiple Oscar nominations.  I mean, no one had a clue after watching the daily rushes?

 

LOL. All they had to do was read the script!!

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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.

 

Totally agree with you, Speedy, on both these points, especially the second one.  That's why I never have read Esther Williams's autobio, even though I believe she eventually walked back some of the most egregious claims.

 

At this point, I should probably clarify it's not Ginger's ego I have an issue with.  Many of the female stars I admire most (including your fave, Lucy) could generously be called driven, ambitious, assertive, etc.  I also don't have a problem with her politics or religion, even if I don't necessarily agree with them. 

 

Unfortunately, I no longer have Ginger's book, so can't quote precisely, but as I recall, she seemed to take credit for virtually all good changes made in her movies.  Even this sort of stuff I could overlook, because it was about her own career.  But, when she insinuated that it was her (or perhaps it was her mother) who was responsible for Ethel Merman's (no shrinking violet, either) getting started in film, that was a bit much for me.  It's interesting to compare the 2 versions of this story, Ginger's and the one in Merman's autobio, written with George Eells, as they are drastically different.  Obviously, I'm more inclined to believe Ethel. 

 

I'd be curious to know if you've reached that part of the book yet, and your impressions.

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Totally agree with you, Speedy, on both these points, especially the second one.  That's why I never have read Esther Williams's autobio, even though I believe she eventually walked back some of the most egregious claims.

 

At this point, I should probably clarify it's not Ginger's ego I have an issue with.  Many of the female stars I admire most (including your fave, Lucy) could generously be called driven, ambitious, assertive, etc.  I also don't have a problem with her politics or religion, even if I don't necessarily agree with them. 

 

Unfortunately, I no longer have Ginger's book, so can't quote precisely, but as I recall, she seemed to take credit for virtually all good changes made in her movies.  Even this sort of stuff I could overlook, because it was about her own career.  But, when she insinuated that it was her (or perhaps it was her mother) who was responsible for Ethel Merman's (no shrinking violet, either) getting started in film, that was a bit much for me.  It's interesting to compare the 2 versions of this story, Ginger's and the one in Merman's autobio, written with George Eells, as they are drastically different.  Obviously, I'm more inclined to believe Ethel. 

 

I'd be curious to know if you've reached that part of the book yet, and your impressions.

 

I read the section about Ethel Merman, but I am not really all that familiar with her background.  All I really know about her was that she was a Broadway powerhouse and that she was in There's No Business Like Show Business.  I got the sense that while her big persona made her popular on the stage, it didn't translate well to film.  Since I am not very familiar with Merman, I didn't really think anything of Ginger's statement.  

 

I can corroborate her comment that her mother was responsible for saving Lucy's career.  Lucy mentions the same incident in her autobiography.  

 

I did like her story about sneaking into RKO dressed as a British aristocrat in an attempt to try out for Elizabeth I in Mary of Scotland starring Katharine Hepburn.  Unfortunately, Hepburn found out about the scheme and foiled Ginger's chances.  

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[RUTANYA ALDA] had a small part in MOMMIE DEAREST (that got smaller thanks to Dunaway) so wasnt witness to a lot that went on. But it was interesting.

 

Counterpoint: I think it had more to do with Rutanya's performance than anything Faye did.

 

I've seen MOMMIE DEAREST a few** times, and THE SHEER AWFULNESS OF RUTANYA'S DOZEN LINE READS THROUGHOUT THE MOVIE are as parody-worthy as anything Faye does at any moment of the film.

 

I especially love her line TO FAYE as JOAN as she stalks across her mountaintop lair on Oscar night, listening for Best Actress to be announced on the radio, and Rutanya says "the picture is a hit," and there's no level of punctuation i can put in there to get across how stilted and awkward and unnatural the read is, it's just like "wow Rutanya, you're really gonna play it like that?"

 

mAYBE Tthe director was shouting at her between takes to underplay to counter the level at which Faye was overplaying it, in which case- she qualifies for a retroactive Oscar for supporting.

 

(...but i doubt it. )

 

 

 

**Okay, 30 times.

WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE ME???!!!!

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I would play it like this: JOAN! The picture IS a hit. Makes all the difference.

THE HELP DOES NOT ADDRESS MISS CRAWFORD BY NAME!!!!

 

j/k.

 

It's also a bad line. I guarantee you, Joan knew the grosses of MILDRED down to the dime. A better line would have been:

 

" Greer's got hers, Jennifer's got hers, Bergman won last year, besides you ever seen Ingrid in real life? She's six foot five. She's a man I tell you. It's all you Joan, it's all you."

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Lorna! You freakin crack me up!

 

How bout this.....Miss Crawford Miss Crawford! Can I freshen your drink? Vodka tonic?

 

Yes, most of the kids are in bed, one way or another. Those two twin brats. Nasty. I swear they are gonna write a book about you, they are such bad seeds.

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"Ava, My Story" reads like you're right there having a drink -- sometimes quite a few -- with her.

 

Yes.  I read Ava, My Story too.  I agree that the tone was very conversational.  I felt like I was sitting in her cigarette smoke filled living room listening to her tell her story, while consuming an occasional highball between anecdotes. 

 

I feel like Ava would have a lot of great stories and she doesn't seem to hold anything back.  She doesn't give 2 (blanks) what anyone thinks. 

 

She mentions having gone out with Errol on a couple occasions.  Can you imagine going out for a night on the town with those two? I bet it'd be a wild time and a lot of fun, if you were still conscious by the end of it and could still remember what happened.

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last week i checked out a book about HOLLYWOOD in the 1950's called THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL. It was by a man and a woman, and to be honest with you, I didn't like it all that much. It had about 16 chapters and each was about a different topic, but it was a little superficial overall and not very engrossing.

 

however, there was an interesting entry with regard to EDWARD G. ROBINSON, who we were talking about last week. I did not realize his later life was so rough, he was nearly ruined by the HUAC, his son was a pain, and his wife went nuts. He ended up losing his collection of art (which was AMAZING) at auction to pay alimony and legal bills.

 

I was reminded rather of the final fate of his character in SCARLET STREET...

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Lately I've been enjoying myself plowing through a hugely engrossing book on the entertainment industry - "Powehouse CAA: The Story of the Creative Artists Agency." Though it's not about studio era stars (except for the briefest of references to Katharine Hepburn), it's a fascinating look at the inner workings of a big-time talent agency, all based on interviews with the company founders, actors, agents, directors, etc. The time span runs from the 70s to the present. So in a way this would fall under the category of "biography". :)

 

The founders of CAA left the William Morris Agency, who represented older, big names... I want to read about them next. I recommend "Powerhouse" to anyone interested in the inner workings of show biz. It's an over-700 page book, but so far for me (at page 238) worth the read.

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This Time Together by Carol Burnett, Home by Julie Andrews, Here We Go Again by Betty White (and her other books, for that matter), and The Making of the African Queen, or How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall, and Huston, and Almost Lost My Mind by Katharine Hepburn are all entertaining, fairly light reads. The Hepburn one reads almost like she is speaking directly to the reader, which I find rather interesting. 

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Lorna said:

last week i checked out a book about HOLLYWOOD in the 1950's called THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL. It was by a man and a woman, and to be honest with you, I didn't like it all that much. It had about 16 chapters and each was about a different topic, but it was a little superficial overall and not very engrossing.

 

Are you talking about the book written by Sam Kashner & Jennifer MacNair? 

Wow.

That is one of my favorite books on Hollywood and I recommend it often. I never thought anyone would find it "superficial" and "not very engrossing". I'll have to rethink my recommendation!

 

I much prefer academic books on Hollywood to personal reminisces and that's more of what TB&TB covers-it's focus is on American culture of the 50's and how it's reflected by the movies of that time period. (TCM has run a short documentary on the same subject, but it's title escapes me)

It's more of an historical view of the industry & culture of film than just one actor or director.

 

I also really like STAR STRUCK by Fowles about the role movie stars have to the audience and SHOOTING STARS by Harry Shapiro about drug use in film & by filmmakers.

 

These books are like MOGULS & MOVIE STARS-more of a documentary of the industry as a whole, while biographies are more like TCM's PRIVATE SCREENINGS- a focus on a particular talent.

 

The only book I know that's an overlap of these two styles is HOLLYWOOD by Garson Kanin.

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THE HELP DOES NOT ADDRESS MISS CRAWFORD BY NAME!!!!

j/k.

It's also a bad line. I guarantee you, Joan knew the grosses of MILDRED down to the dime. A better line would have been:

" Greer's got hers, Jennifer's got hers, Bergman won last year, besides you ever seen Ingrid in real life? She's six foot five. She's a man I tell you. It's all you Joan, it's all you."

You forgot Gene Tierney, whose movie, LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN, outgrossed MP by quite a bit.

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Yes.  I read Ava, My Story too.  I agree that the tone was very conversational.  I felt like I was sitting in her cigarette smoke filled living room listening to her tell her story, while consuming an occasional highball between anecdotes. 

 

I feel like Ava would have a lot of great stories and she doesn't seem to hold anything back.  She doesn't give 2 (blanks) what anyone thinks. 

 

She mentions having gone out with Errol on a couple occasions.  Can you imagine going out for a night on the town with those two? I bet it'd be a wild time and a lot of fun, if you were still conscious by the end of it and could still remember what happened.

Lol. I agree with all this. I too have this book, although this weekend, I came across another one, "Ava: The Secret Conversations", or something similar. I almost didn't buy, thinking I already had it. But at Five Bucks, I figured I could give it to someone if I already had it. I bought several other books besides this one; most were $2.99, plus 20% off. This was at Amoeba Music, and getting the books that I did, I forgot about the classic dvds, which is the reason I had gone.

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  • 10 months later...

Resurrecting this thread since I just finished Angelica Huston's second autobiography WATCH ME! (ISBN 978-14767-6034-6) Her first, A STORY LATELY TOLD was about her childhood and this is Pt 2, her adult life.

 

While not quite as "earthy" as Pt 1. her adult life is pretty interesting-her life in Hollywood is what you imagine; parties, drugs, movie making. She opens up about her relationship with Jack Nicholson which is just fascinating. She's pretty truthful and never rude or judgmental, she simply states the facts and we can formulate our own opinion.

 

I've known men like Nicholson, almost married one. I felt her pain reading about it. I was glad reading her accomplishment and "recovery" past the situation. I was surprised to hear she also dated Ryan O'Neal pretty heavily, another "player". I was so happy to read about the gem of a guy she eventually married.

 

She elaborated on several of her job assignments, giving me more understanding on some of today's Hollywood demands. I loved that part the best, especially when she didn't want a job she'd say, "Call Cher!" recognising they are the same "type". (I am the same "type" too, just less pretty & shorter!)

My favorite job description was about her making the Addams Family movie, which I've never seen. It was also interesting to hear her take on the up & coming in Hollywood- Christina Ricci & Wes Anderson, especially.

 

She tells a few stories about her Dad, John and his last years. His tropical home and the foundation his children created to preserve the area and his spirit. 

 

Angelica is a fascinating woman who has had an incredible life and has successfully kept herself grounded. A recommended read.

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Has anyone read a good bio of Barbara Stanwyck? How about the 1,000+ page Victoria Wilson book, 
​"Barbara Stanwyck Steel True" which just covers through 1940? I understand a second volume is in the works..Has anyone read this or any other good bios you could recommend of one of my absolute favorite actresses? 

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Has anyone read a good bio of Barbara Stanwyck? How about the 1,000+ page Victoria Wilson book, 

​"Barbara Stanwyck Steel True" which just covers through 1940? I understand a second volume is in the works..Has anyone read this or any other good bios you could recommend of one of my absolute favorite actresses? 

 

 

I never wound up finishing it. Eugenia did, maybe she'll post something about it. We both thought it was too long and goes into too much detail (about anyone who crosses paths with Barbara) I keep forgetting to pick the book up again. Yes there's a volume 2 in the works. The first one ends around 1941 or so.

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Lol. I agree with all this. I too have this book, although this weekend, I came across another one, "Ava: The Secret Conversations", or something similar. I almost didn't buy, thinking I already had it. But at Five Bucks, I figured I could give it to someone if I already had it. I bought several other books besides this one; most were $2.99, plus 20% off. This was at Amoeba Music, and getting the books that I did, I forgot about the classic dvds, which is the reason I had gone.

 

Yes, I read that one. It was good as far as it went. It was supposed to be Ava's autobio but she got cold feet and never went through with most of it. The author died and his heir (or someone) published what there was of it (along with his notes or comments) just a few years ago.......Supposedly Sinatra paid Ava what the publisher was going to pay her for the book. Since she was doing it for the money, she didnt have to go through with it...........(and I'm sure Sinatra didnt want their dirty laundry being aired out once again).......

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Yes, I read that one. It was good as far as it got. It was supposed to be Ava's autobio but she got cold feet and never went through with most of it. The author died and his heir (or someone) published what there was of it (along with his notes or comments) just a few years ago.......Supposedly Sinatra paid Ava what the publisher was going to pay her for the book. Since she was doing it for the money, she didnt have to go through with it...........(and I'm sure Sinatra didnt want their dirty laundry being aired out once again).......

 

Sinatra had a mop to clean up his dirty laundry;    Oh, wait I meant to say mob!

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