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speedracer5

Best and Worst Autobiographies/Biographies

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I'm reading John Huston - Courage and Art by Jeffrey Meyers.      Nice blend of his personal live and his involvement in the film industry,  done mostly in chronological order (which I prefer).       The screenwriter of Huston's Under the Volcano,  Guy Gallo,  summaries the book well:

"A deft study of one of history's finest film masters and greatest egoists.    Meyers's masterfully orchestrated journey through Huston's life and work - a constant contest between genius and cruelty - is neither hagiography nor indictment.    Meyers presents a portrait of the artist that both seduces and appalls".

For those that have enjoyed Hustons' work as a screenwriter,   actor and director,  this is a great read.

 

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6 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

I'm reading John Huston - Courage and Art by Jeffrey Meyers.      Nice blend of his personal live and his involvement in the film industry,  done mostly in chronological order (which I prefer).       The screenwriter of Huston's Under the Volcano,  Guy Gallo,  summaries the book well:

"A deft study of one of history's finest film masters and greatest egoists.    Meyers's masterfully orchestrated journey through Huston's life and work - a constant contest between genius and cruelty - is neither hagiography nor indictment.    Meyers presents a portrait of the artist that both seduces and appalls".

For those that have enjoyed Hustons' work as a screenwriter,   actor and director,  this is a great read.

 

I read that several years ago and enjoyed it. A fascinating look at a complex character. I later read Anjelica Huston's two memoirs (A Story Lately Told and Watch Me), and they make an interesting counterbalance to the John Huston book.

Since the last time I posted in this thread, I've read mainly more modern actor, musician, and comedian bios. However, I also read The Lives of Robert Ryan by J.R. Jones (recommended), and George Cukor: A Double Life by Patrick McGilligan (passable). 

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1 hour ago, LawrenceA said:

Since the last time I posted in this thread, I've read mainly more modern actor, musician, and comedian bios. However, I also read The Lives of Robert Ryan by J.R. Jones (recommended), and George Cukor: A Double Life by Patrick McGilligan (passable). 

Agreed on both counts, Lawrence. J.R. Jones' book on Robert Ryan is highly recommended to fans of this outstanding actor who seems to have been a pretty solid guy in real life, too.

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11 minutes ago, kingrat said:

Agreed on both counts, Lawrence. J.R. Jones' book on Robert Ryan is highly recommended to fans of this outstanding actor who seems to have been a pretty solid guy in real life, too.

He was a hardcore liberal, yes?

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2 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

I read that several years ago and enjoyed it. A fascinating look at a complex character. I later read Anjelica Huston's two memoirs (A Story Lately Told and Watch Me), and they make an interesting counterbalance to the John Huston book.

Yea,   I'm now interested in reading those Anjelica Huston memoirs.       You're avatar photo of Bogie is appropriate.     Their careers are of course linked.     Huston's script for High Sierra and Bogie's playing of the character pushed Bogie into stardom status (cemented for both with The Maltese Falcon later in 1941).      The stories about their relation has been the most interesting part of the book,  so far (but Huston's life in Ireland and his mini-Hearst type estate outside of Dublin is right up there).

In some ways it is surprising that they were such close friends.   Bogie didn't really wish to leave Beverley Hills much unless it was to sail on the ocean off of So Cal.   But after the war since Huston wanted to shoot on location,   Bogie got dragged to Mexico,  African and then Italy.    (but not to your home state of  Florida,  since Key Largo was filmed using a water tank in my home state of CA).

 

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16 hours ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

Yea,   I'm now interested in reading those Anjelica Huston memoirs. 

I read them & loved them. Of course, now I want to read the John Huston one. Library's closed 🤢

Angelica grew up in unusual, privileged circumstances and you have to keep your humor reading her attempts at trying to be fair. But many of her personal impressions still come across as somewhat bratty.

There are few star autobiographies that don't come across as narcissistic, since a big ego is required for their business. The only one that comes to mind is Goldie Hawn's autobiography, A Lotus Grows In The Mud.

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I'm a little surprised that nobody has mentioned Errol Flynn's My Wicked Wicked Ways, a vastly entertaining autobiography even if Flynn had a ghost writer putting it together (splendidly capturing Flynn's witty conversational style, according to friends) and the accuracy of which, particularly his early pre-Hollywood years, is often highly suspect. The book is alternately funny and introspective, with Flynn often a surprisingly harsh critic of himself, particularly his film accomplishments.

When ghost writer Earl Conrad interviewed Errol for months on his Jamaican estate it was the closest that Flynn had ever been to being psychoanalyzed and, after he lost his initial suspicions about Conrad, he opened up surprisingly to him about his insecurities and frustrations with the direction of his life. He acknowledged that alcohol was a slow form of suicide, had no fear of death despite his lifetime philosophy of living life to the fullest. Part of his activities even seemed to be to deliberately flirt with death with dangerous activities to see if he could beat it. Flynn was a fascinatingly enigmatic personality and he acknowledged his contradictory nature in his book, saying friends often didn't understand him because of it.

By the way, My Wicked Wicked Ways was first published in December, 1959 with new paperback copies of it available today, making it, I believe, the longest selling autobiography by any actor.

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3 hours ago, TomJH said:

I'm a little surprised that nobody has mentioned Errol Flynn's My Wicked Wicked Ways, a vastly entertaining autobiography even if Flynn had a ghost writer putting it together (splendidly capturing Flynn's witty conversational style, according to friends) and the accuracy of which, particularly his early pre-Hollywood years, is often highly suspect. The book is alternately funny and introspective, with Flynn often a surprisingly harsh critic of himself, particularly his film accomplishments.

I want to get this since in the John Huston book I'm reading Flynn and DeHavilland are mentioned (of course their big fight due to nasty comments a drunk Flynn made about Olivia,  and where Huston got beat badly).       I.e.   I've have all the books by and \ or about DeHavilland and now this one on Huston;   I would like to contrast that with Flynn's perspective.

 

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I have all the bios on Errol including his 2 novels,the first printing of  Wicked Ways is worth looking for as he had to withdraw passages in it about Jack Warner and others for the next editions.I have read on Olivia and her sister as well. Errol was a gentleman,he never kiss and tell-unlike Cooper- but Michael Caine in his bio book revealed more about the De Havilland- Flynn : it was more serious than everybody said,including Olivia who denied it.She told him a detail I cannot elaborate here,but after she could not tested for the Virgin Queen part that went to Bette Davisis the way I can explain it..I see no reason for Caine to lie and it did not help to sell more books as it was not reported at all at the time.

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10 minutes ago, nakano said:

Errol was a gentleman,he never kiss and tell-unlike Cooper-

Errol wasn't much of a gentleman that night at the party where Huston and Flynn got into a fight.  From the book,  Courage and Art:

On April 29, 1945,  at the house of the producer David Selznick,  she(Olivia) was the subject of a violent quarrel between Huston and Flynn.   Huston recalled that Flynn had said "something wretched about someone - a woman in whom I'd once been very interested and still regarded with deep affection.   I was furious at his remark,  and I said (to everyone at the party)  'that's a lie!   Even if it weren't a lie,  only a SOB would repeat it'".

Flynn and Huston would later become friends (they had a lot in common other than just Olivia),  and Huston would direct the last film Flynn was in,  Roots of Heaven.

 

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4 hours ago, nakano said:

I have all the bios on Errol including his 2 novels,the first printing of  Wicked Ways is worth looking for as he had to withdraw passages in it about Jack Warner and others for the next editions.I have read on Olivia and her sister as well. Errol was a gentleman,he never kiss and tell-unlike Cooper- but Michael Caine in his bio book revealed more about the De Havilland- Flynn : it was more serious than everybody said,including Olivia who denied it.She told him a detail I cannot elaborate here,but after she could not tested for the Virgin Queen part that went to Bette Davisis the way I can explain it..I see no reason for Caine to lie and it did not help to sell more books as it was not reported at all at the time.

I'm not sure I'm following you;   I assume you're not saying that DeHavilland was the first choice for the role of the Queen in the 1939 film Elizabeth and Essex.    Davis wanted the part from the get-go and of course she had first-pick of all projects WB was planning at the time.     DeHavilland was cast by Jack Warner to put-her-in-her-place after Gone With The Wind.    I.e. Jack wanted her to suffer by giving her third billing and a role where she was not the love interest of her love at the time,  Flynn.

So you must mean the 1955 The Virgin Queen by 20th Century Fox;     So producer Charles Bracket wanted DeHavilland for the lead in this film?     Note that DeHavilland did make an adventure film for 20th Century Fox in 1955,  That Lady,   but according to Wiki,  she was the 3rd choice behind Garbo (who wouldn't come out of retirement) and Vivien Leigh (who was ill).

As much as I love DeHavilland,   I don't see her as the Queen,   while Davis was fine for the role.

As far as Olivia and Errol;   many sources have said that they had a sexual relationship,  one being Flynn.     DeHavilland put up a front about her sex live until she got married in 1946.     John Huston makes that 100% clear.

 

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On 4/4/2020 at 12:32 PM, LornaHansonForbes said:

He was a hardcore liberal, yes?

Yes, he was.

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On 4/4/2020 at 3:32 PM, LornaHansonForbes said:

[ROBERT RYAN] was a hardcore liberal, yes?

 

11 hours ago, kingrat said:

Yes, he was.

EDDIE MULLER gives him a great write up in DARK CITY, made me really respect the HELL out of him and his performances as hateful, beligerant racists all the more.

It's funny, because of the GRUFF OUTER PACKAGING, you just would not expect REAL-LIFE ROBERT RYAN to be one step away wearing a CHE GUEVARA Tee and  stuffing a daisy into the muzzle of a NATIONAL GUARDSMAN'S rifle, but there you are.

I bet he turned on.

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On 4/6/2020 at 5:50 AM, LornaHansonForbes said:

 

EDDIE MULLER gives him a great write up in DARK CITY, made me really respect the HELL out of him and his performances as hateful, beligerant racists all the more.

It's funny, because of the GRUFF OUTER PACKAGING, you just would not expect REAL-LIFE ROBERT RYAN to be one step away wearing a CHE GUEVARA Tee and  stuffing a daisy into the muzzle of a NATIONAL GUARDSMAN'S rifle, but there you are.

I bet he turned on.

I've read a little about Robert Ryan's personal politics and I find that an interesting contrast to his character in Odds Against Tomorrow

Ryan is a fantastic actor, one whom I've just discovered in the past couple of years or so.  I wish I had discovered him prior when he was SOTM a few years ago. 

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On 4/5/2020 at 6:48 AM, TomJH said:

I'm a little surprised that nobody has mentioned Errol Flynn's My Wicked Wicked Ways, a vastly entertaining autobiography even if Flynn had a ghost writer putting it together (splendidly capturing Flynn's witty conversational style, according to friends) and the accuracy of which, particularly his early pre-Hollywood years, is often highly suspect. The book is alternately funny and introspective, with Flynn often a surprisingly harsh critic of himself, particularly his film accomplishments.

When ghost writer Earl Conrad interviewed Errol for months on his Jamaican estate it was the closest that Flynn had ever been to being psychoanalyzed and, after he lost his initial suspicions about Conrad, he opened up surprisingly to him about his insecurities and frustrations with the direction of his life. He acknowledged that alcohol was a slow form of suicide, had no fear of death despite his lifetime philosophy of living life to the fullest. Part of his activities even seemed to be to deliberately flirt with death with dangerous activities to see if he could beat it. Flynn was a fascinatingly enigmatic personality and he acknowledged his contradictory nature in his book, saying friends often didn't understand him because of it.

By the way, My Wicked Wicked Ways was first published in December, 1959 with new paperback copies of it available today, making it, I believe, the longest selling autobiography by any actor.

I love My Wicked Wicked Ways.  When I read it the first time and started getting towards the end, I would only read one or two pages at a time because I didn't want it to end! It was hilarious, sad, disturbing, everything you could want in an autobiography.

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Aside from Flynn's book, one of my other favorite celebrity autobiographies is Desi Arnaz' A Book.  It is funny, honest, and very interesting.  Desi's riches to rags to riches tale is fascinating.  I just watched Desi's appearance on Johnny Carson (available on You Tube) where he's promoting his book.  Desi said that everything he wrote is completely true, saying that if you're not going to tell the truth, what's the point in writing the book? If you read his book, you'll learn that much of Desi's success came from a series of accidents and happening to be in the right place at the right time.  Even very early on in his career, like when he had to open a Miami club gig with a band consisting of random musicians and instruments (none of whom were familiar with Cuban music), he showed business acumen and turned it around and managed to help introduce the Conga to the US. 

Unfortunately, it seems that Desi's book only ever received one printing in 1976.  His book is very hard to find.  I have a copy that I got in a Salem bookstore probably over 20-25 years ago, when I was in middle school, and got my parents to buy it for me for $5. Totally worth it.  It literally is the only copy that I have ever seen in person.

Fortunately, A Book is available on Audible, and they actually found a narrator who has an accent similar to Desi's to read the book.  It was very well done. 

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On 4/5/2020 at 6:11 AM, TikiSoo said:

I read them & loved them. Of course, now I want to read the John Huston one. Library's closed 🤢

Angelica grew up in unusual, privileged circumstances and you have to keep your humor reading her attempts at trying to be fair. But many of her personal impressions still come across as somewhat bratty.

There are few star autobiographies that don't come across as narcissistic, since a big ego is required for their business. The only one that comes to mind is Goldie Hawn's autobiography, A Lotus Grows In The Mud.

All of these autobiographies/biographies that everyone is mentioning sound so wonderful--much better than Little Women that I'm still trying to get through (ugh Alcott, you're killing  me!).  When I finish this book, I'm going to see if any of these books are available on Kindle. 

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42 minutes ago, speedracer5 said:

I love My Wicked Wicked Ways.  When I read it the first time and started getting towards the end, I would only read one or two pages at a time because I didn't want it to end! It was hilarious, sad, disturbing, everything you could want in an autobiography.

The book gave you a real feeling for the man. I've often pondered the irony of Flynn dying just two months before the book's release to great reviews. It would have been a thrill for Errol to read them and, I suspect, would have put him back in the limelight once again, if only for a little while, and may have led to writing opportunities for him.

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1 minute ago, TomJH said:

The book gave you got a real feeling for the man. I've often pondered the irony of Flynn dying just two months before the book's release to great reviews. It would have been a thrill for Errol to read them and, I suspect, would have put him back in the limelight once again, if only for a little while, and may have led to writing opportunities for him.

Not to mention TV talk shows were starting at about that time.  He could have gone on Jack Parr to promote his book. His book, along with the success he had in some of his last parts like Too Much, Too Soon and The Sun Also Rises, may have reignited his career as a character actor--or perhaps handsome older man type.  I would say he'd have been great in Lolita, but unfortunately with his 1940s rape trial, it may have not been received well. I could see him in some of the 60s Westerns, like The Wild Bunch a la William Holden and Robert Ryan. 

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20 minutes ago, speedracer5 said:

Not to mention TV talk shows were starting at about that time.  He could have gone on Jack Parr to promote his book. His book, along with the success he had in some of his last parts like Too Much, Too Soon and The Sun Also Rises, may have reignited his career as a character actor--or perhaps handsome older man type.  I would say he'd have been great in Lolita, but unfortunately with his 1940s rape trial, it may have not been received well. I could see him in some of the 60s Westerns, like The Wild Bunch a la William Holden and Robert Ryan. 

I believe that Flynn claimed he spoke to Kubrick about playing Humbert Humbert but I've always wondered how. Was Kubrick involved in a Lolita project as early as 1958 or '59? But, as you say, the role might have been a little too close to home for many to feel comfortable with the casting.

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23 minutes ago, TomJH said:

I believe that Flynn claimed he spoke to Kubrick about playing Humbert Humbert but I've always wondered how. Was Kubrick involved in a Lolita project as early as 1958 or '59? But, as you say, the role might have been a little too close to home for many to feel comfortable with the casting.

According to imdb, Lolita started filming at the end of 1960 into 1961.  The film didn't debut until 1962.  I googled "Flynn and Lolita" and found many articles talking about his possible involvement in the project.  It looks like Kubrick spent three years just trying to get the project off the ground, Vladmir Nabokov adapted his own book into the screenplay.  It looks like Flynn may have approached Kubrick (or maybe the other way around) about playing Humbert Humbert, but wanted his partner, Beverly Aadland to play Lolita.  However, Aadland was deemed too old at 16.

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