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Hollywood Legends

Donald Spoto's biography of Teresa Wright is the newest edition to the Hollywood Legends series

January 12, 2016

Donald Spoto was Teresa Wright's friend, and his book was written with the full cooperation of Wright's family.

Pride of the Yankees

September 29, 2015

Tags: Gary Cooper, Teresa Wright, Dan Duryea, Walter Brennan, Dan Duryea

Gary Cooper (Lou Gerhrig), Teresa Wright (Gehrig's wife), Walter Brennan (Gehrig's newspaperman friend)
Gary Cooper, Teresa Wright, and Walter Brennan in Pride of the Yankees, the story of Lou Gehrig. Donald Spoto, Wright's friend, will be coming out with a biography of Wright. Dan Duryea is also in this picture as the cynical newspaperman, the opposite of another newspaper man played by Walter Brennan. My Hollywood Legends series has just published my biography of Brennan. Spoto's biography is also in my series. And so is the forthcoming biography of Duryea by Michael Peros, a lively book written with the cooperation of Duryea's family.

The first biography of this wonderful comic actress and singer

May 23, 2015

Tags: Mel Brooks, Madeline Kahn, Barbra Streisand, Peter Bogdanovich

The newest edition to the Hollywood Legends series
Library Journal hails this comprehensive treatment of a Hollywood star as sensitive and authoritative. Based on extensive interviews with Kahn's family and friends, and with a wonderful collection of photographs, Kahn's life and work is celebrated and examined with marvelous insight and care. You learn a good deal about her working methods and her relationships with Mel Brooks, Peter Bogdanovich, Barbra Streisand, and many others.

A new edition to the Hollywood Legends Series

June 14, 2014

Tags: Sam Goldwyn, Dana Andrews, Walter Brennan, Hollywood producers, movie studios

I kept going back to Carol Easton's engaging biography not only to learn about Goldwyn and the history of Hollywood by someone who grew up in its environs, but also because the biographer was able to elicit such interesting material from actors such as Dana Andrews and Walter Brennan when others seems fearful of what Goldwyn and his organization might do to them if they talked!

Zachary Scott

October 21, 2013

Tags: Mildred Pierce, Joan Crawford

It's nice to see the Zachary Scott book in paperback. Ronald Davis was the first consulting editor for the Hollywood Legends series. He taught at Southern Methodist University there and established an archive of interviews with Hollywood figures. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also has copies of interview transcripts. I succeeded Davis as consulting editor. One of the first things I did was read his fine biography of Scott.

A new biography of Gloria Swanson in the Hollywood Legends Series

September 7, 2013

Tags: Swanson, Joseph Kennedy, Billy Wilder, Erich von Stroheim

Tricia Welsch's new biography, published by University Press of Mississippi for the Hollywood Legends series I edit, is a wonderful new addition to Hollywood history. My introduction to Swanson came through Sunset Boulevard. To see her say to Mr. DeMille that she is ready for her closeup is unforgettable. Strange, or perhaps not so strange for Hollywood, that this "comeback" role led to no comeback for Swanson. But she was such a resilient and original figure, it is hard to feel much sadness. The affair with Joseph Kennedy, the interplay between her and Erich von Stroheim, and the inimitable direction of Billy Wilder--what more could you ask for? What is your favorite Swanson role?

Rosalind Russell

June 29, 2013

Tags: Rosalind Russell, Frank Sinatra, Auntie Mame, Gypsy, His Gal Friday

What makes Bernard F. Dick's biography of Rosalind Russell so compelling is his impressively informed discussions of her both her stage and film work. Even better, he saw Russell on stage, which means he can recreate the experience of seeing her perform--always a difficult task for biographers who have not observed their subjects in action. Dick's awesome knowledge of Hollywood, his reading of the archives, and his splendid appreciation of different media makes this a compelling read for anyone interested in the history of American theater and film. Full disclosure: this book is part of the Hollywood Legends series I edit for University Press of Mississippi. It was acquired by my predecessor, Ronald Davis, a distinguished film historian and biographer.

Nurse or Nun: Mary Wickes Cracking Wise

May 30, 2013

Tags: Mary Wickes, Bette Davis, Now Voyager, Lucille Ball, Sister Act, Character actresses

Remember this face or voice? Steve Taravella has written a wonderful new biography of Mary Wickes in Hollywood Legends series I edit for University Press of Mississippi. The book is based on years of research, including many interviews. You can learn about Wickes's friendship with Lucille Ball as well as Wickes's work for Walt Disney. What is your favorites Wickes performance? Or tell me about your favorite character actors and actresses.

A new Marilyn Monroe

December 21, 2012

Tags: Marilyn Monroe

A new edition
I'm pleased to announce that University Press of Mississippi will be publishing a new edition of my biography, Marilyn Monroe: A Life of the Actress. This new edition will take into account much new material that has become available about her life and career as well some revelations from interviews I conducted more than twenty-five years ago when some of my informants requested anonymity. I believe I can provide a more complete picture of what was happening during Monroe last days, when she seemed simultaneously poised to make a breakthrough in her career and downhearted at disapointments with herself and others over how to emerge as a still greater human being and artist.

There are so many different readings of Marilyn Monroe's final days. What is yours?

Lew Ayres

October 29, 2012

The University Press of Mississippi has just published Lesley Coffin's excellent biography of Lew Ayres, part of the Hollywood Legends Series I edit. I grew up watching the Dr. Kildare movies on television and had no idea this actor starred in All Quiet on the Western Front and Johnny Belinda. I also did not know that he was controversial because he was a conscientious objector during World War II. Decades later I met him in Detroit while he was touring with a movie he had made about the world's religions. I do not exaggerate when I say he had a saintly aura. I'd love to hear from you about your favorite Lew Ayres performances.

Selected Works: Click on titles for reviews and photographs

e.g. Fiction, History, Magazine Articles, etc. goes here
Carl Rollyson not only provides an introduction to her essays, novels, plays, films, diaries, and uncollected work published in various periodicals, he now has a lens through which to reevaluate classic texts such as Against Interpretation and On Photography, providing both students and advanced scholars a renewed sense of her importance and impact.
This first biography of Susan Sontag (1933–2004) is now fully revised and updated, providing an even more intimate portrayal of the influential writer’s life and career. The authors base this revision on Sontag’s newly released private correspondence, including emails, and the letters and memoirs of those who knew her best.
Chapters on Marilyn Monroe, Lillian Hellman, Martha Gellhorn, Norman Mailer, Rebecca West, Susan Sontag, Sylvia Plath, Amy Lowell, Michael Foot, Jill Craigie, Dana Andrews, Walter Brennan, and Willam Faulkner.
A Private Life of Michael Foot adopts a no holds barred approach to biography, leaving a political figure stripped bare, and revealing a deeply complex, introverted man for all to see.

The first biography of the prodigiously hard-working actor who embodied the Western ideal
A documentary approach to the life and legend. With details of her childhood, her young adult years, her ascent to superstardom, and the hour by hour moments leading to her tragic early death, this volume supplements—and, in some cases, corrects—the accounts of previous biographies.
A riveting examination of Amy Lowell’s private life and lover, Ada Russell, who did so much to make Lowell’s career possible The startling discovery of a new Amy Lowell lover who perished on the Lusitania. A compelling window into Lowell’s gregarious character. Concise readings of Lowell’s most important poems reveal the depth and range of her erotic imagination. An astute analysis of the way biographers and critics have maligned Lowell as a person and poet.
A revisionist view of the poet, her fellow writers, and their biographers. In this series of essays, beginning with a look at how her own biographers have behaved, I have tried to re-conceive the familiar anecdotes and episodes, circling back again and again to certain incidents and contretemps, as the point of view shifts from one writer to another. As a kind of coda to my quarrel with biographers is an essay, “Remembering Amy Lowell,” in which I assess the varying degrees to which the memoirs of her present a credible person and poet. I have not paused to define in any great detail terms such as Imagism, although I’ve included an essay on the Imagists in an appendix as well as the full texts of the poems discussed in this book. These appendices provide a context for the discussion of Lowell and her contemporaries and serve, I hope, as an inviting introduction to her work.
A biography of the great film noir actor. Here at last is the complete story of a great actor, his difficult struggle to overcome alcoholism while enjoying the accolades of his contemporaries, a successful term as president of the Screen Actors Guild, and the love of family and friends that never deserted him. Based on diaries, letters, home movies, and other documents, this biography explores the mystery of a poor boy from Texas who made his Hollywood dream come true even as he sought a life apart from the limelight and the backbiting of contemporaries jockeying for prizes and prestige. Called “one of nature’s noblemen” by fellow actor Norman Lloyd, Dana Andrews emerges from Hollywood Enigma as an admirable American success story, fighting his inner demons and ultimately winning.
Here, at last, is the true story of Sylvia Plath's last days and her estate's efforts to shape her husband's role in her death and the world's understanding of Plath and her work. Here, too, is a new Sylvia Plath, immersed in popular culture and proto-feminism, presaging the way we live now.I wrote this biography because there were aspects of Sylvia Plath that other biographers have overlooked or misunderstood. But as I wrote I re-read my predecessors. I checked to see how others had handled the same material. I think my practice in doing so is worth mentioning because I have dispensed with a good deal of the boilerplate that most biographers feel compelled to supply. I say little, for example, about the backgrounds of Plath’s parents. I don’t describe much of Smith College or its history. I do very little scene setting. Previous biographers do all this and more, and what strikes me about their work is how distracting all that background is for someone wishing to have a vision of Sylvia Plath, of what she was like and what she stood for. To put it another way, since earlier biographers have done so much to contextualize Plath, I have not wanted to repeat that exercise, as valuable as it can be for the Plath novice. Instead, I have concentrated on the intensity of the person who was Sylvia Plath, restricting my discussion of her writing only to the truly crucial pieces that advance my narrative. I have tried to write a narrative so focused that a reader new to Plath biography may feel some of the exhilaration and despair that marked the poet’s life. I wrote this biography because there were aspects of Sylvia Plath that other biographers have overlooked or misunderstood. But as I wrote I re-read my predecessors. I checked to see how others had handled the same material. I think my practice in doing so is worth mentioning because I have dispensed with a good deal of the boilerplate that most biographers feel compelled to supply. I say little, for example, about the backgrounds of Plath’s parents. I don’t describe much of Smith College or its history. I do very little scene setting. Previous biographers do all this and more, and what strikes me about their work is how distracting all that background is for someone wishing to have a vision of Sylvia Plath, of what she was like and what she stood for. To put it another way, since earlier biographers have done so much to contextualize Plath, I have not wanted to repeat that exercise, as valuable as it can be for the Plath novice. Instead, I have concentrated on the intensity of the person who was Sylvia Plath, restricting my discussion of her writing only to the truly crucial pieces that advance my narrative. I have tried to write a narrative so focused that a reader new to Plath biography may feel some of the exhilaration and despair that marked the poet’s life.
The first biography that truly shows the actress at work.-- Ellen Burstyn A new edition, revised and updated, from University Press of Mississippi. In American popular culture Marilyn Monroe has evolved in stature from Hollywood sex symbol to tragic legend. Most books about Monroe stress the sensational events that surrounded her-this book is the first to deal honestly and critically with Monroe as an actress, evaluating her moves as crucial forces in the shaping of her identity. Through careful examination of her performances, from her small appearances in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve to her memorable roles in Bus Stop, Some Like It Hot, and the The Misfits, the author traces her development from cover girl innocent to an actress devoted to her craft. Based on extensive interviews with many of Monroe's colleagues, close friends, and mentors, this comprehensive, critically balanced study describes her use of Method acting as well as her instruction with Michael Chekhov and, later, the Strasbergs. Carl Rollyson has written a refreshing analysis and appreciation of Marilyn Monroe's enduring and, until now, underestimated gifts as a creative artist.
America's most controversial radical playwright. Through diaries, letters, government files, and interviews Carl Rollyson draws a vital and vibrant portrait of the life, the work, and the legend of Lillian Hellman, America's most controversial radical playwright. Rollyson explores the sources and backgrounds of her best-selling memoirs, the development of her politics, her successful screenwriting career, and her famous appearance before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. He provides entertaining and informative accounts of her feud with Mary McCarthy, her many love affairs and surprising friendships. He also provides a provocative and compelling portrayal of this complex and brilliant woman, who was called everything from a "viper", "a goddam liar" to "an empathetic genius with a highly original and penetrating mind." Near death, Hellman spoke of being blocked; this biography will show what got in her way.
The first biography of Gellhorn, relying on key archival sources and interviews with her friends and associates. Martha Gellhorn died in February 1998, just shy of her 90th birthday. Well before her death, she had become a legend. She reported on wars from Spain in the 1930s to Panama in the 1980s, and her travel books have become classics. Her marriage to Ernest Hemingway and affairs with legendary lovers like H. G. Wells, and her relationship with two presidents, Roosevelt and Kennedy, reflect her campaigns against tyranny and deprivation, and her outrage at the corruption and cruelty of modern governments. This controversial and acclaimed biography portrays a vibrant and troubled woman who never tired of fighting for causes she considered just.
Delves beneath the surface to examine the forces that made Sontag an international icon, exploring her public persona and private passions, including the strategies behind her meteoric rise to fame and her political moves.
The first book to survey the broad range of Sontag's work. Includes a comprehensive glossary of Sontag's extensive allusions to literary figures and ideas.
Twenty-five years of writing about female icons and biography. Female Icons: Marilyn Monroe to Susan Sontag Bits and pieces that resulted not only in a biography of Marilyn Monroe but also in much of the work subsequently done on Lillian Hellman, Martha Gellhorn, Rebecca West, Susan Sontag, and on the nature of biography itself. This book includes New York Sun book reviews dealing with female icons such as Mary Stuart, Mary Wollstonecraft, The Brontës, Marie Curie, Harriet Tubman, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Sylvia Plath.
The standard biography of one of the 20th century's greatest prose stylists.. What is new in this second edition of Carl Rollyson's standard biography? It begins with a portrait that attempts to evoke the living person in all her dimensions. It concludes with an interview with one of her favorite secretaries, Elizabeth Leyshon, who eluded him in the 1990s but provided new insights into her employer's character for this book. The biography's new title emphasizes that Rebecca West was a prophet-one not always appreciated in her own day. As early as 1917, she understood where the world was headed and realized that the revolution in Russia held out false hope. Because she took this view as a socialist, those on the left scorned her as an apostate, whereas she understood that Communism would result in a disaster for the British left. Readers wishing to gauge the range of West's fiction and nonfiction should read Woman as Artist and Thinker, published by iUniverse. Rollyson has read his words anew, sharpening sentences, omitting words and paragraphs-sometimes entire sections-in order to provide a refreshing, more engaging, and spirited account of one of the world's major writers.
The first book to explore the entire corpus of her extraordinary career.
Religion, politics, and the writing of biographies.
Filmmaker, feminist,, wife--a twentieth century woman.
The first literary biography of Norman Mailer, updated and revised
Essays in Biography is a play on words conveying an attempt to explore the nature of biography in pieces about the history of the genre and in portrayals of biographers (Plutarch, Leon Edel, and W. A. Swanberg), literary figures (Lillian Hellman, Jack London), philosophers and critics (Leo Strauss and Hippolyte Taine), political figures (Winston Churchill and Napoleon), and artists (Rembrandt and Rubens).
For those addicted to reading biography, enhancing their pleasure by providing insight (or you might say, the inside word) on how biographies are put together.
Provocative reviews of American subjects, originally appearing in The New York Sun.
A candid and revealing account, by an expert in the minefield of the biographer’s contentious work
A terrific companion for biography writers and lovers.-- James McGrath Morris, editor of the monthly "The Biographer's Craft"

Reviews of Recent Biographies

Wall Street Journal