December 21, 2012
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?
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.
October 20, 2012
I just learned that Turner Classic Movies is making Loretta Young star of the month for January. I grew up watching her on television making those memorable, sweeping entrances, which Bernard F. Dick describes so well in his biography of Young, titled Hollywood Madonna
. Dick's book is part of the Hollywood Legends series published by University Press of Mississippi. Dick has a wonderful chapter, by the way, on Young's radio performances. She took them quite seriously.
I don't know Young's work that well, and I'd be interested in hearing from you about which of her films you think I should watch. I'm looking forward to watching Kentucky
starring Young, Richard Greene, and Walter Brennan, who won an Academy Award for his performance. I planning to write a biography of Brennan.
October 6, 2012
Star of stage and screen
In his prime, Clifton Webb was a great song and dance man--on a par with Fred Astaire. When Otto Preminger wanted him to star in Laura
, Darryl Zanuck was skeptical. He wanted the heavyweight actor Laird Cregar. But Webb's ascerbic wit stole the show, and he became a great star for Fox. Zanuck became quite fond of his star, and when the producer's daughter announced plans for a wedding, Zanuck asked Webb to teach him how to dance. Imagine Zanuck and Webb, cheek to cheek. Off screen Webb was not like the waspish Waldo Lydecker (his character in Laura
). He was witty, to be sure, but also generous, recognizing early the talents of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean and encouraging both of them. Sitting Pretty
includes all of Webb's unfinished autobiography, which--as you might imagine--is as elegant as the man. Dana Andrews learned a lot from his co-star in Laura
and the two remained great friends.
August 18, 2012
"Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn" (Harmony, 352 pages, $25.95) enters a crowded field. Barry Paris's encyclopedic "Audrey Hepburn" appeared in 1996, Alexander Walker's astute "Audrey" in 1994, and Diana Maychick's chatty "intimate portrait" in 1993 — just to mention Donald Spoto's immediate predecessors. At this point, the impatient reviewer is supposed to complain, "Do we really need another biography "of Audrey Hepburn? (more…)
August 6, 2012
The first edition cover of my biography
It has been fifty years since Marilyn Monroe died and interest in her continues to increase. Why? Of course, many reasons can be offered. As a biographer, I want to repeat what Matthew Bruccoli said when he was asked why he was publishing another biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald: more facts. And it is true. We continue to learn more about Marilyn Monroe, about the books she read, the meals she prepared, the letters and poems she wrote, and so on. In other words, we are learning more about the person. I just read a piece about the photographer Lawrence Schiller, who pointed out that in the 1970s there was great interest in nude Marilyn Monroe photographs, but that now there seems more interest in pictures that show her as a real person. We are still learning just how complex she was. Let me just mention three books that show how much more there is to know about Marilyn Monroe: Lois Banner's new biography, which has fascinating pages on Monroe's affinity for Christian Science (just to mention one of many revelations); Fragments
, a fascinating collections of her letters, notes, and other writings; and Michelle Morgan's biography, which contains testimony from many people whom the other Marilyn Monroe biographers did not interview. I'd love to hear about your own reading of books about Marilyn Monroe and why she remains such a cynosure.
July 24, 2012
I'm participating in the Dana Andrews blogathon at Classic Movie man. I've chosen to discuss his work in A Walk in the Sun
. Dana plays a corporal taking over from his sergeant who has broken down under the stress of war. The director, Lewis Milestone, had different actors in mind for this ensemble of soldiers, similar to what he was attempting in The Purple Heart
, another WWII film starring Dana Andrews. It was that experience with Dana that made Milestone never waver in his decision to put Dana in the pivotal role of leading the men after their sergeant collapses. Dana's matter of fact nobility is often a feature of his greatest work. Near the end of the film there are unforgettable closeups of Dana as he forges relentlessly ahead--but without the usual heroics and melodrama of war films. If there has ever been a better performance in such a film I don't know what it is.
July 15, 2012
Celeste Holm in her prime
Celeste Holm just died. I know her best from her role in All About Eve
where she is taken in by Eve, played by Anne Baxter, a seemingly innocent fan of Margo Channing (Bette Davis). But Baxter's Eve is cunning, and quite a contrast to Miss Caswell (Marilyn Monroe), who is on the arm of George Sanders, playing the critic Addison De Witt. It is Sanders who has that wonderful line about Miss Caswell as the graduate of the Copacabana School of Acting. I write about this wonderful film in my biography of Marilyn Monroe. I would love to get your memories of watching Celeste Holm on screen. Or--remind me of who is left from Hollywood's golden age. Olivia de Havilland still lives. So does that wonderful character actor, Norman Lloyd, who is in his late 90s and starred in two films with Dana Andrews. Lloyd, last I checked with him, was still playing doubles tennis!
July 6, 2012
Hedy Lamarr: The Most Beautiful Woman in Film
Ruth Barton. Hedy Lamarr: The Most Beautiful woman in Film. University Press of Kentucky, 2010. 281p ISBN 9780813126043, $29.95
Barton's subtitle is no exaggeration. It pinpoints what movie producers and reviewers remarked about Lamarr (1913-2000) nearly every time they mentioned or wrote about her. An impeccable researcher, Barton (film, Trinity College Dublin) has written an engaging biography that also serves as a history of Hollywood from the 1930s to the 1950s. She is especially insightful about Ecstasy
(1933), the scandalous film in which Lamarr appeared in the nude, establishing herself as the quintessential sexualized figure of modern cinema for nearly two decades. (more…)
June 21, 2012
From time to time, I'm going to invite guest bloggers to post and to invite your comments. This time, my guest is Marion Meade, biographer of Dorothy Parker, Buster Keaton, Woody Allen, and Nathanael West. I thought of her when I saw so many references to Budd Schulberg on this blog. Below you will find an account of her firsthand experience with a very controversial subject.
BUDD, BLACKLIST, BIOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERVIEWS THAT GOT AWAY
My first meeting with Budd Schulberg took place on December 9, 1982, in midtown Manhattan, in a dark chilly apartment that appeared to be uninhabited. (A pied-a-terre, he explained.) I was surprised to be introduced to his attorney, the first time in my experience that an interview subject brought legal backup. (more…)
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
The first biography of the great film noir actor
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.
The first biography that truly shows the actress at work.-- Ellen Burstyn
Forthcoming in a new edition from University Press of Mississippi.
America's most controversial radical playwright
The first biography of Gellhorn, relying on key archival sources and interviews with her friends and associates.
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.
Twenty-five years of writing about female icons and biography.
The standard biography of one of the 20th century's greatest prose stylists
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
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"
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).
Wall Street Journal
"Biographology," a column about biography at bibliobuffet.com
Advocates for published authors since 1912
Authors Guild Directory
A compendium of member websites