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Underfoot in Show Business

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  302 ratings  ·  39 reviews
The memoirs of one of the thousands who have crashed Broadway hoping to land glamorous jobs describes her unsuccessful auditions, encounters with different producers and preoccupied agents, and the unique economic system she managed to survive by.
Paperback, 177 pages
Published July 1st 2007 by Moyer Bell (first published 1962)
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This is actually Helene Hanff's first book, published in 1961, a few years before she enchanted millions with her 84, Charing Cross Road. It's an episodic account of her years as a struggling playwright on Broadway, leading to how she ended up writing for television, and it overlaps (and never mentions) the period of her famous correspondence with Frank Doel and his staff at the London antiquarian book shop. We do meet a couple of friends who figure in 84, most significantly the irrepressible an ...more
Linda Robinson
Hanff is a gifted memoirist. This book includes the timeline of 84, Charing Cross Road, which makes the story seem even more personal–as though the author is a friend writing you letters from an apartment smack in the middle of the NY writing scene. She never gets a play produced, but she tells us about the journey without bitterness, happy to be writing, even if it is for television for a few years. The chapter that reveals how she and her actress friend Maxine get into movies and plays for fre ...more
Margaret H.
There is just something about Helene's voice that makes her feel like my funniest friend. She just knows her way around a good story. While 84 Charing Cross Road will always be first in my Hanff-heart, Underfoot in Show Business is a very close second and should not, NOT BY ANY MEANS, be out-of-print. Hanff's stories about she and her friend Maxine* struggling to make it as a playwright and actress (respectively) in 1940s Manhattan are just hilarious. They make me profoundly nostalgic for that t ...more
This book is an absolute delight and several times caused me to commit the social faux pas of laughing to myself on public transport. I think I unsettled my train seat neighbour, who was reading Les Mis on a kindle. In any event, this autobiographical romp recounts Helene's adventures with her friend Maxine, attempting to get into show business and mostly doing terrible jobs for low pay. The sense of friendship, joy, and ingenious attempts to get things for free greatly appealed to me and remind ...more
This is a book that lifts the spirits! Poverty there is, but also humour, beauty, outrageous behaviour and life in the raw, it's all there; or is it? Is Helene Hanff putting on a brave face for her readers and only telling us the funniest and least sordid bits of her life as a playwright, hack TV writer and all round back room girl in 'the industry' aka showbiz?
A memoir and 'how to write' manual combined, I have placed this book on the Essential Shelf and the five stars are twinkling like sirens
David Crosby
Excellent, I am truly captivated by dear Helene. These memoirs of her writing career were such a pleasure to read. I laughed, and laughed again, how did she do it? Well, this book highlights the genuine struggle she had in her chosen field, but she never seemed down. She saw humour in all situations and had the right response for any situation. Oh, how I wish she had written more books. There are some lovely anecdotes in here, and I will see Oklahoma! in a whole new light now. Thoroughly recomme ...more
Happened to be talking about how much I loved 84, Charing and a coworker overheard and proclaimed, "Helene Hanff is my favorite author! You must read Underfoot! I'll bring it in tomorrow for you to read!" And she did and I read it that night. Just love Hanff's sense of humor and her tales about the theater world.
This is a memoir of someone who was living my ideal life, knocking around 1940's New York City with her eccentric actress best friend, trying to write plays and never succeeding but having a whale of a time anyway. I finished this book and immediately reserved another book of hers from the library. Helene Hanff is witty and self-deprecating and always manages to wrap her anecdotes into neat little packages, whether that's her bizarre, elderly neighbour becoming her landlady, or that time she had ...more
Mari Anne
Is it possible to be friends with someone who has been dead for over a decade? I hope so because I really want to be friends with Helene Hanff! This is my second Hanff book and I am loving her very witty, sarcastic and definitely ahead-of-her-time voice! I actually ordered the Helene Hanff Omnibus (a fancy word for collection!) from overseas (because I couldn't get it here) and I am working my way through her complete works. I first fell in love with her book 84 Charing Cross Road (new bucket li ...more
Paul Smith
Helene Hanff's 84 Charing Cross Road is one of my all time favourite reads, and I have toyed with the idea of reading it's successor,The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street,from time to time,but have never come across a copy. Following my belated conversion to the internet,I was reminded of this recently and decided to see if it was available on Amazon. The only way it was obtainable,was to buy The Helene Hanff Omnibus,which contains five of her books, and when I received my copy, I decided to read the ...more
Spencer Schankel
“Underfoot in Show Business,” by Helen Hanff, author of “84, Charing Cross Road.”
I liked this little book enough to read it a couple of times. Originally meant to be a memoir it now reads more like a history (or one woman’s history) of theater in New York in the 1940s and 50s when the Theater Guild ruled supreme and “kids” could still become stars. As a wannabe playwright, Ms. Hanff finally found her footing in television when programs like the “Hallmark Hall of Fame” were sent out live.
It’s cha
The problem with finding a new author you love who happens to be deceased is that you know he or she won't be producing any more books for you to read. The problem if that author is Helene Hanff is that she only wrote five memoir books, and another book that collects the transcripts of some radio program she did. Totally unfair, I say. I only discovered Hanff a few weeks ago and have already sped through three of her six books, and it makes me sad to think there are only three more left to go.

This is a lovely book. A life well lived and so entertainly presented. Hanff is so funny about her adventures as an aspiring playwright with oodles of writing chops but no talent for plot. She's one of the first in the door writng for television and ultimately discovers her best material - her own life. Her best friend Maxine is a hoot. Loved her books 84, Charing Cross Road and Apple of My Eye (in fact must reread the latter). Loved the New York Setting. Wish I had known her.[
my only regret of reading this is that I didn't read it years ago. I think I've found a new creative hero, although I'm sure Ms. Hanff would laugh at that. The stories she tells about trying to make it as a playwright on Broadway in the 40's and 50's aren't dated in the least bit, because there's always the underlying message of loving what you do is its own reward. I would have dearly loved to have met this woman, or even just followed her around for a day or so. She's an inspiration with a sen ...more
Someone (I think it was Hanff's neice) recently wrote in the newspaper that anyone who doubts the authencity of "Smash" (and that would exclude...?) should read this book. If you enjoy "The Egg and I," don't mind the slightly breathless style of Poppy Cannon and other female magazine writers of the mid-20th century, and are not offended by gal-pals who begin letters to each other with "Dear Heart" and "Doll!," then there shouldn't be anything to keep you from having a good time with this quick r ...more
Five stars means amazing and I am amazed I awarded this book five stars. After reading 84, Charing Cross road for my book club last month, I purchased four more of Helene's (we're on a first name basis now) books. I am not a devotee of the theatre or show business but her anecdotes, such as the review of the opening of Oklahoma! are priceless. Helene is on my list of the "10 Souls I Want to Meet in Heaven". (That was our book club selection for this month.)
I don't have much interest in the theater world, but I loved 84, Charing Cross Road so I jumped on this one when I spotted it in a local used shop. Hanff's breezy style seems to make just about anything funny, whether it's meeting producers, wrangling agents, or just telling stories about daily life.

This is a quick read, and very worth the time.
Julia Hendon
A lot of fun to read. The author recounts her experiences as a stage struck young woman trying to make a living in the New York theatre world during the 1950s.
Hanff describes the miserably paid jobs, the boarding houses, the summer camps, and the eccentric characters she meets with a light touch and a lot of humor. She and her best friend, struggling actress Maxine, do their best to enjoy life in the city on a budget so small it is effectively 0.00.
Linda Seltenright
Columbus dispatch said ..."If you need cheering up this is it". I couldn't agree more. This is a funny memoir about author Helene Hanff trying to make it in the theater. You can read this book in an afternoon and will feel lighter when you've finished. I loved "84 Charing Cross Road"...I loved this book even more.
I have to admit, I was a little disappointed with this. I loved 84 Charing Cross Road & Duchess of Bloomsbury so much, that I just don't think this had a chance. It was lovely to re-visit Helene's world and hear about her early battles in playwriting, but I did find myself skimming some of the minutiae.
Michael Burge
An endearing and life-enlarging book about failure, which ironically brought its author a wave of success. A must-read for students of theatre and playmaking. Hanff's honest portrayal of the brutal world of showbiz, and writing in general, is a salve for wanna-be's everywhere.
This memoir about Helene Hanff's life in NYC trying to make it as a playwright and writer was published before her success with 84 Charing Cross. It was revised and reissued in 1980. Fans of the previous will love this even if story overlaps a little.
Very, very funny and totally charming, as well as being a fascinating look behind the scenes at NYC show business - and the beginnings of television! - from the 1930s to 1960. It left me wanting to read all of her other books, NOW! :)
You will enjoy this book if you like Helene Hanff's style of writing. It is very conversational and easy to understand. The reader certainly learns about the business behind the theatre scene and early TV shows. Very entertaining!!
I love everything Helene Hanff writes. The book's copyright is 1962 but it's about her antics in the early 1940s when she first moved to NYC and wanted to be a playwright on Broadway. Again - so witty and lovely.
Hanff is a talented, warm personality who brings you into her life and hard times. Her trials and tribulations, exacerbated by Flanagan's Law, are pathetic, hysterically funny and heart-warming by turns.
I enjoyed all of Hanff's books. They are not long, but fun to read. The Movie of,'84, Charing Cross Road', was well done. Sorry the book store is gone would have loved to have seen it someday.
Having fallen in love with Helene Hanff after reading her 84 Charing Cross Road, I was pleased to discover this book that covers her life in New York as a writer.
Nov 22, 2008 Lanette rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who likes the theater
This was more like a 3.5... I didn't like it as much as Charing Cross, but it was enjoyable read... probably even more so for those interested in Broadway and theater.
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  • Beginning
  • Act One
  • Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford
  • The Virgin of Bennington
  • Depth Takes a Holiday
  • Deceived With Kindness
  • Love Always
  • The Movies, Mr. Griffith, And Me
  • Telling
  • The Plague and I
  • The Good Times
  • A Vicarage Family (Lions)
  • Let Me Finish
  • The Only Woman in the Room
  • An Open Book: Coming of Age in the Heartland
  • Halfway To Hollywood: Diaries 1980 to 1988 (Palin Diaries, #2)
  • Few Eggs and No Oranges: The Diaries of Vere Hodgson 1940-45
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Helene Hanff (April 15, 1916–April 9, 1997) was an American writer. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she is best known as the author of the book 84 Charing Cross Road, which became the basis for a play, teleplay, and film of the same name.

Her career, which saw her move from writing unproduced plays to helping create some of the earliest television dramas to becoming a kind of professional New Y
More about Helene Hanff...
84, Charing Cross Road The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street Q's Legacy 84 Charing Cross Road / The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street Apple of My Eye

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