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The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father's Twentieth Century

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  175 ratings  ·  54 reviews
Using the life and career of her father, an early Hollywood actor, New Yorker writer Margaret Talbot tells the thrilling story of the rise of popular culture through a transfixing personal lens. The arc of Lyle Talbot’s career is in fact the story of American entertainment. Born in 1902, Lyle left his home in small-town Nebraska in 1918 to join a traveling carnival. From t ...more
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published November 8th 2012 by Riverhead Books
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This is a great book! I highly recommend it. It's definitely not something I'd normally read - I'm not a hollywood buff by any means and usually don't read nonfiction. So a history of Hollywood, sounds horrible. But 2 things. First, Margaret Talbot is a great writer and this reads in the fast easy way of good fiction. Second, she uses her father's personal story to explore several histories: yes, the history of Hollywood-but more interestingly- the history of entertainment & performance in t ...more
Viviane Crystal
The Entertainer… covers a large swatch of twentieth century entertainment as history and also a biography of the author’s father, Lyle Talbot. It’s quite obvious that Margaret was deeply fond of her father, although her grandmother didn’t quite like the influence he had on his daughter. But the tales she heard from her Dad clearly fascinated her and made her realize that the history of entertaining was one to share with the world because of its unique evolution over time and with the additional ...more
Teresa Gibson
As an old movie fan, I looked forward to learning more about Lyle Talbot, whose life nearly spanned the 20th century (1902--1996). He was an actor who I'd think, "I've heard that name somewhere before, but can't place the face." Looking at Wikipedia Lyle Talbot(and what a handsome face it was!), Talbot's filmography is long and varied. The Entertainer could have used a filmography in the end papers to help the reader better place the actor in time and memory.

Talbot's daughter Margaret writes a
Ronald Roseborough
Margaret Talbot writes a fine tribute to her father, Lyle Talbot and Hollywood as seen through his eyes. Lyle never attained star status, but he was a very competent actor who enthusiastically took every acting job he was offered and played it with skill and professionalism. He had cut his teeth during the 1920's traveling in small theater shows that crisscrossed the Midwest. In the 1930's Lyle was an experienced stage actor, but a novice in the films being made in Hollywood. His stage credits c ...more
This was a wonderful read! The author talks about a lot more than her father's history. She dives into the history of the time period he lived in and the moment in time she is focusing on in his life. Some people would think it "filler" but I enjoyed this style immensely because it gave me a good idea of what was going on during the time she was speaking of and what people were thinking.

I also loved how she didn't gloss over her father's life. She may not know every detail but she did Lyle Talb
Was excited to read this book, the 'biography' of actor Lyle Talbot, brought to Hollywood from the stage in the early 30s, was put under contract to a major film studio and groomed for stardom, who mixed with the elite, enjoyed the perks that loads of money could buy, did not achieve stardom, and was washed up as a leading man. But ... he kept on keeping on. This book did not deliver what I wanted and expected. The author, and maybe her publisher, had no confidence that there was an audience for ...more
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Old Hollywood has always seemed like such a fascinating place to me. Just the name Hollywood evokes glamor. I love reading about it and was very excited to read The Entertainer based on the fact that it was about Hollywood alone. The Entertainer is both a personal history and a general history of Old Hollywood.

Margaret Talbot tells both the story of her father and Hollywood in this book. Through recollection of her father's many stories and her own meticulous research, she captures the transitio
Christine Sinclair
A very good book! It has many facets: a loving yet objective biography of the author's father, Lyle Talbot; an overview of the changes in show business during the 20th century; and a well-written, thought-provoking look at the life of one Hollywood family. Two trivia tidbits: Lyle Talbot's grandmother's maiden name was Hollywood, and Talbot's son Steve played Gilbert Bates on Leave It To Beaver! Definitely worth reading for any film buff.
Lisa Shafer
I won an ARC of this book on a goodreads giveaway.
However, other than a few minor flaws that I assume were corrected for the "real" book, this was wonderful!
I am not a film buff, nor did I even know who Lyle Talbot was when I began reading. But the author weaves the history of 20th Century entertainment around her father's life story in a fascinating way. The man was in carnivals, hypnotists shows, traveling theater companies, silent movies, talkies, B-movies (He was in "Plan 9 From Outer Space,
Lyle Talbot, the author's father, had a long life. He just missed being a real movie star. According to Margaret, he didn't have that "animal magnetism" that other stars like Humphrey Bogart seemed to have. Nevertheless, he had an exciting career in show business starting as a magician's assistant and working in the circus, a traveling theatre troupe, on Broadway, in the movies, and on television. He loved to be on stage and was blessed with a handsome face and an easygoing disposition. The auth ...more
Chuck White
I've been a fan of Lyle Talbot, ever since I first saw him as Commissioner Gordon in the second Batman serial, back in the early 80s, when I picked up VHS versions of both Batman serials from Goodtimes. Since then, I have enjoyed him in many things, from Lex Luthor in ATOM MAN VS. SUPERMAN, to PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, as well as his numerous other film and television roles. So when I heard about this book, I was curious to see what his daughter (the author) had to offer.

I was quite impressed, an
Lyle Talbot is not a household word, but he was the stock in trade of the entertainment business. While they might not be able to name him, many viewers would recognize him as a character actor in the 1930's on. Lyle studied his craft and participated in all the entertainment venues of the times. In The Entertainer, his daughter, Margaret Talbot, reviews his life and the entertainment industry in its many facets.

Lyle grew up in the Midwest. He got his start in entertainment as a teenager, when
Barry Hammond
Lyle Talbot was an actor whose career stretched across the scope of theater, film and television. From working in carnivals and as a hypnotist's assistant, he joined travelling theatrical companies, went to Hollywood as a leading man for Warner Brothers, then character actor, even worked in the barely legitimate films of Ed Wood, before finding constant work in the early days of television. As told by his daughter, his story not only reflects the story of the film business but of society at larg ...more
Margaret Talbot's The Entertainer is a memoir of her father's life in show business. Her father, Lyle Talbot, started as a magician's boy (a shill or prop when needed). He graduated to acting in traveling repertory companies. In the early thirties, Lyle came to Hollywood, where he made a steady if unspectacular career as a film and television actor.

Mr. Talbot's colorful history makes for fun reading. He was a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild at a time when studios had complete control
Michael Ritchie
The daughter of classic-era B-movie star Lyle Talbot writes a hybrid book that is half bio of her father (who was almost 60 when she was born) and half a light history of the pop culture forms in which her father was involved. I like the idea of this kind of personal memoir/history and I wanted to love this book but I didn't. I was left wanting more about Talbot; the pop culture history she covers is, for the most part, already covered in many other sources, and she doesn't give her information ...more
So you think that you're really not interested in reading about an actor whose career spanned traveling stock companies and tent shows to supporting and starring roles in black-and-white 30's and 40's A- and B-movies to Ed Wood films to "Ozzie and Harriet"? Think again, my dear, or it will be your loss. A wonderful, readable meld of biography, history, and sociology (and please don't let that last word frighten you away), Margaret Talbot's "The Entertainer Movies, Magic and My Father's Twentieth ...more
I've only started reading this book, which I won through a giveaway, but it is just too good for me not to drop in a little "process of reading" review. Margaret Talbot's voice and tone caught me in the first lines of her preface, and drew me into a happy collaboration with her story. I was afraid she would be too caught up in the emotional freight of her father's story, but she tells that story with the affectionate detachment of a grown-up child who knows her father to be human. Neither does s ...more
Jim Leffert

As the full title indicates, this book is a twofer—a warm-hearted biography of Margaret’s father, Lyle Talbot, a working actor during Hollywood’s Golden Age who was a celebrity but never quite became a star, and a history of the entertainment industry during most of the 20th century. The elder Talbot was almost 60 when Margaret was born and lived until age 94. Margaret’s feeling that her father was a living time capsule of the history of entertainment stimulated her to write this book. It’s not
THE ENTERTAINER: Movies, Magic, and My Father’s Twentieth Century. (2012). Margaret Talbot. ****.
Ms. Talbot is the daughter of Lyle Talbot, a wekk-known and well-respected character actor of stage, screen, and TV. Her memoir of his life is based, pretty much, on the stories he told her as she was growing up. Those stories, however, only represent about one-third of the book. In the bulk of the book, Ms. Talbot manages to leverage in the history of entertainment in the twentieth century. When he
Bill Peschel
In his long lifetime that spanned the history of popular entertainment, Lyle Talbot believed he was lucky. The former carnie hustler and stage actor on the Midwestern circuit never became a star despite a contract at Warners playing opposite Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart and Mae West. A fading career and drink threatened to ruin him like it did many other actors, but a successful marriage and fatherhood rescued him, television revived his career and playing Ozzie Nelson’s neighbor gave him a modi ...more
Margaret Talbot, a staff writer at the New Yorker and daughter of actor Lyle Talbot, has written a biography of her father's life and career, much of her own autobiography as it relates to growing up in Hollywood with a famous father, and a cultural history of entertainment in the 20th century. She focuses primarily on her father and the wonderful stories that he told her about his life. Talbot began his career in a travling carnival, then he worked in a traveling theater troupe in the Midwest. ...more
-I received an advanced readers copy through Goodread's First Reads giveaway-

The length of this book originally worried me. Non-fiction doesn't hold my interest like fiction does. Sometimes when non-fiction goes on for too long, it just sounds I'm sitting through a college lecture with the most monotone voiced professor imaginable.

This was a not a problem with Margaret Talbot's book. She tells a micro history of entertainment in America, examines cultural and sociological shifts that began to
Margaret Talbot, a staff writer for The New Yorker, tells her father's life story and in doing so, also tells the story of mass market entertainment in the United States during the Twentieth Century. From working in traveling with traveling circus and vaudeville magicians and hypnotists, to performing in regional repertory theater companies, to being a contract player for Warner Brothers to finally working in weekly TV situation comedy series, Lyle Talbot never stopped working. Like many journey ...more
Terry Carroll
Margaret Talbot has written a masterpiece.

"The Entertainer" is, on its face, a biographical history, telling the story of her father, actor Lyle Talbot, in the context of his long sweep through 20th century America.

The historical side of this book is itself very good, interesting, informative, and engaging. Others have covered those aspect in reviews and in the product description. But what elevates "The Entertainer" to "masterpiece" status in my experience with it is in its duet of personalitie
Brandy Bacala
1.5 Stars, received my copy through a first-reads giveaway.

The major problem I have with this book is that it is way too long. Rather than providing reader's with the juicy details of her father's life in early Hollywood, Margaret Talbot overwhelms her audience with so many history lessons about EVERYTHING going on in this time period that the story gets lost. It became less of a biography and more of a mass of unsorted research.

For anyone interested in early Hollywood, this book provides some
Although I don't often read memoirs I was able to read all of Margaret Talbot's book in honor of her father, Lyle. I enjoyed the strength of character reflected in her father's stories but felt the book dragged a little bit. Giving a solid 3 stars.

My rating system is as follows:

5 stars - Excellent, Worth Every Penny, Made It Into My Personal Library!
4 stars - Great book, but not a classic.
3 stars - Good overall, generally well written.
2 stars - Would not recommend based on personal criteria.
1 s
I really enjoyed this book about Lyle Talbot, an actor who never made it as a big star but made a life with the smaller roles. The book is written by one of his daughters and she not only tells about his life but about how the entertainment industry has changed throughout the twentieth century. Fun fact: Lyle's son Stephen played Gilbert Bates on "Leave it to Beaver."
A selective survey of America's 20th century entertainments, from carnivals to television, as seen through the prism of Lyle Talbot's career. The writing is impeccable -- intelligent and charmingly breezy, fitting for the ingratiating man-about-town of 1930s Hollywood. Totally enjoyable.
I enjoyed this book - as I enjoy all books that use a specific subject to take us on a journey through a general history of a broader subject - in this case, 20th-century movies and television. I would have given it three and a half stars if that were an option on goodreads. It did take me a long time to read the book, however, which mystified. I'm still not sure why, given how much I enjoyed reading it when I picked it up again. Perhaps, like Lyle Talbot, himself, the book had just enough charm ...more
This, unsurprisingly, is precisely the sort of thing I enjoy most.
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Margaret Talbot is a non-fiction writer, who has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2003, and before that was a contributing writer at The New York Times magazine, executive editor of The New Republic, and a founding editor of Lingua Franca: The Review of Academic Life. In addition to those publications, she has written for The Atlantic, The National Geographic, More, Slate and ...more
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