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Underfoot in Show Business

4.19  ·  Rating Details  ·  366 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
It's a book about show business, where fame is the stock in trade. Each year there are hundreds of stagestruck kids arrive in New York determined to crash the theatre, firmly convinced they're destined to be famous Broadway stars or playwrights.
Paperback, 177 pages
Published July 1st 2007 by Moyer Bell (first published 1962)
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Oct 04, 2015 Trelawn rated it really liked it
As usual I had a great time reading about Helene Hanff's life. This time she chronicled her failure to make her mark on Broadway. Her Oklahoma! and Lord of the Rings anecdotes alone make this worth the read but there is something romantic about her devotion to the theatre that draws you in. As well as being a Theatre Guild intern she worked as an assistant press agent, prop girl, outside reader and lots more. The stories of Helene and her actress best friend Maxine blagging their way into Broadw ...more
Jul 31, 2009 Persephone rated it really liked it
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
Jun 03, 2014 Linda Robinson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 27, 2015 Anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
UPDATE 27.12.15: While staying with my parents for Christmas, I rediscovered this book on their shelves and felt compelled to re-read it. It is just as much of a charming delight the second time around, as well as wonderfully easy to relate to some eighty odd years after events begin. I firmly believe that Flanagan's Law applies outside the theatre.

This book is an absolute delight and several times caused me to commit the so
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
Feb 01, 2015 Chas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essential
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
Oct 23, 2008 David Crosby rated it really liked it
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
Aug 26, 2016 Tina rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
I love the way Helene Hanff writes and I adored 84 Charring Cross Road, which is why I am reading through all of the books written by Hanff.

This one is interesting in that it is a memoir, albeit, she skips over HUGE parts of her life, but still, this is a fun and addicting read.

I have always said that reviewing a memoir is tricky - since you end up reviewing both the writing style AND the content.

As mentioned, love the writing style but Helene? not so much. I have heard many positive things abo
Jan 29, 2010 Patrick rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 07, 2015 Nicole rated it it was amazing
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
May 24, 2016 Liz rated it it was amazing
Helene Hanff’s memoir of her attempts to become a Broadway playwright, which lead to a lucrative career as a television writer. Very funny! I especially love the story of the Theatre Guild, where Helene is working as a publicist making one last-ditch effort after years and years of flops – they open an “opera”, for which Helene does not even bother to attend the opening, since the out-of-town reviews have been so terrible. Resigned to her pending unemployment, she goes to bed early, as the openi ...more
Mari Anne
May 06, 2012 Mari Anne rated it really liked it
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
Jul 30, 2012 Paul Smith rated it really liked it
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
Aug 03, 2011 Spencer Schankel rated it really liked it
“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
Jan 02, 2016 Angela rated it it was amazing
It was with a real sense of grief that I finished this book, the last of those written by Hanff that I had yet to read (and the first written by her). I first learned about Hanff after happening upon a Saturday afternoon showing of the movie 84, Charing Cross Road with Anne Bancroft. It was such a charming story and I did not know until then that it was a true story written by an author I had never of. Since then I have savored each of Hanff's books because there are only 6. Hanff is the classic ...more
Donna T
Nov 11, 2015 Donna T rated it it was amazing
I read and loved this when it was first published (and many times since). It gave me a real sense of life in war time and post war NYC, a world where single young women lived in rooming houses and 'kitchen privileges' were a real luxury. It's great background for the London books and her final memoir.

Lisa S Brown
Apr 26, 2016 Lisa S Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Witty! Literate! Don't try this at home!

Ms Hanff's accounts of trying to make it on Broadway will either completely encourage or discourage others to trying the same. Please, Amazon, also bring "84 Charing Cross Road" to your readers, and introduce new generations to Ms Hanff!
Jan 13, 2011 Debbie rated it really liked it
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.

Jun 07, 2012 Roberta rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, top-12-2012
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.[
Mar 03, 2009 Djrmel rated it really liked it
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
Apr 03, 2013 Andersonxt rated it really liked it
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
Feb 23, 2013 Claudia rated it it was amazing
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.)
Oct 26, 2011 Donna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 24, 2013 Julia Hendon rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 24, 2016 Darren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love all of Helene Hanff's books and have read them all multiple times. This was her first (before 84, Charing Cross Road), and it's a lot of fun, especially for a theater person.
Linda Seltenright
Jun 12, 2008 Linda Seltenright rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 15, 2015 Missyisms rated it liked it
Discovered an ebook had been published of this book and bought it ASAP. It's Ms Hanff's early book about being a flop in the theatre. It's a fun book and I enjoyed it, but her writing improved in later books. I recommend this and all her books. I wish the others would also come out in ebook format.
Feb 11, 2012 Cara rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2012
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.
Irene Moyer
Aug 03, 2015 Irene Moyer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A gem

I almost never give 5 stars. This book is an unknown gem. Honest, funny, at times poignant. I love Manhattan and that period of my mother's youth there, so there is also that aspect for me. How had I never heard of it before when I am a constant reader?
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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...

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