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Balcony Award for Best Biography

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message 1: by Nancy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:06PM) (new)

Nancy Loe | 53 comments Mod
Now that I've lured you in here, please tell me I'm not the only person who owns a copy of the Gig Young bio which ends with the murder-suicide of his 99th wife – it's called FINAL GIG and it's really truly bad.

Best biography (at least lately) would be William J. Mann's KATE - he is not the least bit reverent and there's lots of new info.

message 2: by KC (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:06PM) (new)

KC | 42 comments FINAL GIG ?!? You've got to be kidding me. That is too funny. I'm terrible about reading bios, because even if I find the subject facinating, if the writing sucks - I'm outta here. I think I need to go back and read Liv Ullman in light of Bergman's death. I loved her book all those years ago when it came out. Yup, it might be time to re-read it.

message 3: by Modbon (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:06PM) (new)

Modbon | 25 comments Worst bio I've read lately would have to be Burt Lancaster by Kate Buford. I couldn't even finish it. Reads like a PhD dissertation. I was also disappointed in Eve Arden's The Three Phases of Eve, probably because Arden isn't nearly as funny nor as wickedly cynical as she always was in films. Without a script, she couldn't wisecrack her way out of a paper bag. But I may have been expecting too much from her. BTW, she grew up in my hometown and we went to the same high school. Didn't help. :)

Best one I've read lately would have to be the Billy Wilder bio that's on my Hollywoodland bookshelf. Top notch stuff, mainly because Wilder had such an interesting life outside of film, but the film parts are great, too.

Most of the time I'm looking for salacious gossipy goodness, with lots of naming names and measuring body parts for comparison purposes ;)

message 4: by Nancy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:06PM) (new)

Nancy Loe | 53 comments Mod
Yep, FINAL GIG. I'll leave it for you on the nightstand come Oscar time.

Bon, we agree on the creamy goodness of salacious biographies. Disappointed to hear that Eve's was blah, but it was probably the style of the time, a la STEPS IN TIME by Fred Astaire, which is narcotic in buckram.

message 5: by Eileen (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:21PM) (new)

Eileen | 1 comments I thought Errol Flynn's autobiography was great fun to read. He mostly tells tales on himself, but they're good ones.

Shelley Winters is very gossipy, though not a very good writer. I consider her books to be guilty pleasures.

message 6: by Nancy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:21PM) (new)

Nancy Loe | 53 comments Mod
Welcome, Eileen! I think the only thing I remember from Winters's was that she and Marilyn Monroe were roomies who would exercise their butts by sitting on the floor with their feet out in front of them and "walking."

message 7: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie | 9 comments I love books about the Great Kate. the last one i read was Scott Berg's, but my favorites are the ones she wrote her self "Me" and the one about the African Queen. I will read Mann's next.

I am a new member, please humor me as I am new in town too.

message 8: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Loe | 53 comments Mod
Welcome, Stephanie! I really loved William Mann's as I think it wasn't quite as reverent as others, but Berg's was good for an insider perspective. I had to stop reading about her for a while because she was starting (to me) to be quite unlikeable as a person. And I realize the the screen goddess and the person are different and that we never really knew either, but still. Prideaux's book about her was really unflattering.

message 9: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie | 9 comments Golly! Another Kate book I haven't read!

My favorite Kate quote, when asked by a reporter for her view on marraige " I believe that you should live close, and visit often."

message 10: by KC (new)

KC | 42 comments Ah Stephanie. Stick with us and you'll find more movies to watch and movie books to read than you can imagine. Modbon, Cilantro and Tinsel will astound you with the breadth of their knowledge. I've been blessed to know them for over 10 years and they still manage to surprise me.
btw, I'm a Kate lover as well. :)

message 11: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Loe | 53 comments Mod
And anybody who isn't should just haul their freight out of here.

We're starting celebrations early by watching Murder, My Sweet on our new!HD1teevee!

message 12: by Modbon (new)

Modbon | 25 comments I met someone recently who hated "Deadwood" and detests, loathes, and despises Katharine Hepburn. Does anyone know where I can find some curare?

Murder, My Sweet? What's next on your holiday viewing list...Night of the Hunter? :D

message 13: by Jenny (new)

Jenny Nothing has been posted in this thread for awhile, so I thought I'd add my humble opinion. My absolute favorite film-person biography is "Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood" by Cari Beauchamp. I picked up a copy at a used book store not knowing who Frances Marion was, but since she was pictured with Mary Pickford on the cover, that was good enough for me. I've read many books about the early days of Hollywood, but this one really makes you feel part of it. Beauchamp gives excellent descriptions of places and interweaves Marion's story with those she worked with. I've read many other biographies in the nearly 10 years since I first read this book, but nothing has bumped it from the top of my list.

message 14: by Jenny (new)

Jenny So what in your opinion is the best Audrey Hepburn biography? There are so many out there! I'm reading (listening to) "Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn" by Donald Spoto because it was available on audio and the others weren't. If I had my druthers, I would have picked Barry Paris' version because I've read his biographies of Garbo and Brooks and thought they were excellent. This one is quite good so far - it moves right along and doesn't get bogged down in minutia. It has a good mix of the personal and the films and plays which I like. The narrator, Kimberly Farr, is fine too. Has any of you read it or any of the other Audrey books? They all seem to have high ratings on Goodreads.

message 15: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Loe | 53 comments Mod
Love Beauchamp and she did a marvelous job with Frances Marion. There's a story that when she left one sob-sister reporter job to go work as a reporter for a Hearst paper, her father was upset and said she'd just gone from bad to Hearst. I hope it's true.

The only Hepburn I've read is one of the very early ones that said she used to travel with her own linens and silver and dishes. I need to read one of the new ones.

message 16: by Jenny (new)

Jenny I finished the Spoto biography of Audrey Hepburn (on audio) and gave it 4 out of 5 stars. I had seen most of Audrey’s films and wasn’t a huge fan. I guess I found her near-perfection and thinness intimidating (okay, I’m jealous) and then there was that annoying accent in MY FAIR LADY. I AM a huge fan now. It’s not a requirement for me to like the subject of a biography, but it doesn't hurt and I found I both like and admire Hepburn after reading this book. She wasn’t a saint (she had affairs and was a heavy smoker), but nearly everyone who worked with her liked her and then there was the selfless humanitarian work she did for UNICEF the last years of her life. Somehow I missed seeing THE NUN'S STORY which Spoto said was her best. I watched it this weekend and found he was right – an absolutely amazing performance so different from her other work. Kimberly Farris did a great job with the narration - I especially liked her French pronunciations.
I broke away from the audio book to read sections of Barry Paris's Hepburn biography, written 10 years earlier, to compare notes. It was interesting that they each had unique stories and different spins. I find I like Paris’ style better and I think he worked more closely with Hepburn’s family. (He seemed to like Mel Ferrer better than Spoto anyhow.) I plan to read Parris’s book cover-to-cover and I’ll let you know which I like best when I’m finished.

message 17: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Loe | 53 comments Mod
I'd take Paris over Spoto anytime, regardless of the biographical subject, mostly because I think Paris's research stands the test better.

Wasn't Spoto sued over his Hitchcock book? I recall some spot of bother about it.

message 18: by Jenny (new)

Jenny Well yes, I agree with you there Nancy. I didn't want to be prejudiced or anything, but Spoto has written so MANY biographies, he can't have spent much time researching them it seemed to me. But this one was on audio which I have much more time for than the printed page. I wondered why he would want to write a bio on Audrey when there were already several out there and Paris's wasn't that old. But when I compared the chapters on THE NUN'S STORY, Spoto included information about an affair Audrey had with the screenwriter Robert Anderson that Paris didn't have, so maybe he (Spoto) thought he had enough new material to warrant it.
I couldn't find any information about a lawsuit over the Hitchcock book after a quick Google search, but you may be right.
Does anyone know if Barry Paris is working on another book? I really liked his other two books.

message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Hi there, I just came across this group and joined, and then saw this discussion and wanted to jump in :)

I haven't read as many film star bios as other people here seem to have read, but I see some people mentioning Donald Spoto. I have to agree that I don't think much of him. His biography on Laurence Olivier stirred a bunch of controversy when it was published because he started the whole Laurence and Danny Kaye affair thing. Whether it's true or not, Olivier biographers since that book seem to be concentrating much of their time trying to prove or disprove Spoto's claim rather than focusing on trying to get to the bottom of who Laurence Olivier was as a person--a feat which none of them have really accomplished yet.

The most recent biography on Olivier, published by terry Coleman in 2005, is my favorite so far.

I'm very interested in reading barry paris' Louise brooks bio!

message 20: by Jenny (new)

Jenny Hi Kendra, I just checked your Viv and Larry web site. Nice work! What got you interested in them and what is the best biography of each one in your opinion? I read Anne Edwards bio of Leigh many years ago but haven't read one on Olivier yet.

message 21: by Kelly (new)

Kelly | 1 comments Hello all, My name is Kelly Brown and I thank Jenny P for the invitation to join this group.
Some of my favorite acting biographies that I have read recently are MAE WEST by Simon Louvish and GREAT TIMES GOOD TIMES by James Kotsilibas-Davis (Bio of Maurice Barrymore).

message 22: by Jenny (new)

Jenny Welcome Kelly. I'll add these 2 to my list. I have a couple of Louvish books (Stan & Ollie and Keystone) but haven't read them yet. I'm not at all familiar with the Maurice Barrymore book - is it very old?
I would like to recommend another great biography: Florence Lawrence, the Biograph Girl: America's First Movie Star by Kelly Brown!

message 23: by Donna (new)

Donna (rudyfan) Well, like Jenny I love Cari Beauchamp's Without Lying Down. It's a fabulous read and a standard, a bar to which any aspriring biographer can reach for.

I'm also very fond of Fred Lawrence Guiles biography of Marion Davies. I turn to that book time and time again, and enjoy it each time I read it.

message 24: by Joan (new)

Joan I'd like to cast a vote for Scott Eyman's Lion of Hollywood. This vote, by the way, is subject to change without notice, usually as soon as someone else mentions something I really like.

Also votes for Kelly Brown's Florence Lawrence bio and the late Sally Dumaux's King Baggott bio. FloLo and Baggott aren't household names any longer and both Brown and Dumaux were warned that biographies weren't possible, there was too little information left.

Well, neener neener, was too, nyah.


message 25: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 7 comments Kind of surprised to see the knock on the Lancaster biography. I thought it was solid and fascinating.

Some bios I've found especially entertaining and/or useful are Sperber and Lax's book on Humphrey Bogart, Ed Sikov's books on Billy Wilder and Peter Sellers, David Robinson's "Chaplin," and an oldie, Bob Thomas's "King Cohn" about Harry Cohn. Lesser known is Will Holtzman's book "Judy Holliday," recommended for fans of the star.


message 26: by Jenny (new)

Jenny Biographies have to work on many levels to get a 5 star (Goodreads definition: it was awesome) from me, and at least one of them the author can't be held accountable for. That is, it really helps if I like the subject. That's one reason why I loved the Frances Marion biography so much. I wish I could have known her. I liked Kay Francis too (warts and all)after reading Scott O'Brien's bio, and now that I am almost finished with the current biography I am reading, I wish I could have lunch with Joan Blondell. Another level is how well the book is written, how it holds my attention. So in spite of thinking that Louise Brooks must have been the biggest witch (or something that rhymes with it) who ever appeared on screen, Barry Paris's supurb prose overrode the personality of the subject. It's also a nice surprise to go in with a negative opinion of a person (i.e. Otto Preminger or Louis B. Mayer) and discover they weren't so evil after all. (Thanks to Foster Hirsch & Scott Eyman respectively for setting me straight.) And finally, I want a biography to tell about the films the subject was in if an actor or made if a director, so that I just have to see the movies. (Thanks to TCM for its extensive library and to my dear husband for recording nearly everything they play.) -- But saints be praised if I'm lucky enough to find an audiobook biography that meets all of the criteria and has a good narrator. I only wish there were more of these out there. Any recommendations?

message 27: by Nancy (last edited Aug 26, 2008 08:29PM) (new)

Nancy Loe | 53 comments Mod
The Sperber and Lax bio is seminal, imo. Didn't Sperber drop dead unexpectedly and Lax took up the standard?

ETA: I'm obviously catching up on the thread, so that was in reference to an earlier post.

I wish I could help you w/ audiobooks, but (don't hate me) my commute takes about 10 minutes - 15 on a bad day.

As for Frances Marion, I was cataloging and transcribing an oral history collection a few years ago and was overjoyed to see a tape that said Frances Marion. Put it in the player with trembling hands and listened...and decided it sounded vaguely familiar and then realized she was just reading the opening chapter of her book.


message 28: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 7 comments Yes, the Bogart book was written by two collaborators who never met. Lax is better known for his several books about Woody Allen.

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