Who Still Needs a Biography?

Read any good books lately?

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egolden
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Who Still Needs a Biography?

Post by egolden »

I already have my next subject chosen (though I can't say anything till I have a publisher sewn up). I am known for writing about esoteric people no one else is nuts enough to tackle, as they never make any money. Which leaves me with university presses and the good old reliable "McFarland/Scarecrow/BearManor" trifecta of publishers who will publish anything, good or bad, marketable or not.

Who still needs a good bio, in your opinions? I wish someone would do good, intensively researched books on Barbara Stanwyck and Claudette Colbert. There has been a Stanwyck book in the works for years, but I don't know when or if it will ever come out.

There are books in the works currently on Pearl White, Virginia Rappe and Peg Entwistle, I am happy to say. Don't know, again, if or when they will actually be published (but I have read early drafts of some of the White and Entwistle books, and they are good).
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MissGoddess
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Post by MissGoddess »

Here are some that I would welcome a fresh look at, who either have had little biographical coverage or none at lately:

Michael Curtiz
Richard Boleslawski
Rouben Mamoulian
Jean Negulesco
George Sanders
Ronald Colman
Early (talkies) Screen Comediennes: Rosalind Russell, Carole Lombard, Una Merkel, Myrna Loy, Irene Dunne, Claudette Colbert, Jean Arthur
Robert Taylor
Joan Fontaine or Olivia de Havilland (come on Olivia, finish that book!)
Franchot Tone
Madge Evans
And Woody (W.S.) Van Dyke!
"There's only one thing that can kill the movies, and that's education."
-- Will Rogers
egolden
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Post by egolden »

There have been recent bios of Ros Russell, Jean Arthur, Carole Lombard . . . of course, you might not think they were good (or at least sufficient!) bios . . . You're right, a Ronald Colman book would be yummy.
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Post by charliechaplinfan »

Ann Harding
Mary Brian
Corinne Griffith
Mae Murray
Anita Page
Bessie Love
Ronald Colman

I'm bound to come up with more :wink:
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Post by raftfan »

I would LOVE to see bios of Henry Daniell and Laird Cregar. Fascinating actors and esoteric men.
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MissGoddess
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Post by MissGoddess »

egolden wrote:There have been recent bios of Ros Russell, Jean Arthur, Carole Lombard . . . of course, you might not think they were good (or at least sufficient!) bios . . . You're right, a Ronald Colman book would be yummy.
Hi Eve---I was thinking more on the lines of one book about all of those comediennes of the '30s and '40s. Perhaps that has been done, if so I'd enjoy reading it. I do have a book on Romantic (Screwball) Comedy but it's not focused soley on comic actresses.
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moira finnie
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Post by moira finnie »

Hi Ms. G.,
I tried to put on my thinking cap about your list and came up with what I know are out there. I'd like to see a biography of Gregory LaCava. I know that autobiographies may fudge the truth and details get away from people as we age, but there are a few good autobiographies that I've enjoyed (Negulesco & Kazan, in particular, though I don't take any of them as gospel). It would be good to see some critical bios of these guys. Here's what I know are around at least at the library and the used book stores, several of which I've read & many of which I liked and own:
Miss Goddess' list:
Michael Curtiz
Richard Boleslawski
Rouben Mamoulian
Jean Negulesco
George Sanders
Ronald Colman
Early (talkies) Screen Comediennes: Rosalind Russell, Carole Lombard, Una Merkel, Myrna Loy, Irene Dunne, Claudette Colbert, Jean Arthur
Robert Taylor
Joan Fontaine or Olivia de Havilland (come on Olivia, finish that book!)
Franchot Tone
Madge Evans
And Woody (W.S.) Van Dyke!
The Casablanca Man The Cinema of Michael Curtiz by James C. Robertson (London ; New York: Routledge, 1993)

It's doubtful that Richard Boleslawski will have a biography in the near future, though he is mentioned in several biographies touching on the Group Theater, particularly in Larry Swindell's bio of John Garfield, Elia Kazan's Autobiography. He's also mentioned (critically) in Margot Peters' The House of Barrymore

Things I Did...and Things I Thought I Did by Jean Negulesco (Linden Pres/Simon & Schuster, 1984)

Reinventing Reality: The Art and Life of Rouben Mamoulian by Mark Spergel, (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1993)

George Sanders: An Exhausted Life by Richard Vanderbeets (Madison, 1993)
A Dreadful Man: The Story of Hollywood's Most Original Cad, George Sanders by Brian Aherne (Berkley, 1981)

Ronald Colman, a very private person : a biography by Juliet Benita Colman
Ronald Colman, Gentleman of the Cinema: A Biography and Filmography by R. Dixon Smith

Claudette Colbert : an illustrated biography by Lawrence J. Quirk, (Crown, 1975)

Carole Lombard : the Hoosier Tornado / Wes D. Gehring
Indiana Historical Society Press, 2003.

Forever Mame: The Life of Rosalind Russell
Author: Bernard F. Dick,(2006)(this is being offered as a prize in a contest at TCM here)
Life is a Banquet by Rosalind Russell

Jean Arthur: The Actress Nobody Knew by John Oller (Limelight Editions; 1st Paperback Edition edition, August 1, 2004)

Myrna Loy: Being and Becoming by Myrna Loy & James Kotsilibas-Davis
Donald I. Fine, Inc. (October 31, 1988)

No Woody Van Dyke bio that I know of but a Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master by Michael Sragow (Pantheon, Dec, 2008) is forthcoming.

The person who runs the website at http://www.franchot-tone.com/ is supposed to be preparing a book for publication on Franchot Tone's life.

There is a forthcoming book on Glenn Ford by his son Peter Ford.
Joan Fontaine & Olivia de Havilland are both still very much alive. Both have written books previously, and Joan's Bed of Roses seemed to make things more tense in their family, so I wonder if Olivia might wait until she needn't worry any longer about the consequences of publishing her memoirs? Btw, there are some really awful books about the two of them out there.

And, of course, if all else fails, there's:
Conversations with the great moviemakers of Hollywood's golden age at the American Film Institute / edited and with an introduction by George Stevens, Jr. (Knopf, 2006)
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Post by MissGoddess »

Thank you for taking the trouble to make that list, Moira, I appreciate it and will be copying and saving it to my computer. I have read about half of the books on that list already and plan to read some others. I understand The Casablanca Man on Curtis is not very good and that's why I have avoided getting it. But, if it's the best to be hoped for perhaps I'll give it a try. I already have pre-ordered the Vic Fleming book, and should not have included it on my list, how silly. I can't WAIT for that one as he continues to soar in my esitmation (not to mention I find him to be the best looking, best dressed of all the directors).

Myrna's book is DISGRACEFULLY hard to find and expensive, which is a shame because it's one of my all time favorites. I don't really go to the library so I want to have a copy for myself without going to the poorhouse. I notice that Fred Astaire's autobiography, Steps in Times is in print again. Maybe they will do the same with others, including Memoirs of a Professional Cad which is also exhorbitantly expensive.

I'd be happy with one book that covered the directors of the early sound era, from the brilliant to the "traffic cops", if seperate tomes are too much to expect. Boleslawski, Del Ruth, Conway, Garnett, Milestone, Green, Fitzmaurice, Van Dyke, Borzage, Wood, Seiter, Ruggles, Reis and Leisen were all such familiar names on scads of studio pictures, it would be nice to know a little more about them.
"There's only one thing that can kill the movies, and that's education."
-- Will Rogers
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Post by myrnaloyisdope »

Myrna's book is indeed great.

An objective well-researched Veronica Lake book would be nice. Apparently Peekaboo is garbage, and her autobiography is long out of print.

I would love to know more about James Murray and his rise and fall.

Oh and I have no idea if anyone's done a book on Miriam Hopkins, I've heard vague innuendos that she was quite a wild woman and would be interested to know what's the truth.
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Post by moira finnie »

Hi Raftfan,
I too would love to see a bio of Henry Daniell and Laird Cregar (I can't remember where or when, but I thought I heard or read that there was a forthcoming book on Cregar's brief comet of a life).

Miss G.,
I've read Memoirs of a Professional Cad by George Sanders long ago, and recall it as lots of droll fun, laced with healthy exaggeration, and, I suspect, a sample of a man with a good mind, talent and looks--but not a lot of real self-respect. The Vanderbeets' book was written in an evenhanded manner and the cooperation of Sanders' clear-eyed sister. Aherne writes of Sanders with much affection, but doesn't blink when describing a wild streak for outlandish business ventures coupled with laziness and a short attention span in his fellow actor. If you can find it, there is a 1958 recording called "The George Sanders Touch: Songs for the Lovely Lady" that is worth hearing. Aherne writes with particular enthusiasm for Sanders' magnificent singing voice and insight into George's deep attachment to Benita Hume Colman, (it was not just to her money) who became his wife.
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Post by silentscreen »

A few really unique and lesser known male stars come to mind:

Ricardo Cortez
Nils Asther
Lars Hanson
Phillips Holmes
Norman Kerry
Richard Barthelmess

And female stars that haven't been mentioned:

Mae Marsh
Blanche Sweet
Dorothy Gish
Alice Terry
Evelyn Brent
Edna May Oliver
Helen Chandler
Olive Borden
"Humor is nothing less than a sense of the fitness of things." Carole Lombard
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Post by Ann Harding »

Miss G.:
I own a copy of The Memoirs of a Professional Cad. It's worth every penny I spent on it. The quality of the writting is unbelievably good! Sanders had a real talent. But do not expect to discover much about him through this book. He talks about life in Hollywood and movies, but, never goes into much details about himself. This is really more a witty account of an amused onlooker. I can't read one page without a giggle! :lol: Absolutely brilliant: in a par with Wilde!

As for the Aherne book, I am afraid, I really didn't like it. Aherne seems to have a an axe to grind about his own career and his achievements and makes nasty comments about other colleagues. There is a streak of bitterness and resentment in this book which annoyed me enormously.... :?

My local library had a copy Being and Becoming. This is certainly one of the best autobiography I have ever read. Excellently written, highly informative by a brilliant and intelligent woman. :)

As Borzage, there is already a definitive account of his film and career:
(AND NO HE WASN'T A TRAFFIC COP BUT ONE OF THE GREATEST DIRECTORS EVER!!!!)
Frank Borzage: The Life and Films of a Hollywood Romantic by Hervé Dumont (McFarland 2006)
To purchase ASAP here
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Post by moira finnie »

Hi Ann,
I've read that others have a similar reaction to both of Brian Aherne's books. I enjoyed them. Guess I just missed the enmity and saw the affection he seemed to have for the man and a nicely self-deprecating attitude toward his own career.

I'll have to see if I can find a library edition of George Sanders' own book to read from an adult viewpoint. While I do recall it reminded me quite a bit of George Bernard Shaw's dry wit when I was reading it as a kid, though I'm sure that much of it went over my head at that time.

The Frank Borzage bio has been on my wish list for some time. Btw, did you know that Google Reader sometimes allows you to read considerable portions of many books online? Not an ideal way to read them, I know, but the "limited preview" gives you a good opportunity to check out many books' styles before plunking down money for them. (Registration is required there for access).
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Post by MissGoddess »

moirafinnie wrote:Hi Raftfan,
I too would love to see a bio of Henry Daniell and Laird Cregar (I can't remember where or when, but I thought I heard or read that there was a forthcoming book on Cregar's brief comet of a life).

Miss G.,
I've read Memoirs of a Professional Cad by George Sanders long ago, and recall it as lots of droll fun, laced with healthy exaggeration, and, I suspect, a sample of a man with a good mind, talent and looks--but not a lot of real self-respect. The Vanderbeets' book was written in an evenhanded manner and the cooperation of Sanders' clear-eyed sister. Aherne writes of Sanders with much affection, but doesn't blink when describing a wild streak for outlandish business ventures coupled with laziness and a short attention span in his fellow actor. If you can find it, there is a 1958 recording called "The George Sanders Touch: Songs for the Lovely Lady" that is worth hearing. Aherne writes with particular enthusiasm for Sanders' magnificent singing voice and insight into George's deep attachment to Benita Hume Colman, (it was not just to her money) who became his wife.
I would LOVE to have a George Sanders album! He could croon me to sleep and I'll dream about starring in "Aged in Wood". :P

I enjoyed Aherne's book, he didn't flinch from exposing Sanders for the absolute swindler he could be and yet he knew how amusing everyone found him, so how could you stay mad?
"There's only one thing that can kill the movies, and that's education."
-- Will Rogers
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MissGoddess
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Post by MissGoddess »

I did look into the Goolge "reader" once but found it so confusing I haven't really utilized it. I prefer Amazon's "Look Inside" feature, though it's not available on all books.
"There's only one thing that can kill the movies, and that's education."
-- Will Rogers
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