Okay, DL biography queens. I've become obsessed with old Hollywood. I've now finished Get Happy and a book on the history of the MGM backlot, and now I can't get enough.
I'm thinking either Greta Garbo or Joan Crawford is next, but am open to suggestions. I am NOT interested in Mommy Dearest; I would like something fairly accurate and well documented, but with an engaging narrative.
Yes, I know. Mary! I'm looking for caftans as we speak...
Brand new book to try: Margaret Talbot's book on her father Lyle, an unsung player whose face you'd probably recognize. Read an excellent excerpt in the New Yorker and am looking forward to reading the whole thing.
Esther Williams' "Million Dollar Mermaid"
While not a starlet David Nivens' books are also very gossipy and informative about studio life and his co stars
also Judy Lewis' book "Uncommon Knowledge" about her mother Loretta Young and Clark Gable.
Ooohhh. Esther Williams. Good call, R3. That is right in line with my old school MGM obsession. The others sound good too, though.
Keep them coming!
LULU IN HOLLYWOOD - by Louise Brooks
And which is the best one on Greta Garbo?
I want to read one on Marilyn Monroe as well, but don't know where to begin! There are 7 billion biographies of her!
For Marilyn try Anthony Summers' "Goddess."
More suggestions, please!
PLAYING THE FIELD by Mamie Van Doren is pretty funny.
The best Garbo book is by Barry Paris.
How about Mark Vieira's A Cinematic Legacy, R10?
The Bette Davis bio 'Dark Victory' that came out a few years ago is quite good.
Bette & Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine is scrumptious.
Sal Mineo by Michael Michaud
Tab Hunter Confidential
Played Out: The Jean Seberg Story
Breathless Jean Seberg
"If this was Happiness" The biography of Rita Hayworth. Sad, sad life. Beautiful woman. Good Bio, I forget the author....
Hayworth author is Barbara Leaming.
I also recommend "Ava Gardner" by Lee Server. Ava was the baddest girl around and the most beautiful. She left everyone a wreck, but they did not seem to mind. She didn't give a fuck about much that was conventional and got away with it. It got worse, of course.
Garbo wouldn't fall under the classification of a starlet. She was a full-fledged icon. Heard she was cheap as hell.
The untalented wonderfulness of early 60s Joi Lansing.
Don't overlook the uncoordinated, unsynced, trio of girls in the pool, particularly the mentally retarded looking one. Can you pick her out?
There's a handful of those old 'Scopitones' from around '66 online. Joi made a few of them. One of 'em has her singing about "gowns, gowns, beautiful gowns........."
Eileen Heckart's son wrote a book about her. Really good.
Also Dietrich by her daughter.
Neither Betty Grable, Joan Crawford, nor Marilyn Monroe are starlets, unless you just want to read about their early careers before they hit it big. A starlet is a young, aspiring actress who has not yet achieved stardom. Someone like the aforementioned three, who had major success and even legendary status, does not qualify.
That book on the MGM backlot is wonderful. Makes you wish it still existed and you could explore it. Damn you, Kirk K!
Bette & Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine is scrumptious.
(but I still will go find it).
Janet Leigh's autobio is enjoyable. I think it's called THERE REALLY WAS A HOLLYWOOD.
Roz Russell's LIFE IS A BANQUET is a fun read.
Marvelous R18. I believe that is a young Judi Dench in that trio.
Thank you for schooling the OP R22. Crawford, Garbo, Monroe - starlets? Blasphemy!
It's been quite awhile, and I wouldn't call him a starlet, but I thought Patricia Bosworth's biography of Montgomery Clift was outstanding. Read the entire book in one sitting.
While the gossip is great (with some a bit subtle - after all Merv was still alive when it came out), it's a truly riveting portrait of a sadly tortured soul in pain.
"The Shocking Miss Pilgrim" by Frederica Sagor Maas. Check out the Wikipedia link to see if you think this portrait of early Hollywood is worthwhile. I think it definitely is - even if It's not trashy. Plus she wrote it when she was 99 - proving that living long enough to stick it to everyone you ever hated it the best revenge.
Although not biography, any books about Hollywood by Kevin Brownlow are also rewarding.
This is a bit of a stretch, but Brooke Hayward was at one time considered to be an up and coming star because of her pedigree and beauty.
She was the oldest daughter of movie/stage star Margaret Sullavan and super agent Leland Hayward.
The book is "Haywire" and Brooke reveals all the family secrets (Mother and sister were suicides about 9 months apart.) and discusses her attempt at becoming an actress.
THE STAR MACHINE by Jeanine Basinger is essential.
"Jeanine Basinger gives us an immensely entertaining look into the “star machine,” examining how, at the height of the studio system, from the 1930s to the 1950s, the studios worked to manufacture star actors and actresses. With revelatory insights and delightful asides, she shows us how the machine worked when it worked, how it failed when it didn’t, and how irrelevant it could sometimes be. She gives us the “human factor,” case studies focusing on big stars groomed into the system: the “awesomely beautiful” (and disillusioned) Tyrone Power; the seductive, disobedient Lana Turner; and a dazzling cast of others—Loretta Young, Errol Flynn, Irene Dunne, Deanna Durbin. She anatomizes their careers, showing how their fame happened, and what happened to them as a result. (Both Lana Turner and Errol Flynn, for instance, were involved in notorious court cases.) In her trenchantly observed conclusion, she explains what has become of the star machine and why the studios’ practice of “making” stars is no longer relevant. "
Not really what you requested but John Lithgow's bio was really interesting.
r3, is this the book where Esther said Cary Grant was a cross-dresser?
R26, I blame the media. I see it all the time on entertainment news programs and gossip rags, referring to established stars like Jennifer Lawrence as starlets. I think they think it refers to any young actress regardless of their fame status. But think about it, in astronomy a starlet is a term for a small star. Someone like Lawrence who already has an Oscar, three nominations, and several hits under her belt is not a small star.
Played Out: The Jean Seberg Story
In yesterday's Liz Smith column she was falling all over herself over Lee Grant's new autobiography "I Said Yes To Everything".
I have to admit it DOES sound like a good read.
[R31} Esther claims in her book that '50s hunk Jeff Chandler (not Cary Grant) was a cross-dresser. She says she found him trying on her bra and panties.
R29 I second the Star Machine. I intended to post that recommendation as well.
The Barry Paris bio of Garbo is superb--you really feel as if you knew her by the time you've finished.
William Mann's Katharine Hepburn bio is good, too.
If you want a lot of divas in one volume, Ethan Mordden's Movie Star, The Women Who Made Hollywood is fun. It goes from Mary Pickford to Miss Piggy.
There's also that great book about Marilyn Monroe, written by the boy who was her assistant during the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl. The Michelle Williams film was based on it. I don't recall the title now, but if you search on Amazon under Books with Monroe's name it should come right up. Very enttaining.
There aren't many good bios about "starlets," although there are quite a few about the "stars" of the golden age.
"Norma Shearer": Gavin Lambert gives the mostly forgotten superstar her due.
"Not the Girl Next Door": a sympathetic look at Joan Crawford by Charlotte Chandler
"Mother Goddam": Whitney Stine's straight-forward bio of Bette Davis, which includes hilarious commentary by Davis throughout.
"A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True 1907-1940" Victoria Wilson's exhaustive look at the great star's life and career. Volume 2 is coming out soon.
"Elizabeth Taylor: The Last Star": Kitty Kelley's somewhat trashy book, but it has a lot of juicy gossip.
R37, there were two -- THE PRINCE, THE SHOWGIRL, AND ME and MY WEEK WITH MARILYN. Both were fused together for the film MY WEEK WITH MARILYN.
Not a biography, but City of Nets is a fantastic book about old Hollywood:
I also loved the Marlene Dietrich book by her daughter, Maria Riva.
It has a little bit of the same feel as "Mommie Dearest" but it is a much fairer book (to Dietrich). Riva really seems to capture that her mother was a complex person.
Fascinating look at how things played out in early Hollywood, as well as Dietrich's life in the 60s and 70s.
"Valley of the Dolls" is the best book ever written about Hollywood starlets.
Louise Brooks by Barry Paris
Garbo by Barry Paris
Norma Shearer by Gavin Lambert
Platinum Girl: the life and legends of Jean Harlow by Eve Golden
Played Out: The Jean Seberg Story by David Richards
Rainbow: the story life of Judy Garland by Christopher Finch
Marlene Dietrich by Maria Riva
By Myself: Lauren Bacall
Will There Really Be a Morning? (about Frances Farmer)
"Will There Really Be a Morning? (about Frances Farmer)"
Actually, that book was a creation by Jean Ratcliffe, a close friend of Farmer's in her later years. Farmer had some meetings with a journalist who was to have helped her write her autobiography. They did some interviews, but the journalist had other committments, and the project was abandoned. After France's death, Ratcliffe fashioned what little material there was into an "autobiography." The book is poorly written and features a lot of made-up, lurid scenes (there's a lesbian rape scene that will make you vomit) but somewhere in all of the grotesqueness the voice of Frances Farmer can occasionaly be heard. Ratcliffe passed the book off as the work of Frances, but she was the one who wrote almost all of it. And she dedicated the book to herself!
"Oh my God. I'm back. I'm home. All the time, it was... We finally really did it ... You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!"
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