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Old Movie Star Biographies

Biographies, Memoirs and Autobiographies

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1chilover
Apr 25, 2008, 8:31pm Top

I love to read biographies of classic movie stars. I just recently finished one called Montgomery Clift: Beautiful Loser. This was just after I had watched A Place in the Sun with Clift and Elizabeth Taylor. I really don't think there was ever a more beautiful woman than Elizabeth Taylor in her youth. But Clift, what a tragic story, like so many others. Just yesterday, I watched La Vie en Rose, and Edith Piaf may take the prize of the most tragic life among artists. I think that today, how our classic stars would have been smeared across the media for their antics.

I have never been a big fan of Doris Day, although I like that she supported animals, but I see there is a new biography coming out about her.

I also read a biography about Bob Hope and found it very interesting. I never would have known that he is English by birth.

Any other favorite actors/ books that you would like to recommend? I can get the names of the books and authors of those I have read above if you are interested.

And, oh my goodness, how can I forget Mommie Dearest and the autobiography that Bette Davis's daughter wrote.

2motomama
Apr 26, 2008, 6:29pm Top

I like this biography of Clara Bow.

3dwsact
Apr 26, 2008, 10:54pm Top

I'm an avid reader of biographies -- mostly of historical figures but once in a while I enjoy a good movie star biography or autobiography. David Niven's memoir is a wonderful read. Unfortunately, a lot of it is balderdash as a later biographer discovered. This is Niv by Graham Lord which was written in cooperation with Niven's children. Esther Williams, Ginger Rogers, and Lauren Bacall all did a good jobs in revealing their very interesting lives.

Cary Grant by Marc Eliot is a good look at the unpleasant truths behind that star's very troubled life.

For some REALLY good laughs I highly recommend Gaborabilia: An Illustrated Celebration of the Fabulous, Legendary Gabor Sisters by Anthony Turtu.

4EmScape
Apr 27, 2008, 3:02pm Top

She's not a terribly 'old' movie star, but I've just purchased Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood. It came highly recommended and it's next on my TBR list.

5karenmarie
Apr 28, 2008, 6:37pm Top

6jeda.ma
Sep 3, 2008, 7:46pm Top

I love '20s and '30s movie stars, any bio to reccomend? I've heard Clara Bow's is great.....

7mstrust
Edited: Sep 8, 2008, 9:37pm Top

I've read a couple of bios on Clara Bow (years ago so I can't remember the names) and she had a very full life! I'd recommend her movies "Wings" and "The It Girl" as her bubbly personality has to be seen to be truly appreciated.
My favorite movie star bio is The Price of Success about Robert Shaw, who played in Jaws and The Sting. It was written by his former agent. Shaw is known for having been difficult to get along with, and that's clear in this book, but he was also funny, kind and depressed.
Tombstone isn't getting the right book.

8pmarshall
Edited: Sep 10, 2008, 6:31pm Top

When I was very young my parents took my 2 older brothers and me to see "Captain Blood" with Errol Flynn at the drive-in. The idea was I would go to sleep but I didn't instead I fell in love with Errol Flynn. I have since Errol Flynn: The Untold Story by Charles Higham.

Lillie Langtry by Noel Bertram Gerson is a favourite of mine.

Why does the touchstone title not always match what one puts in?

9b00kw0rm007
Sep 10, 2008, 8:53pm Top

I liked Joan Crawford, a Biography by Bob Thomas . Joan's movies have always been favorites of mine, and her tumultuous personal life was intriguing. Her life reminds me of some of the current Hollywood stars that turn up in the tabloids week after week - except she was lucky enough to be part of the old, glamorous Hollywood.

10TDOCK
Oct 12, 2008, 2:50pm Top

While it may not be "classic" Hollywood, Julia Phillips' You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again is great reading for anyone interested in 1970's films.

11Picola43
Mar 21, 2009, 10:11pm Top

For the best writing by an actor turned writer you can't miss Dirk Bogarde's series of autobiography, Snakes And Ladders, A Postillion Struck By Lightning, An Orderly Man and Backcloth. If you are hooked by these you might like to go on to his biography by John Coldstream and his letters Ever, Dirk. For Hollywood in the early days try Anita Loos or Memo From David E. Selznick. Jane Fonda has written My Life So Far which is in my TBR pile and Peter O'Toole has written two autobiogs one of which is called Loitering With Intent, well-regarded. I'm shattered by the news that David Niven's two volumes mightn't be quite truthful!! Extremely entertaining and amusing, anyway.

12romil4
Aug 5, 2009, 8:22pm Top

How old are you. I've known about Bob Hope being born in England for decades. Also Mommie Dearest was written by Joan Crawford's daughter. Bette Davis' daughter wrote "MY Mother's Keeper".

13varielle
Aug 5, 2009, 9:38pm Top

Marlene Dietrich by her daughter Maria Riva was particularly good. Though she certainly had a less than perfect mother, the daughter seems to have given her a fairer shake than she might have deserved.

14mstrust
Aug 20, 2009, 2:23pm Top

Marilyn and Me: Sisters, Rivals, Friends by actress Susan Strasberg was interesting as she writes about how Marilyn Monroe was sort of adopted into her family (acting teachers Lee and Paula Strasberg) and often pitted her needs against those of the Strasberg children.

15Vic33
Edited: Sep 8, 2009, 2:07pm Top

I know this is a ways off topic but I just finished reading John Dillinger: The Life and Death of American's First Celebrity Criminal (#@!$ touchstones). Back in the '30s Dillinger and other bank robbers were as famous as movie stars. Although most had very short careers!

16varielle
Sep 9, 2009, 3:59pm Top

The Johnny Depp movie that came out this summer about Dillinger, Public Enemies, was fun if not entirely factual.

17Vic33
Sep 11, 2009, 1:41pm Top

My son saw the movie and was telling me a little about it. I will probably catch the DVD. I kind of like JD, he seems a little crazy not unlike John Dillinger.

Hey, Johnny Depp -JD and John Dillinger -JD, curious.

18Caitlinefa
Dec 2, 2009, 12:38am Top

I really started getting into star biographies and autobiographies about a year ago. I especially like the autobiographies because it's fun to hear their side of the story, especially when it is drastically different from what everyone else says.

Wide-eyed in Babylon by Ray Milland is great because the book is a pleasant read, and he has a lot of great stories and there are quite a few convenient omissions.

I just started reading Dirk Bogarde's A Postillion Struck by Lightning and it's really well written.

In terms of Biographies, I love Barry Paris' Garbo and Paris' Louise Brooks is also great.

If you are interested in the dramatic lives of stars of the silver screen, the classic of classics is, of course, Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon. It's a really amazing collection of astounding stories about the film industry way back when. Without a doubt, your jaw will drop more than once in shock when reading about Hollywood way back when. The celebrity scandals of today got nothing on the scandals of yesteryear.

19labwriter
Feb 24, 2010, 6:11pm Top

I love this category. Definitely the Clara Bow "It Girl" biog.

I have a beautiful Garbo biog on my shelf that I'm dying to read.

If you like Clara Bow, you'll love Louise Brooks.

There was one I read last year that I really enjoyed, even though I'd never heard of the woman before: The Loveliest Woman in America, about Rosamond Pinchot. Her granddaughter wrote the book, and it's something of a genealogical mystery/family memoir.

Of course you have to read Tallulah The Life and Times of a Leading Lady.

She's not an actress, but if you like Hollywood gossip, then you'll probably enjoy The First Lady of Hollywood, about gossip columnist Louella Parsons. What a character she was!

I haven't read this last one yet, but it comes highly recommended: The Shocking Miss Pilgrim a Writer in Early Hollywood. Again, not an actress, but certainly part of the Hollywood scene. She wrote Hollywood screenplays. Early Hollywood.

Have fun!

20benohmart
Feb 24, 2010, 11:47pm Top

I run http://bearmanormedia.bizland.com/index.html and we've got 250+ books out, most of which are biographies. I'm always eager to hear from readers about what they're looking for, what they hate about publishing, and queries of new books on the great supporting players of film!

Ben

21rocketjk
Aug 12, 2010, 5:45pm Top

Sitting on my shelf, and sure to be read one of these days, is Gracie: a Love Story, George Burns' book about Gracie Allen.

22nohrt4me2
Aug 13, 2010, 5:05pm Top

@5: The Marx Brothers never fail to deliver on screen or paper. Just finished Harpo Speaks, which glosses over Chico's perfidy, Groucho's depression, and modestly downplay's Harpo's own canny intelligence.

Some very funny stories, though, about the Algonquin Round Table bunch, William Randolph Hearst, and other worthies. Best episode was about his tour of the USSR in the 1930s and carrying secret government documents in his sock. I understand one of Harpo's sons tried to interest H'wood in making a movie about it.

Plus a great picture of Harpo talking to President Harry Truman, both of whom seem to be enjoying the chat.

23maggie1944
Edited: Aug 14, 2010, 7:28pm Top

I remember reading Harpo Speaks and enjoying it, also. I found Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx
by Stefan Kanfer to also be interesting and at times, sad. Groucho was truly a grouch and I remember watching "You Bet Your Life" on TV when I was a kid and being totally irritated with how mean he was to his contestants. I guess now I realize he was "funny" the same way sarcasm can be funny, while also hurtful.

24LouisBranning
Aug 15, 2010, 4:59pm Top

I've read both Harpo Speaks and Kanfer's Groucho biography too, each wonderfully entertaining in its own way. Harpo and his wife were quite rabid book collectors too for many years, even designing their own 3-color bookplates embossed with comic caricatures of their faces. I was once offered a book from Harpo's library, a 1st edition of Erskine Caldwell's Tobacco Road, inscribed to both Harpo and his wife by Caldwell, but the asking price was $4500 so I had to pass on that one.

25enaid
Aug 17, 2010, 12:40am Top

I found Robert Mitchum Baby I Don't Care to be strangely compelling reading. He was quite guy with the ladies which wasn't a shock but I had no idea he was such a pothead! I was impressed, in spite of myself. I also did not realize he was the voice of "Beef. It's what's for dinner.".

I only read the biography because I'd just seen him in this really charming movie Heaven Knows Mr. Allison.

26mrsfiskeandco
May 30, 2012, 8:00pm Top

I just started a yahoo group called The Actress Bookshelf if anyone collect wants to join and talk about books about famous actresses of the past.

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