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Underfoot in Show Business by Helene Hanff
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Underfoot in Show Business (1961)

by Helene Hanff

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Helene Hanff is best known for her much loved memoir [84 Charing Cross Road]. This book, also a memoir, was published almost a decade previously. This is about Hanff's life in the forties and early fifties when she is trying to become a playwright and writer in New York City.

The first half of the book is about the early years when just surviving is being successful. The last half of the book is about the period when she has begun to become established and I found it the most interesting. I particularly enjoyed reading about her experience as an outside writer, a person who is the first reader of a manuscript for a publisher. One of those she read was [The Lord of the Rings]! ( )
  clue | Jun 5, 2018 |
Loved it even more than 84 Charing Cross Road. What a delight! ( )
  armbrusm | May 6, 2013 |
Underfoot in show business is Hanff's account of her failed start as a play writer who moonlights as a script reader for movie studios and then discovers her talent as a TV writer. Unfortunately, the industry moves from NY to LA which robs Hanff of her success (as she is unwilling to leave New York).

As always, following her ups and downs is hilarious and bittersweet. In no way is reading her "mental torture", which she claims to have experienced in speed-reading and summarizing Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, charging 40 dollars extra to the studio (duly paid). Still her later works are a bit better, ( )
  jcbrunner | Jul 31, 2010 |
Gorgeous little book tells of the author's attempts to make it as a playwright in NY in the 1940's and 1950's. Funny and poignant. Worth reading and re-reading for many reasons, not the least the chapter describing the first opening of Oklahoma!. Pre-dates her more well known "84 Charing Cross Road". ( )
  Figgles | Jul 11, 2010 |
Not as funny as some reviewers say, but since they say it is the funniest book they've ever read, it is still fairly amusing, though with a bitter edge, as the author notably failed to become a Broadway playwright and barely survived on the fringes of show business. The funniest part, for me, is her description of serving as "outside reader" for Tolkien's LOTR, which she absolutely hated.
As I love it, and it became wildly successful, I find her comments very amusing. ( )
  antiquary | Nov 24, 2009 |
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This book is for Maxine.
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We'll begin with the law that governs the life of everyone of the 999 from the day he or she first arrives in New York, which was first explained to me by a stage manager named Bill Flanagan. Flanagan's law of the theater is:
"No matter what happens to you, it's unexpected.
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In her spirited, witty and vastly entertaining memoir, Helene Hanff recalls her ingenuous attempts to crash Broadway in the early forties as one of "the other 999." Naive, nearsighted, frequently penniless but hopelessly stage-struck, she found her life governed by Flanagan's Law: "No matter what happens to you, it's unexpected." Therefore, as a prize-winning Theatre Guild protégée with a brilliant future, Helene naturally found that all the producers who were going to produce her plays didn't, and all the agents who were going to sell her plays couldn't. Together with her best friend Maxine, an aspiring actress consigned to playing the comedy-ingénue in plays that regularly folded after five performances, she cultivated the "delicate, illegal art of getting everything for nothing"-from free seats to every Broadway show and neighborhood movie and borrowed outfits from Saks to voice lessons for Maxine and Greek lessons for Helene. To keep body and soul together until Broadway fame arrived, they devised an economic survival system that embraced such unlikely jobs as taking street-corner.… (more)

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