Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Library That Hollywood Built Part 2

Some of you that have been around for a while will remember my post The Library That Hollywood Built back in December of 2009. In that post I explained my love of biographies/autobiographies of "Golden Era" stars and celebrities. For most, there's a particular mystery about them since back then we didn't have the internet, TMZ or Inside Edition to tell us up to the minute scandal "news".

But I won't go into all again, let's just talk about the second half of the books I've read so far. Admittedly, it's been a while since I've read these so pardon my virtual "ums" and "uhs" as I try to get my brain to remember everything. :P

Books Completed As Of 05/06/2010

'Tis Herself: An Autobiography by Maureen O'Hara

I think I most remember Maureen O'Hara from Disney's "The Parent Trap" and the first time I saw it as a kid I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. That glorious red hair and Amazon physique made me wish I was 10 feet taller so I could look like her. She worked hard in Hollywood and didn't take crap from anyone, including Walt Disney.

Promised top billing for The Parent Trap and instead bumped for the new to the scene Hayley Mills, O'Hara fought Disney to make him fulfill their original agreement. The story goes that as Disney lay sick in the hospital, he called Maureen O'Hara "That Bitch".

The most interesting part of this book is learning more about her (platonic) relationship with John Ford, a director on a number of her films. Most interestingly, the relationship with Ford seemed more bizarre and abusive than the one with her alcoholic 2nd husband. This is a great book to read for inside information on Hollywood and how one survives it. I found her writing style and kick butt attitude enjoyable to read although parts of this book were truly heartbreaking.

The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography by Sidney Poitier

If you're looking for Poitier's story of his Hollywood experience, this is not the book to get. I should say that I love Sidney Poitier. "To Sir, With Love" is a favorite of mine and I think his acting ability is off the charts. Although this book does discuss some of his experiences in Hollywood, it's mainly what the title says it is: A Spiritual Autobiography. He talks about work ethic, determination, extreme poverty during his childhood (among other things) and quite frankly while reading it, I felt like a lazy slug that's never worked for anything a day in her life. LOL That being said, this is an excellent book. But I would not consider it "light reading". :D

Sunshine and Shadow by Mary Pickford

I have to admit that before reading this book, I knew zero about Mary Pickford. I knew her name, the era in which she worked and that was about it. Her autobiography was an absolute delight to read. This was my first experience reading about life in the movies when they were still silent and I was absolutely enchanted the entire time. Her story of getting into the movies, supporting her family in desperate times, her eventual marriage to Douglas Fairbanks, their life as a Hollywood power couple and her dealings with Chaplin is a fascinating one.

Ava: My Story by Ava Gardner

Two words come to mind when I think about Ava Gardner's autobiography. The first one is "potty" and the second one is "mouth". Holy smokes, this woman loved to cuss and does it a lot in this book. A fellow North Carolina gal, she moved up from poverty to become one of the most beautiful and sought after women in Hollywood. (Just like me! Okay, maybe not.) She discusses in great detail of how she was NOT romantically involved with Howard Hughes, despite all of the stories and opinions to the contrary. Overall I felt for her what I felt for Vivien Leigh: extreme sadness.

Jane Russell: My Path & Detours: An Autobiography by Jane Russell

Going from Ava "F Word" Gardner to Jane Russell's autobiography was like night and day. You would think that Jane Russell would be just as hard nails as Gardner was and in some ways she was but from this book I discovered something I never knew about Russell: she was deeply religious. Most of her autobiography is about her relationship with God although what I found most interesting were her dealings with Marilyn Monroe.

Most of what you hear about Monroe was that she was always late, never knew her lines, etc and so forth. According to Jane Russell who worked with her on "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes", Monroe was only late to the set one time. When Russell went to investigate, she discovered that Monroe had actually arrived on the set early but was in her trailer, too nervous to come out. So Jane Russell solved the issue by going by Marilyn Monroe's trailer every morning and saying, "Come on, let's go!" and Monroe was never late again.

And with that, we're all caught up! :D I had started Desi Arnaz's autobiography but have gotten sidetracked by "The Times We Had: Life With William Randolph Hearst" by Marion Davies which I'll tell you right now, if you're into the 20s/30s, you've got to read this book.

Thanks for taking a peek into my Golden Era Library! :D What are you reading?


  1. I must admit I'm getting into these sorts of bios myself. I devoured a Clark Gable-Carole Lombard bio recently and was in tears by the end (and pleasantly shocked by just how raunchy Carole Lombard's sense of humour was...not to mention how much like a sailor her everyday speech apparently was). I also recently browsed a Bette Davis book, which was quite good, but not as riveting as the Gable-Lombard story. Must get more of these types of books to read this summer. Thanks for these suggestions.

    PS: In the book I read, the same story about Marilyn Monroe being constantly late was reiterated. Apparently, it drove Gable mental. Hmmm...interesting to hear another perspective

  2. These sound sooooooooooooooo awesome!!! :):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):)

  3. I only like books that are happy and autobiographies tend to not be... But these do sound fascinating!

    I'm rereading one of my favorite books: "Goneaway Lake." I love children's lit!

  4. Thanks so much for this. I've been looking for these sorts of books to read, and these are super recommendations. I finished David Stenn's biography of Clara Bow a few months ago, which is a great read if you want more on silent-era Hollywood. I have also wanted to read Sidney Poitier's and Desi Arnaz's books for quite some time.


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