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The Life of Rosalind Russell
When it comes to living life to its fullest, Rosalind Russell's character Auntie Mame is still the silver screen's exemplar. And Mame, the role Russell (1907-1976) would always be remembered for, embodies the rich and rewarding life Bernard F. Dick reveals in the first biography of this Golden Age star, Forever Mame: The Life of Rosalind Russell. Drawing on personal interviews and information from the archives of Russell and her producer-husband Frederick Brisson, Dick begins with Russell's childhood in Waterbury, Connecticut, and chronicles her early attempts to achieve recognition after graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Frustrated by her inability to land a lead in a Broadway show, she headed for Hollywood in 1934 and two years later played her first starring role, the title character in Craig's Wife. Dick discusses all of her films along with her triumphal return to Broadway, first in the musical Wonderful Town and later in Auntie Mame. Forever Mame details Russell's social circle of such stars as Loretta Young, Cary Grant, and Frank Sinatra. It traces an extraordinary career, ending with Russell's courageous battle against the two diseases that eventually caused her death: rheumatoid arthritis and cancer. Russell devoted her last years to campaigning for arthritis research. So successful was she in her efforts to alert lawmakers to this crippling disease that a leading San Francisco research center is named after her. Bernard F. Dick is a professor of communication and English at Fairleigh Dickinson University and is the author of Hal Wallis: Producer to the Stars, Engulfed: The Death of Paramount Picturesand the Birth of Corporate Hollywood , and other books.
William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody was the entertainment industry’s first international celebrity, achieving worldwide stardom with his traveling Wild West show. For three decades he operated and appeared in various incarnations of “the western world’s greatest traveling attraction,” enthralling audiences around the globe. When the show reached Europe it was a sensation, igniting “Wild West fever” by offering what purported to be a genuine experience of the American frontier. By any standard Charles Eldridge Griffin (1859–1914), manager of the Wild West’s European tour, was a remarkable man. Known by the stage names of Monsieur F. Le Costro, Professor Griffin, and the Yankee Yogi, he was an author, comedian, conjurer, contortionist, dancer, fire-eater, hypnotist, illusionist, lecturer, magician, newspaper owner, publisher, sword swallower, and yogi. His account of life on the road with the Wild West show, published here for the first time since its release in 1908, opens a window on a vanished world. In addition to line drawings and photographs from the original book, Chris Dixon provides an introduction and annotations for historical context. Griffin’s story of traveling with Buffalo Bill in Europe from 1903 to 1906 presents a fascinating picture of a quintessentially American character. At the same time it offers a vision of the nation on the verge of nationalism, imperialism, and an emerging global mass culture.
The Catastrophe of Success
Moviegoers often assume Frank Capra's life resembled his beloved films (such as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It's a Wonderful Life. A man of the people faces tremendous odds and, by doing the right thing, triumphs! But as Joseph McBride reveals in this meticulously researched, definitive biography, the reality was far more complex, a true American tragedy. Using newly declassified U.S. government documents about Capra's response to being considered a possible "subversive" during the post-World War II Red Scare, McBride adds a final chapter to his unforgettable portrait of the man who gave us It Happened One Night Mr. Deeds Goes to Town , and Meet John Doe
The Nature of the Beast
The name of Fritz Lang—the visionary director of Metropolis, M, Fury, The Big Heat, and thirty other unforgettable films—is hallowed the world over. But what lurks behind his greatest legends and his genius as a filmmaker? Patrick McGilligan, placed among “the front rank of film biographers” by the Washington Post, spent four years in Europe and America interviewing Lang’s dying contemporaries, researching government and film archives, and investigating the intriguing life story of Fritz Lang. This critically acclaimed biography—lauded as one of the year’s best nonfiction books by Publishers Weekly—reconstructs the compelling, flawed human being behind the monster with the monocle.
A Double Life
One of the highest-paid studio contract directors of his time, George Cukor was nominated five times for an Academy Award as Best Director. In publicity and mystique he was dubbed the “women’s director” for guiding the most sensitive leading ladies to immortal performances, including Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman, Judy Garland, and—in ten films, among them The Philadelphia Story and Adam’s Rib—his lifelong friend and collaborator Katharine Hepburn. But behind the “women’s director” label lurked the open secret that set Cukor apart from a generally macho fraternity of directors: he was a homosexual, a rarity among the top echelon. Patrick McGilligan’s biography reveals how Cukor persevered within a system fraught with bigotry while becoming one of Hollywood’s consummate filmmakers.
George Stevens, a Life on Film
Marilyn Moss’s Giant examines the life of one of the most influential directors to work in Hollywood from the 1930s to the 1960s. George Stevens directed such popular and significant films as Shane, Giant, A Place in the Sun, and The Diary of Anne Frank. He was the first to pair Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy on film in Woman of the Year. Through the study of Stevens’s life and his production history, Moss also presents a glimpse of the workings of the classic Hollywood studio system in its glory days.
Moss documents Stevens’s role as a powerful director who often had to battle the heads of major studios to get his films made his way. She traces the four decades Stevens was a major Hollywood player and icon, from his earliest days at the Hal Roach Studios—where he learned to be a cameraman, writer, and director for Laurel and Hardy features—up to his later career when his films made millions at the box office and were graced by actors such as Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, Alan Ladd, and Montgomery Clift.
Ready for Her Close-Up
Gloria Swanson: Ready for Her Close-Up shows how a talented, self-confident actress negotiated a creative path through seven decades of celebrity. It also illuminates a little-known chapter in American media history: how the powerful women of early Hollywood transformed their remarkable careers after their stars dimmed. This book brings Swanson (1899-1983) back into the spotlight, revealing her as a complex, creative, entrepreneurial, and thoroughly modern woman.
Swanson cavorted in slapstick short films with Charlie Chaplin and Mack Sennett in the 1910s. The popularity of her films with Cecil B. DeMille helped create the star system. A glamour icon, Swanson became the most talked-about star in Hollywood, earning three Academy Award nominations, receiving 10,000 fan letters every week, and living up to a reputation as Queen of Hollywood. She bought mansions and penthouses, dressed in fur and feathers, and flitted through Paris, London, and New York engaging in passionate love affairs that made headlines and caused scandals.
Frustrated with the studio system, Swanson turned down a million-dollar-a-year contract. After a wild ride making unforgettable movies with some of Hollywood's most colorful characters--including her lover Joseph Kennedy and maverick director Erich von Stroheim--she was a million dollars in debt. Without hesitation she went looking for her next challenge, beginning her long second act.
Swanson became a talented businesswoman who patented inventions and won fashion awards for her clothing designs; a natural foods activist decades before it was fashionable; an exhibited sculptor; and a designer employed by the United Nations. All the while she continued to act in films, theater, and television at home and abroad. Though she had one of Hollywood's most famous exit lines--"All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up"--the real Gloria Swanson never looked back.