Sadly, it’s an often disrespected subgenre of literature. For decades now, almost every kind of star (movie, TV, music) has eventually taken on the task of writing down his or her life story and then releasing it to the public like some sort of map to their soul or at least a blueprint to their career. (Joan Fontaine once likened her life story as told in her book, “No Bed of Roses,” to a carpet, unfurled for everyone to tread over.)
Sometimes stars do it at an alarmingly young age (Miley Cyrus). Sometimes they do it several times over. Tony Curtis released a duo of memoirs, Debbie Reynolds has just published her second; and Eartha Kitt wrote and published three during her lifetime.
Contrary to what many of my friends think, no, I haven’t read them all….though I have read many, many, many.
Some of these books are informative, some are juicy, some are pointless and some are so dripping in ego (Kathleen Turner) they are difficult to even finish. But some, truly stand out. They excel not only as good “reads” but because of what they achieve within and for the genre itself. So below—quite unscientificly and in no particular order—are my votes for the very best AND the most noteworthy star memoirs ever published.
You are free to disagree….
“Lauren Bacall—By Myself” by Lauren Bacall (1978)
Bogie’s number one “baby” and the star of such TV efforts as “Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke” became a number one author with the publication of this memoir in 1978. Along with its best-selling success, the book also reaped in rave reviews and eventually scored that year’s National Book Award in the category of outstanding biography/autobiography. So, with that win, suddenly, thanks to Ms. Bacall, the autobiographies of the stars were not just for the checkout lane in the grocery store anymore and not just for reading on the beach. Instead, they could be quality works, true history, bona fide tomes with true literary aspirations. Bacall’s success paved the way for other show biz luminaries to—for better or worse—tell their stories in print.
“Shelley, Also Known as Shirley” by Shelly Winters (1980)
Two-time Oscar winner Shelley Winters always had a lot to say. She proved it again with this 1980 release, the first installment of her two books of recollections. Though there was much in the tome about Winter’s Actor’s Studio training, her friendship with Marilyn Monroe and her roles in classic films like “A Place in the Son” and “A Patch of Blue,” what most people remember about “Shelley, Also Known as Shirley” is the variety of love interests and bed mates that Winters admitted to off camera. Dishy and revealing, Winters’s candor seemed to up the ante for what Hollywood performers were willing to reveal…and what people were desiring to read about. Even after becoming a best-selling author and a go-to talk show guest, Winters kept on acting; on TV she played “Roseanne’s” grandmother in several appearances on that hit sitcom.
“Life Wish”/”Life Lines” by Jill Ireland (1987; 1989)
Along with being known as Mrs. Charles Bronson, the late Jill Ireland was also known for her roles on TV’s “Shane” and in guest spots on shows like “Star Trek” and “The Man From UNCLE.” Near the end of her life, she proudly also became known as a breast cancer survivor. Her first book (“Life Wish,” 1987) recounts her battle with the disease and introduces us to the expansive, blended Bronson-Ireland family that really did consist of “his, hers and theirs.” “Life Lines,” her 1989 sequel, is largely about her son Jason and his long, ultimately unsuccessful, battle against drug addiction.
Ireland was a wonderful and graceful writer and her two works, when read back to back, become more than a pair of “star autos.” Instead, they become an honest and powerful family saga. And it’s a very loving, interesting family indeed, solidly anchored by a strong, insightful, and relatable matriarch.
“Changing” by Liv Ullmann (1977)
At first, Liv Ullmann’s book seems a little indulgent as she recounts the stresses of her life as famous actress, mother, and muse to a variety of filmmakers, specifically Ingmar Bergman. But, then, somewhere along the way, Ullmann’s book becomes transcendent. Her recounting and recording of her daily life--in spare, eloquent language—slowly reveals her own humanity….and ours. The daily heartbreaks and victories that she experiences, though happening to a “movie star,” ultimately speak to us too, uniting us all in a deep commonality. It’s a process that sneaks up on you and eventually becomes as touching and moving as one of her great films or performances.
Ullmann published a second volume of memoirs, “Choices,” in 1984.
I might be a bit prejudiced here in my picking of Anne Francis’s relatively obscure 1982 work. Anne was a friend of mine and I cherish my autographed copy of “Voices from Home.” But I loved the book long before I met the lady who wrote it. Actually, “memoir” is too limiting a word for this graceful and eloquent collection of memories and metaphysical essays. While Francis recounts her career (her MGM days, “Honey West,” etc.) and her personal life, she also—as the title suggests—goes within exploring issues of religion and self. Written in a clear manner, free of pretension, the only flaw with this book (if it is a flaw) is that the author never composed a sequel.
“Mommie Dearest” by Christina Crawford (1978)
As a young adult, Christina Crawford worked as an actress in daytime soaps like “Secret Storm” and in guest roles on shows like “The Sixth Sense” and “Marcus Welby.” But it is in her “role” as Joan Crawford’s daughter and memoirist that she will forever be best known. Crawford’s explosive 1978 book did several things beside become a best-seller and inspiration to an infamous movie of the same name. First, it forever changed our concept of one of Hollywood’s most famous and enduring stars. Today Joan Crawford, actress, and Joan Crawford, alleged child abuser, are irrefutably intertwined. Secondly, it changed for many people their assumptions about child abuse. Suddenly, beatings and emotional battering was not just the stuff of poverty-stricken families in gloomy inner cities. Child abuse (if you believe Crawford’s account) could happen anywhere, even in the luxe white, movie star mansions of Beverly Hills, California.
A tip of the hat as well to the following books:
“The Moon is a Balloon” by David Niven; “Lulu in Hollywood” by Louise Brooks; “Swanson on Swanson” by Gloria Swanson; “Baby Doll” by Carroll Baker; “Knock Wood” by Candice Bergen; “Intermission” by Anne Baxter.
Local Kid Shows / Movie Stars on TV / Saturday Morning Shows / Video Vault / TV Goodbyes / Fabulous Fifties / Unseen Scenes / Game Shows / Requested Forgotten TV Shows / The Super Sixties / More Modern TV Shows / The New * * Shows / 1980's Wrestling / TV Blog
|TV's Embarrassing Moments / Action Shows of the Sixties / TVparty Mysteries and Scandals / Variety Shows of the 1970s / The Eighties / The Laugh Track / 1970's Hit Shows / Response to TVparty / Search the Site / Add Your Comments|
Hit Shows of the Seventies: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy / Gene Roddenberry in the 1970s / 1977-1978 Superhero & Science Fiction TV Shows / Funniest SNL Skit Ever! / Prisoner: Cell Block H / Why John Amos Left Good Times / Reviving Match Game / How Betty White's 'Happy Hommaker' Came About / Creating The Rockford Files / TV Dads Talk Sex & Fatherhood / Angie Dickinson Blows Off This Is Your Life / Rare Audio of Bette Davis' Broadway Bound Flop 'Miss Moffat' / Orson Welles' Last Interview / Remembering Ed Asner / Bruce Vilanch on Writing for Donny & Marie / Writing For Fernwood 2 Night / Kris Kristofferson vs Barbra Streisand on A Star Is Born? Kinda... / Remembering Gavin MacLeod / Cher Reviews Her Iconic Outfits Since 1965 / Best Columbo Episodes / Star Maidens Sci-Fi Series / Interview with Cindy Williams (Lavern & Shirley) / One of the Most Controversial Episodes of All In The Family / Outside Chance / The Night Johnny Carson Broke Down / Norman Mailer & Muhammad Ali / Charles Nelson Reilly Flops on Broadway / Chuck Norris vs Eva Gabor / Dear Detective / Dirty Sally / The Protectors / Chevy Chase Talks Hollywood Cocaine Parties / 1977 Season Show Openings / Love Boat's Oscar Winning Guest Stars / Henry Fonda's 4 Favorite Films / Tom Snyder Interviews Star Trek Cast & Harlan Ellison / The Corner Bar / Tim Conway's 'The Dentist' Sketch / Henry Winkler on His Happy Days Audition / Patrick Duffy of Dallas Interview/ Mary Kay Place Albums of the 1970s / The Supremes - Mary Wilson vs Diana Ross / When Bruce Dern Killed John Wayne / 1974 Tom Snyder Our Gang Special / Bruce / Caitllyn Jenner? / Billy Crash Craddock Interview / Melissa McCarthy Almost Quit Acting Days Before Landing Gilmore Girls / Bar Rescue's Wildest Customers! / TV HITS - By the Numbers / Alex Baldwin On His TV and Film Roles / Ray Charles' BIG Problem With TV / Top Ten Sitcoms of the 1970s / James Cameron Made No Money for Titanic / Ed McMahon Drunk on the Air! / Lucy Interviewed by Barbara Walters / Valerie Harper Cancer / Jeff Bridges Breaks Down His Iconic Roles / Dallas vs Eight is Enough / 1974 MAD Magazine TV Special - Never Aired! / Iconic M*A*S*H Restaurant Coming To Kroger? / When Lucy Got Fired / Partridge Family and Brady Bunch at Kings Island theme park 1972-73 / Awkward Talk Show Moments / Allan Blye Interview / Jack Benny's Last Tonight Show 1974 / Patricia Heaton's Audition for Everybody Loves Raymond / Ed Asner Interview / Norm Macdonald vs OJ Simpson / Tony Kornheiser Interview / Freddy's Nightmares TV Series / Emmy Award Multiple Winners / Nathaniel Taylor aka Rollo Lawson / Mary Kay Place Albums of the 1970s / That Girl & TV's Single Working Women / Can You Identify These Stars? / Betty White vs Joan Rivers / Paul Lynde's Greatest Hollywood Squares Zingers / Sonny Comedy Revue / Star Trek Animated / Dark Shadows / Hal Linden Interview / Dark Shadows Movies / Dark Shadows Novels / The Night Stalker / One of the Funniest Carol Burnett Show Skits Ever / Fred 'The Hammer' Williamson / Johnny Carson interviews Lucille Ball / Dawn Wells / Betty White : An Appreciation / Bette Davis' 2 Best Interviews 1971 / Barbara Eden Interview / Gavin McLeod / Spider-Man 77 / The Next Step Beyond / The Music Dark Shadows / 1970 TV Shows / Mike Connors Remembered / Mike Wallace, Virginia Graham & Jim Longworth / Dick Clark / Woody Allen Hosts Tonight Show 1971 / Carson Tonight Show / Alan Alda Interview / Jackie Gleason Show / 1973 TV Shows / Thriller / Post Modern Sitcoms / Elvis in Greensboro / Remembering Dick Van Patten / TV Dating Shows / The Jacksons TV Show / Fall Previews of the 70s / Lance Link, Secret Chimp / Star Wars Holiday Special / Alias Smith and Jones / 1977 Year in Review / Top Ten 1970-76 / The Rockford Files / All in the Family / Sam Hall (Dark Shadows) Interview / Actor Ed Nelson / Death of Archie / Battlestar Galactica / Wonder Woman / Network Jingles / Class of '74 / Happy Days / Good Times / Mr. Bill / Dinah! / Maude / Doris Day Show / Pamelyn Ferdin Interview / The Bicentennial Minute / Jingles & Catch Phrases of the 1970s / Early Cable TV 1970s / TV commercials for Women / TV Moms / Red Skelton / George Lindsay / Country Music TV Shows of the 1960s & 1970s / Betty White Show / Shirley Jones Interview /Shirley Jones Interview / Rodney Dangerfield / How Sanford & Son Ended / Sanford & Son Spin-Off Grady / Great Memoirs / Virginia Graham Show / The "N" Word on TV / 10 Classic Comedy Routines You Have To Laugh At Before You Die / Hollywood Squares / 1970's Teen Idols & The Hudson Brothers / TV Stars with 3 Hit Shows / The Rookies / Unsold Pilots / Jackie Cooper / The Good Guys / Match Game / Make Room For Granddaddy / Mannix & Gail Fisher / Bette Midler in the 1970s / Bonus 1970's Stuff: Silent Star Marion Mack / Biff Burger / 1970s Fast Food Chains / Latin Casino / Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire / 1970's Daytime Talk Shows / The Fess Parker Show / Brady Bunch Sex Dungeon? / Love, Loss & What I Watched
|Classic TV Commercials / 1950's TV / 1960's TV / 1970's TV / Groucho vs William F Buckley / / TV Games / Honey Boo Boo / Lucy Shows / Classic Cars / John Wayne / Gene Roddenberry / Rockford Files / Sea Hunt / 1970s Commercial Jingles / Superman on DVD / Toy Gun Ads / Flip Wilson Show / Big Blue Marble / Monty Hall / Carrascolendas / Mr. Dressup / Major Mudd / Chief Halftown / What's In Oprah's Purse? / Baby Daphne / Sheriff John / Winchell & Mahoney / Fireball X-L5 / Mr. Wizard / Captain Noah / Thanksgiving Day Specials / Disney's First Christmas Special / Saturday Morning Cartoons / The Magic Garden / Amahl & the Night Visitors / Holiday Toy Commercials / Lucy & Desi's Last Christmas Show / Joey Heatherton / Fat Albert / The Virginian / Bewitched / Death of John Wayne / 1974 Saturday Mornings / Chuck McCann / Rudolph Collectables / Shrimpenstein / Local Popeye Shows / New Treasure Hunt / 1966 ABC TV Shows / 1967 TV Shows / 1968 TV Shows / Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes & Baby Doll / Fridays / TV Moms / Red Skelton / Star Wars / KISS / Lancelot Link / Saturday Morning Cartoons / The Magic Garden / Wonder Woman / Classic Comic Books / Andy Griffith / Cher / TV Shows on DVD / Outtakes & Bloopers / 1967 TV Shows / Romper Room / ABC Movie of the Week / The Goldbergs / Daws Butler Commercials / Saturday Morning Commercials / Captain Kangaroo / Chicago Local Kiddie Shows / Boston Local TV / Philly Local TV / NYC Local Kid Shows / Amos 'n' Andy / Electric Company / Bette Davis / Judy Garland / Christmas Specials / Redd Foxx / Good Times / Sitcom Houses / What's Happening! / Winky Dink & You / Sonny & Cher / Smothers Brothers / Commercial Icons of the 1960s / Soupy Sales / TV Terrorists / Irwin Allen / The Untouchables / Carol Burnett Show / Batman TV Show / Green Hornet / Today Show History / Our Gang / Doris Day Show / 1970's Commercials For Women / Bill Cosby in the 1970s / The Golddiggers / Lola Falana / 1970s TV Shows / David Bowie on TV / Hudson Brothers / Jackie Gleason / Hollywood Squares / Match Game / Bob Keeshan / Gumby / The Flip Wilson Show / Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour / The Bobby Darin Show / The Richard Pryor Show / George Burns / Celebrity Commercials / Rudolph / Movie Posters & More!|
for is right here: