The golden age of Hollywood is an exciting and glamorous setting for any novel, but hearing about it from those who experienced can give us a peek into what it was like to be a star in the early ages of television and movies. As an avid reader (and listening) of both of fiction and nonfiction, I'd like to share with you some celebrity biographies (and some autobiographies) that I've read, and why I think you might like them as well.
1. Tippi - Tippi Hedron
I must admit, I listened to the audio version of this book, narrated by the author herself, so that might've given it more weight in my eyes than just reading. I knew positively nothing about TIppi before this, other than her role in The Birds, under the direction of Alfred Hitchcock. Yes, the book went into detail about his terrible, abusive behavior on the set of that movie. I wish I understood more why she agreed to do another (Marnie) after the treatment she endured.
But that's only half of what this book is about! As she moved away from acting, Tippi grew to love animals, specifically big cats. She became so devoted that she raised some as pets, and championed their cause and care. I was so in awe and intrigued by her lifestyle raising lions, cheetahs, and tigers. Definitely give this book a read (or a listen!) to learn more about her incredible life.
2. Ball of FIre - Stefan Kanfer
Anytime a biography is written by someone other than the person or someone close to them, especially in this case as an unauthorized biography, you should read it with a hearty amount of salt and suspicion. Not that there was anything wrong with this book at all. It's the only biography I've read (so far) on Lucille Ball, and it does paint her as quite the firebrand, which I'm sure she was. It shows her as a very no-nonsense type of worker, with all the fiery passion her red hair implies. I enjoyed it very much, but again, can't give it too much credo just based on the nature of the book.
3. Hold the Roses - Rose Marie
What a charming lady Rose Marie is as Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show. And I'm sure she was just as warm and charming to speak to in person! Unfortunately, as a writer, well, she fairly stinks.
I loved the snippets she shared of her life growing up as a child star. Who would've imagined she was impersonating Jimmy Durante at age 4? The romance between her and her husband was truly beautiful, and she really showed her devotion to him in this book. However, much of the book was lacking in detail that would've brought everything together. Dates were left out, and when she remembered something that should've been said earlier, she literally just wrote "oh, I should've said this earlier...". A good editor would've brought all of these things together for the reader, but unfortunately, this book missed the mark.
4. Why Me?: The Sammy Davis, Jr. Story
What a book! I loved it! Sammy Davis Jr had a rough life. How rough? He was a one-eyed, short, black, Jewish man who grew up entertaining on the road, and struggled throughout his life to find his own worth. Each chapter just hits the readers with another reason to feel for the author. And although he often gets in his own way, Davis is ultimately thankful for the things he's been blessed with. It's interesting, honest, and fairly well-written. This book has lots of excitement, heart, and will have you googling for more information at every page!
5: Gracie: A Love Story - George Burns
In addition to being an extremely popular entertainer, George Burns was a prolific author, writing his first book around 1955. Interestingly, it also centered around his romance with wife Gracie Allen, so I'd be interested to read it too as a comparison.
But back to Gracie. Having never read any of George Burns's other books, but only seeing the tv show, this was a terrific glimpse into a beautiful marriage of one of the original "power couples" of Hollywood. The paragraphs and jokes roll off just like George would say them on his tv show, leaving room for laughs while he took puffs from his cigar (Literally, he writes that he's pausing to puff his cigar while you, the reader, chuckle). Inspiring and romantic, this is a must-read title if you love old Hollywood.
I hope this list gives you some inspiration for reading some interesting biographies to learn more about the movie stars you love to watch. Sometimes we find they are nothing like we though they were, but that's not always a bad thing. Let me know if you have read anything similar that you recommend!