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BOOK LIST:

Hollywood Biographies & Memoirs

Updated: December 17, 2020

Candid, colorful, and occasionally shocking portraits of Hollywood's brightest and most fascinating stars, both in front of the cameras and behind the scenes.


Ann Dvorak : Hollywood's forgotten rebel
Rice, Christina, 1974-
Call Number: 812.092 D988Ri

A brilliantly researched and beautifully written biography of the talented actress who fought the studio system and paid the price of stardom deferred. This book transcends most film biographies because of the exhaustive study of Ms. Dvorak’s personal and public life that unfolds in Christina Rice’s polished prose full of real affection for the subject. A must read for those interested in the star system and the life of one of Hollywood’s leading ladies who paid the price for being truly independent.


Ava Gardner : the secret conversations
Evans, Peter, 1933 December 10-
Call Number: 812.092 G226Ev

Recorded back in 1988 two years before her death, these candid conversations are a treasure trove of anecdotes from Hollywood’s earthiest goddess. She talks about her poor Southern upbringing, the photograph taken of her as a teenager that caught a talent scout’s eye, the strokes that partially froze her gorgeous face, and her marriages to Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra (who was “good in the feathers”), as well as her relationship with billionaire Howard Hughes “before he was a nut.”


The Bennetts : an acting family
Kellow, Brian.
Call Number: 812.09 K29
This page-turning chronicle of renowned stage actor Richard Bennett and his daughters Constance and Joan is a must read for any film fan. Between Richard's on and off stage theatrics, Constance blowing through her son's trust fund, and Joan's husband shooting her agent, this bio is hard to put down.

Bombshell : the life and death of Jean Harlow
Stenn, David.
Call Number: 812.092 H286St
This thoughtful and painstakingly researched biography of Hollywood's original platinum blonde dispels unfavorable rumors and presents a woman far removed from her sex-symbol image.

Bring on the empty horses
Niven, David, 1910-1983.
Call Number: 822.092 N734-1

Delightful recounting of Niven's early Hollywood years. Hilarious anecdotes about movie stars and moguls from Gable to Goldwyn. A must-read for any film buff.

David Niven—Best Actor, 1958 for Separate Tables

 

 


Coral Browne : 'this effing lady' : a biography
Collis, Rose.
Call Number: 822.092 B882Co
Coral Browne was an actress of stage, screen and television, and also a liberated, witty and elegant woman. She was audaciously outspoken and seductive with a long list of famous lovers plus a loyal following of gay men who admired her lack of caution when speaking her mind.

The death of James Dean
Beath, Warren Newton, 1951-
Call Number: 812.092 D281Be
What starts off as an in-depth analysis of James Dean's demise, turns into a fascinating character study of the author's morbid obsession with the actor's death, which alienates him from other Dean fanatics and takes a toll on his marriage.

Drama : an actor's education
Lithgow, John, 1945-
Call Number: 812.092 L776
An actor's actor reflects on his upbringing in regional theater and his subsequent success on stage and screen. An obsessive affair with Liv Ulman during and after a revival of Anna Christie is one of this volume's most compelling chapters. Questions of craft and career path are explored with a combination of critical insight and visceral spontaniety that make this invaluable to those curious about the actors life as well as those who can apply these lessons to their careers.

Edith Head's Hollywood
Head, Edith.
Call Number: 746.58 H432
Head's memoirs are supplemented by co-author Paddy Calistro in this light and entertaining read about her 50-plus year career as one of Hollywood's most recognizable costume designers.

Fay Wray and Robert Riskin : a Hollywood memoir
Riskin, Victoria,
Call Number: 812.09 R595

A meticulous and heartfelt biography of actress Fay Wray and screenwriter Robrt Riskin, written by their daughter, Victoria Riskin.


Furious love : Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the marriage of the century
Kashner, Sam.
Call Number: 812.092 T2393Ka

They broke all the rules when there were rules to be broken, and at a time when it was truly outrageous to be bad. Their tempestuous, extravagant relationship made sizzling headline news.

Elizabeth Taylor—Best Actress, 1960 (Butterfield 8) and 1966 (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?)
 
Richard Burton—BAFTA Award, 1965 (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold) and 1966 (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?)

 


Hedy's folly : the life and breakthrough inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the most beautiful woman in the world
Rhodes, Richard
Call Number: 812.092 L216Rh

Not just another pretty actress, at one point she was called, “The most beautiful woman in the world.” Lamarr also had a brain and it was for the scientific and technical. She and composer George Antheil worked on a radio-controlled spread-spectrum communications system that included frequency hopping which later would prove important in cell phones and GPS technology. With Antheil she shared The Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.


Hello, gorgeous : becoming Barbra Streisand
Mann, William J.
Call Number: 812.092 S915Ma

Riveting biography chronicling the first few years of Barbra Streisand’s astounding career. Mann’s detailed yet absorbing narrative recounts how an insecure yet ambitious teenager reached the precipice of international stardom in under four years. Long but, much like its subject, the book is endlessly fascinating and is a must for Streisand enthusiasts.

 

Hollywood's censor : Joseph I. Breen & the Production Code Administration
Doherty, Thomas Patrick.
Call Number: 791.2 D655
Meet Joseph Breen, who for two decades determined what American audiences could and could not view on movie screens. A fascinating look at the operations behind the Production Code and the man who was hired by the studios to enforce it.

Howard Hawks : the grey fox of Hollywood
McCarthy, Todd.
Call Number: 791.92 H395Mac
Long-time Variety critic Todd McCarthy spent two decades researching the life and career of the legendary director whose career spanned nearly fifty years and brought us such varied titles as Scarface, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Rio Lobo.

I'll cry tomorrow, written in collaboration with Mike Connolly [and] Gerold Frank.
Roth, Lillian, 1910-1980.
Call Number: 812.092 R845
Lindsay Lohan has got nothing on Lillian Roth whose alcohol-drenched tale takes her from the glitz of Broadway to the gutters of Skid Row to redemption through Alcoholics Anonymous. A heart- and gut-wrenching read.

In my father's shadow : a daughter remembers Orson Welles
Feder, Chris Welles.
Call Number: 812.092 W449Fe
Orson Welles' eldest daughter, Christopher, provides a fascinating and amazingly balanced account of her famous father whom she idolized, but who was absent most of the time.

Irving Thalberg : boy wonder to producer prince
Vieira, Mark A., 1950-
Call Number: 791.92 T365Vi-1
This meticulously researched biography not only gives a detailed look at the life and personality of M-G-M producer extraordinaire, Irving Thalberg, but also documents the inner workings of Hollywood's grandest studio. Features many primary sources including numerous quotes from the unpublished autobiography of Thalberg's wife, Norma Shearer.

Jean Arthur : the actress nobody knew
Oller, John.
Call Number: 812.092 A788Ol
John Oller does a more than admirable job of uncovering the life of the reclusive Jean Arthur who dazzled audiences with her comedic wit but shied away from the public eye.

Judi Dench : with a crack in her voice : the biography
Miller, John, 1937-
Call Number: 822.092 D319Mi 2000
A wonderful biography written by a distinguished theatre critic with access to Dame Judi. She speaks at length about her technique in several landmark productions. This is a particularly articulate look at the process of an exceptional artist.

Just outside the spotlight : growing up with Eileen Heckart
Yankee, Luke.
Call Number: 812.092 H448Ya

Touching memoir penned by character actress Heckart's youngest son. The talented Heckart was a Broadway and Hollywood veteran whose indelible portrayals (in everything from The Bad Seed to The Mary Tyler Moore Show) earned her many prestigious awards, yet she was never a household name. The book gives us a peek into the peculiar state of living "just outside the spotlight." The tone is loving but it's a fun read, crammed with dishy anecdotes about Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich and Lucille Ball, to name a few.

Eileen Heckart--Best Supporting Actress, 1972 for Butterflies are Free

 

Kiss me like a stranger : my search for love and art
Wilder, Gene, 1935-
Call Number: 812.092 W673
One of the best autobiographies by an actor ever. Wilder examines his life and career( The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Willy Wonka to name but a few) with uncompromising honesty, keen analysis, and truly remarkable prose.

Lana : the lady, the legend, the truth
Turner, Lana, 1921-1995.
Call Number: 812.092 T948
As highly lacquered as her 1940s hair and makeup, but still a fun, juicy read.

Laurette, by Marguerite Courtney. With an introd. by Brooks Atkinson.
Courtney, Marguerite, 1904-
Call Number: 812.092 T243Co2
Charming and informative, this biography delivers a vivid portrait of a forgotten American actress who was the envy of her peers. Among her credits; she originated the role of Amanda Wingfield in A Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.

Lulu in Hollywood
Brooks, Louise, 1906-1985.
Call Number: 812.092 B8727 2000
A collection of eight autobiographical essays by iconic silent film actress Louise Brooks. Topics include her own beginnings at the Denishawn School and as a dancer for the Ziegfeld Follies, as well as keen-eyed portraits of some of her contemporaries, including Chaplin, Bogart, and Garbo.

Marilyn Monroe : private and undisclosed
Morgan, Michelle.
Call Number: 812.092 M753Mo
Nearly fifty years and a few hundred books after Marilyn Monroe's untimely death, Michelle Morgan somehow manages to provide a fresh and honest take on the life of the legendary actress. Beautifully laid out and featuring many never-before-seen photos.

Marlene Dietrich
Riva, Maria.
Call Number: 812.092 D566Ri
From Berlin to Hollywood to the front lines of WWII, from Vegas to Paris and all points in between, Marlene Dietrich led a life of almost unimaginable sophistication and glamor. Penned by Dietrich's only child, the book is filled with the delicious minutiae that only a true insider can provide, yet it is not a bashing Mommie Dearest-type tome. Rather, it is an unparalleled must-read for anyone interested in the Golden Age of Hollywood and/or biographies of remarkable women.

Memoirs of a professional cad.
Sanders, George, 1906-1972.
Call Number: 812.092 S215

Witty memoir penned by the actor who starred in "All About Eve" and was Zsa Zsa Gabor's third husband. A sensitive heart beat underneath the churlish exterior, however, and Sanders took his own life several years after the book's publication.

George Sanders—Best Supporting Actor, 1951 for All About Eve

 


Miriam Hopkins : life and films of a Hollywood rebel
Ellenberger, Allan R., 1956-
Call Number: 812.092 H795El

Brilliant biography of a darling of the Pre-code era, actress Miriam Hopkins. Ellenberger’s substantive and painstakingly researched book provides the first real insights into a notoriously difficult actress and sheds light on the woman behind the movie star. Ellenberger’s book is both captivating and nuanced, promising to be the conclusive examination of Hopkins.

 

Mother Goddam : the story of the career of Bette Davis
Stine, Whitney, 1930-
Call Number: 812.092 D261St
Author Whitey Stine's meticulous text chronicling the career of Bette Davis is countered with the actress's own responses, which are as straightforward and acidic as one might expect from the legendary Davis.

My Judy Garland life : a memoir
Boyt, Susie, 1969-
Call Number: 812.092 G233Bo 2009
British writer Susie Boyt chronicles her lifelong obsession with Judy Garland in a sort of parallel memoir that interweaves watershed moments in her own life with major events in Judy's. Chock full of wonderful, seldom-seen photos, the book is a treat for die-hard Garland fans.

My story: an autobiography.
Astor, Mary, 1906-1987.
Call Number: 812.092 A858

Mary Astor spills the dirt about John Barrymore, failed marriages, alcohol abuse, the notorious George Kaufman diary scandal, and a film career spanning 45 years.

Mary Astor--Best Supporting Actress, 1941 for The Great Lie

 


My wicked, wicked ways
Flynn, Errol, 1909-1959.
Call Number: 812.092 F648 2003
Scandalous tell-all from Flynn, who was the swashbuckling star of Robin Hood and Captain Blood by day, and a hard-drinking sex machine by night. Firsthand depiction of what it meant to be "in like Flynn."

Myrna Loy : being and becoming
Kotsilibas-Davis, James.
Call Number: 812.092 L923Ko
Hollywood's favorite onscreen martini-swigging wife recounts her days as a prologue dancer at the Egyptian Theater, a star at M-G-M, an active member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and shares her disfavor with President Reagan's policies in this engaging autobiography.

Nicholas Ray : the glorious failure of an American director
McGilligan, Patrick.
Call Number: 791.92 R2635McG
A look at the Forest Gump-esque career of Nicholas Ray. Frank Lloyd Wright, Leadbelly and John Houseman all figure in this life of the director of Rebel Without a Cause. Of particular interest are the later chapters that take place in Europe where Ray works in self-exile due to McCarthyist pressures and raging sex, drug and gambling addictions. The machinations his producers go through to provide financing and hide lack thereof will raise eyebrows and drop jaws.

Nostalgia isn't what it used to be
Signoret, Simone, 1921-1985.
Call Number: 842.092 S578

This excellent piece of writing from Oscar winner Simone Signoret (Room at the Top) recounts her early years as a half-Jewish aspiring actress in World War II-era France, and her marriage to popular singer Yves Montand (who had a high-profile affair with Marilyn Monroe while married to Signoret).

 

Simone Signoret--Best Actress, 1959 (Room at the Top)

 

 


Notes on a cowardly lion : the biography of Bert Lahr
Lahr, John, 1941-
Call Number: 812.092 L184La 2000
The life of Bert Lahr written by his son, drama critic John Lahr. Besides great anecdotes on the making of The Wizard of Oz, this jewel articulates the method and philosophy of one of the great comic actors of the 20th century.

The Oliviers, a biography.
Barker, Felix, 1917-
Call Number: 822.092 O49Ba
This duel biography of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier was written during the height of the couple's professional and personal relationship and remains one of the best-written works on both of these master thespians.

Orson Welles in focus : texts and contexts
Call Number: 791.92 W449Or

Orson Welles was an actor, director, producer, political and cultural activist and so much more. The totality of his contributions and influence are examained in this critical analysis of the man and his work.


Pola Negri : Hollywood's first femme fatale
Kotowski, Mariusz.
Call Number: 812.092 N388Ko
An excellent, detailed examination of the life of the colorful and underrated silent film star Pola Negri. Pola arrived on our shores in 1922 via Poland and Berlin, having had a successful stage and film career in Europe, most notably under the direction of Ernst Lubitsch, who brought out her sultry histrionic abilities. She immediately set about taking Hollywood and its male population by storm. Her conquests included Chaplin, Valentino, and Rod La Rocque, as well as a Count and a Prince. But by 1938 it was pretty much over, although she did make a final film in 1964 - Walt Disney’s The Moon-Spinners, playing (what else?) a vampy villainess.

The Princess Diarist.
Fisher, Carrie.
Call Number: 812.092 F533-2

In her latest memoir, actress/writer Carrie Fisher reflects on her complicated relationship with Princess Leia, the character she first brought to life four decades ago in the original Star Wars film. Also discussed at length is the three-month affair she had with co-star Harrison Ford during the location shoot. Drawing from journals Fisher kept at the time, the memoir is at times a painful yet relatable chronicle of a 19-year-old who, despite being on the verge of international fame, is consumed with the raw emotions of unrequited young love.

 

A private view
Selznick, Irene Mayer, 1907-1990.
Call Number: 812.092 S469
Irene Mayer Selznick gives readers a glimpse into the life of Hollywood royalty by sharing her experiences as the daughter of M-G-M mogul Louis B. Mayer, the wife of Gone With the Wind producer David O. Selznick, and finally as a successful theatrical producer.

The ragman's son : an autobiography
Douglas, Kirk, 1916-
Call Number: 812.092 D734
In this well written and engaging memoir, actor Kirk Douglas chronicles his life from his beginnings as a poor Jewish kid in New York through his years as a top Hollywood star.

Screwball : the life of Carole Lombard
Swindell, Larry.
Call Number: 812.092 L841Sw
This straightforward biography benefits greatly from firsthand interviews with friends and family members and gives a fairly full portrait of the beloved actress, and wife of Clark Gable, whose life was cut tragically short in a plane crash.

Swanson on Swanson
Swanson, Gloria.
Call Number: 812.092 S972
Satisfying memoir spanning La Swanson's fabulous career, from Chicago's Essanay Studios in 1914 through her days as a Sennett Bathing Beauty, leading lady of Cecil B. DeMille epics and, of course, her magnificent comeback in the classic Sunset Boulevard. Along the way, Swanson had five marriages, one very notorious affair, and a life stuffed with more "plot" than most film festivals.

Tallulah! : the life and times of a leading lady
Lobenthal, Joel.
Call Number: 812.092 B218Lo

Astounding biography of Tallulah Bankhead, the most flamboyant and uninhibited actress of her generation. Known for her acerbic wit, acid tongue, and outrageous behavior, Bankhead carved a niche on stage, television, and film that remains untouched yet her private life always seemed to cloud her professional accomplishments. Lobenthal’s mammoth examination of the actress provides unparalleled insight into one of the most fascinating and unforgettable personalities of the twentieth century.               

 


Thank heaven : a memoir
Caron, Leslie.
Call Number: 842.092 C293
Charming autobiography of danseuse Caron, petite star of Gigi and An American in Paris.

'Tis herself : a memoir
O'Hara, Maureen, 1920-
Call Number: 812.092 O36
Indomitable Irishwoman O'Hara recounts her life and career, from her very first film (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, co-starring Charles Laughton) to her last (Only the Lonely, co-starring John Candy). Her unique voice communicates directly to the reader. A delight.

Victor Fleming : an American movie master
Sragow, Michael.
Call Number: 791.92 F598Sr
The man who received the director's credit for Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz in the same year finally gets his due in this heavily researched tome which starts off slow but becomes wholly engaging.

Will there really be a morning? An autobiography.
Farmer, Frances, 1913-1970.
Call Number: 812.092 F233
Heartbreaking account of Miss Farmer's hellish journey from beautiful, brilliant young actress to straggle-haired inmate of a state mental institution.

Wisecracker : the life and times of William Haines, Hollywood's first openly gay star
Mann, William J.
Call Number: 812.092 H153Ma

A truly extraordinary biography of silent and early talkie era actor William “Billy” Haines. Haines was the top box office draw at MGM in 1930 however, his refusal to walk away from a same-sex relationship that ultimately spanned more than 50 years led him to walk away from Hollywood stardom for good. Mann’s biography is not only a compelling analysis of Haines but a fascinating look at gay life during the first half of the twentieth century


Yes please
Poehler, Amy, 1971-
Call Number: 812.092 P7435
Part memoir, part advice tome, Poehler brings her trademark wit and surprising insight to explorations of her own foibles.

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