De Mille on herself: ""My greatest gift, I believe, is my memory, which is obviously long, but also accurate and highly...

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PORTRAIT GALLERY

De Mille on herself: ""My greatest gift, I believe, is my memory, which is obviously long, but also accurate and highly visual."" She is also gifted with wit, strong opinions, and a forthright voice--and it is our great good fortune to have this new collection of her memories to savor. The first group of ""portraits"" here is ""The Artists"": Isadora Duncan, Alicia Markova, Katherine Dunham, Carmelita Maracci, and Alicia Alonso. De Mille sets right off in that familiar, wonderful voice: ""Before Isadora, dancing was not considered important or dignified except by the people who practiced it. After her, it came to be. That, in brief, is her contribution."" The strong response to Duncan's works? It was in part a sign of ""how we longed for what was passionate, even if outrageous. But at the time it proved dreadfully unnerving to the young Several virgins of my acquaintance went directly astray in the hope of becoming great dancers. . .They found, not surprisingly, that the one condition did not follow automatically on the other."" De Mille also had a long acquaintance with ""The Impresarios"": the Shuberts, Billy Rose, the Marquis de Cuevas, and Sol Hurok (for whom de Mille's husband Walter Prude served as ""personal assistant and frequent representative"" for 32 years) are subjects here. And her section on ""The de Milles"" recollects her playwright father, and uncle Cecil B.: ""Father died first. 'I've saved a place for you and your wife in my cemetery plot,' Cecil had promised, a touch pompously. 'Thanks for the hospitality,' Pop had replied."" Finally, de Mille introduces us to some of her ""Intimates,"" including herself as a disastrous ""Giver of Parties"": "". . .There was the time a guest went unbidden into the kitchen, nearly blew up the stove, and set her hair on fire. There was the time a young lady who was falling, down drunk confessed to the family doctor that she made her living by playing a piano in a whorehouse; 'Not true,' I cried, 'she can't play a note.'"" Each deeply textured vignette here evidences the richness of de Mille's gifts, and reminds us again--both for her dances and her writing--what a national treasure she is.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 1990

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1990