With no particular viewpoint and only the most slapdash sort of style, Morley (Oscar Wilde, A Talent to Amuse) does an...

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GERTRUDE LAWRENCE

With no particular viewpoint and only the most slapdash sort of style, Morley (Oscar Wilde, A Talent to Amuse) does an agreeably brief, cut-and-paste update on the Gertrude Lawrence story--a far-from-earthshaking project. True, Morley can be more candid about Gertie's affairs than she could in her not-always-accurate memoirs (A Star Danced); and, more significantly, Lawrence's daughter Pamela (from a brief first marriage) has provided some firsthand stories to balance those of Gertie's second husband Richard Aldrich (Gertrude Lawrence as Mrs. A.). But the resulting impression--a glorious star who was neither very interesting nor particularly pleasant offstage--will come as no real surprise to theater buffs or most of Gertie's old fans. Here, then, is a generally familiar story: the shabby suburban beginnings, the childhood performing (with Noel Coward), the rise to fame through the Charlot revues (with Bea Lillie), the huge successes and frequent artistic errors, the who-cares? spendthrift lifestyle (with bankruptcy proceedings), the terminal illness that made her King and I triumph an ordeal. And, though Morley's approach remains cheerfully superficial, the overall effect is often depressing: in a gallant yet grim tribute from ex-lover Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (""She was always 'on,' maybe because that was all she knew or understood""); in Pamela's memories of a thoroughly ill-equipped mother; in the later-career doldrums (especially a disappointing London comeback). Still, for those who know Gertie only from old, unflattering recordings, this has all the requisite anecdotes and show-biz shine (even if Morley's theater history is sometimes misleadingly sketchy)--and veteran theatergoers who still treasure their memories of Lady in the Dark and ""Getting to Know You"" may want to put this on the shelf next to A Star Danced and Gertrude Lawrence as Mrs. A.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1980

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1980