FATAL CHARM by Alexander Walker


The Life of Rex Harrison
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 Top-drawer, custom-tailored life of actor Rex Harrison, whose charm dynamited many a lady's heart while his towering tongue whipped her. By far the best of Walker's many books (Garbo, Dietrich, Elizabeth, etc.) and the best about Harrison (including the actor's own amusing but lightweight autobiography A Damned Serious Business, 1991), this presents itself in finely cut anecdotes and textured language that Harrison himself might have admired. Like Cary Grant, Harrison (1908-90) grew into his stage and screen persona so remarkably that one forgets he was not always a lady- killing swine--though he did take to acting at age four and became a monocle-wearing fop at 18. Harrison also took to girls very early, and as a child liked swimming nude in secret with a girl neighbor. He distanced himself from his father, modelling himself on his mother. Harrison played endless walk-ons and minor roles with the Liverpool Repertory Theatre, and he began imitating the casual by-play of ``personality actors'' who could dominate the stage no matter how bad their lines. Movie bits led to film and stage leads and at last to the film version of Shaw's Major Barbara. Harrison was never a light comedian, always playing high comedy, and Shaw became the centerpost of a career crowned by his role in Heartbreak House: The actor cared little for his films. His love life and six wives take up major space here, along with the suicides of lover Carol Landis and ex-wife Rachel Roberts, his cruelly rampant infidelities, and the glory of his unshakable snobbery. Tyrannosaurus Rex, tricked out in imperial purple. (B&w illustrations--not seen)

Pub Date: July 22nd, 1993
ISBN: 0-312-09284-9
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1993