Bob Thomas may stay hardly a step above fan-mag gossip, but there is no denying the readability of the tale he tells. Rags-to-riches Joan early slid into the image she created for herself and sedulously remained A Star for over 50 years, to the bitter end hiring a limousine to carry her a few blocks to ""21"" for dinner. Her childhood was straight out of Cinderella and she could not get over a bathroom-scrubbing obsession even in her final, alcohol-ridden loneliness. Once grown, she began making a name for herself as an overweight dancer of such insuperable energies that sheer showmanship overcame lack of talent. Money and fame were no help in overcoming insecurities; she was always dependent upon the fatherly attentions of her directors (even 21-year-old Steven Speilberg) and of MGM boss Louis B. Mayer. Thomas pulls no veils over her love life, and describes her adulteries with Clark Gable while both were married to others, she to Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Her following husbands, Franchot Tone and Philip Terry, found her iron-willed, utterly manipulative, and unbending in her devotion to her public image. Only Pepsi-Cola executive Alfred Steele had the force to match her, but she was a widow after four years of this midlife marriage (he left her penniless, an adjective that deserves billboard quotation marks), and booze moved in. Her several comebacks and other films are quickly skimmed over. Struggles, scandals, triumphs on the run.