LEAVING A DOLL'S HOUSE: A Memoir by Claire Bloom


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In her exquisite 1982 mini-memoir, Limelight and After, Bloom recalled her legendary collaboration with Chaplin--and, by telling just a little, enhanced her image as the most gently elegant of stars. Now the ""English Rose"" (who has never hidden her Jewishness) more or less Tells All, in an absorbing but saddening autobiography that stresses her humiliations in love. The story up to 1951 is much as it was in the earlier book: strained childhood (a WW II sojourn with unpleasant US relatives, desertion by father Eddie); teenage theater success; the instant celebrity of Limelight. Next: the Old Vic and first love with married costar Richard Burton--a five-year secret affair with a bittersweet end . . . and a short, sour reprise years later, when Burton was also dallying with Susan Strasberg. (Bloom cheerfully snipes at Liz Taylor, for whom Burton did leave his wife.) The Richard III film brought a loveless mini-affair with dazzling Laurence Olivier; magnetic Yul Brynner briefly added Bloom to his Hollywood ""harem,"" leaving her ""relatively unwounded."" Husband #1, Rod Steiger, was Method-obsessed, often depressed, and wanted Bloom home in L.A., not pursuing her stage career. Husband #2, Hillard Elkins, was into drugs and kinky sex--but showcased Bloom in classy productions of Ibsen and Streetcar. Anthony Quinn, nasty as a director, was Bloom's only one-night stand. And the book's last 100 pages focus on her 18 years with brilliant, erratic Philip Roth: his selfish demands, which damaged Bloom's relationship with her daughter; his ruthless fictional use of personal material; his illnesses, Halcion-induced breakdown, sadistic infidelities, and rejections. With an iffy fade-out and much unexplored psychological territory, this literate, dispiriting memoir doesn't quite work as a tale of hard-won emotional independence. But it's dense with rewards for theater/film buffs and sure to be grabbed up by anyone interested in the reality behind all those self-portraits in Roth's tricky fiction.

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1996
ISBN: 0316093831
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: "Little, Brown"