A product of the melodeons and mining camps and minstrel shows of the early California where she achieved inordinate success and money, a child star who never grew much beyond that role (perhaps only ""a good banjo player""), Lotta Mignon Crabtree spent 37 years on the stage before she retired at 45. And when she died she left four million to charity, although she had already given a great deal away to various benevolences after philanthropy became an obsessive pursuit. At her death, two long litigious controversies engaged the attention of the nation and Mr. Baldwin, who represented the estate, has provided authentic materials on the trials; the one instituted by a presumptive daughter by an absentee husband in a secret marriage (although, following an operation, there were claims that Lotta was still a virgin) and that of another pretender, her brother Jack's daughter. Between the trials, there is a full re-run of her life: if at the end you don't know Lotta very well, perhaps no one really did, since the perky gamin who capered across the stage for years until she was too old for the part remains to a degree hidden behind a cluster of arrested emotions and fuller blown eccentricities. . . . It's the kind of story Arthur H. Lewis would have liked, since it combines aspects of La Belle Otero and The Day They Shook the Plum Tree; that's the audience to reach and certainly Lotta Crabtree was one of the fantastics of an early American say heyday.