BLUE ANGEL

THE LIFE OF MARLENE DIETRICH

Spoto's second book on Dietrich (Falling in Love Again, 1985- -not reviewed), minus the sexual fantasy and foot-slogging style that marred his recent Laurence Olivier (p. 42). Spoto captures well the high kitsch of the twilight of the German aristocracy into which Maria Madgelene Dietrich (1901-92) was born. Her mother drilled the spontaneously honest child never to show her feelings—the birth of the actress's famous mask of alluring remoteness. Ten years of violin lessons trained her for the musical side of her career (her violin teacher deflowered her, she told Billy Wilder) and for some of her funniest and even moving scenes under the direction of Josef von Sternberg, the Svengali who—in The Blue Angel—turned Dietrich into a goddess after many roles in drama school and German silents. The skill, emotional depth, and richness of the actress's finest work (Judgment at Nuremberg) were overshadowed by the sheer emission of star-power in such ``rapturously photographed'' early films as The Devil is a Woman—her own favorite picture—because she was then, Spoto points out, at her most beautiful. Dietrich married early and never divorced (though she remained parted from, if friendly with, her husband) and became a doting mother and grandmother. In private, she was nothing like the insolent indifference of her screen image, but was an intelligent, ambitious creature who was addicted to lengthy long-distance calls and who died a reclusive, wealthy alcoholic. Her lovers included Gary Cooper, John Gilbert, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Yul Brynner, Frank Sinatra—and on and on. Spoto's best biography—warm, well balanced, restrained. (B&w photos—75—not seen.)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-385-42553-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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