A warm and well-researched yet ultimately inessential appreciation of one of Hollywood’s largely forgotten stars.

Spoto spotlights Wright.

Acclaimed Hollywood biographer Spoto (The Redgraves: A Family Epic, 2012, etc.), who has penned books about Joan Crawford, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and others, returns with an affectionate portrait of actress Teresa Wright (1918-2005), best known for her roles in Shadow of a DoubtThe Little FoxesThe Best Years of Our Lives, and Mrs. Miniver, for which Wright won an Academy Award for best supporting actress. Unfortunately for Spoto, after that run of films in the early 1940s, Wright’s star faded precipitously as the result of a highly publicized contract dispute with studio head Samuel Goldwyn, and her career afterward consisted of well-regarded—but hardly iconic—work on stage, screen, and lesser parts in lesser films. It’s hardly the stuff of high drama, and the author’s account of Wright’s personal life similarly fails to enthrall, as a relatively civilized divorce from her first husband and a sometimes-prickly relationship with her second, playwright Robert Anderson, mark the dramatic peaks of this material. Wright was a wonderfully bracing actress in her clutch of classic early roles. She was fresh-faced, winsome, emotionally direct and fiercely intelligent, and it’s a shame her talent was undervalued by the studio brass. However, her story lacks a compelling arc, and her cultural impact does not justify the in-depth descriptions of her homes, friendships, children’s lives, and sundry other personal details diligently recorded here. Spoto writes of his long personal friendship with Wright, and his admiration and respect register clearly in his characteristically literate, engaging, and authoritative prose. She does come across as a wonderful person to know, but as a biographical subject, she leaves readers wanting.

A warm and well-researched yet ultimately inessential appreciation of one of Hollywood’s largely forgotten stars.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62846-045-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Univ. Press of Mississippi

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2016


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



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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