Only for fans of a golden era of Hollywood stardom, as long as they’re not looking for much gossip or personal revelation.

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MYRNA LOY

THE ONLY GOOD GIRL IN HOLLYWOOD

The author makes her case that Myrna Loy (1905–1993) could inspire a fascinating biography, but she doesn’t really deliver one.

Though Loy was once one of Hollywood’s leading female stars, Leider (Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino, 2003, etc.) maintains that she was underappreciated, partly because of the subtlety of her craft. She was too much the complementary role player—most memorably as Nora to William Powell’s Nick Charles in The Thin Man and sequels—rarely the spotlight diva whose dark passions might pique the curiosity of the public. In this comprehensive and cliché-ridden biography, the author shows that irony, complexity and contradiction provided tension between Loy’s public image(s) and her private life. Initially known for the exotic features that inspired the Asian screen surname that the former Myrna Williams adopted, she was in fact an all-American, freckle-faced ranch girl from Montana. Later dubbed “the Perfect Wife” for the roles for which she was typecast, she had four broken marriages to men who were unfaithful to her and/or unsuitable for her. She was even the target of some McCarthy-era red-baiting, though the lifelong liberal Democrat was an outspoken anti-communist. Other than Loy’s autobiography, written toward the end of her long life, this is the first biography of the actress, and it draws heavily from Loy’s book. Leider offers a summary of every career step and (it seems) every one of the “staggering 124 films” she made. Yet either there wasn’t much psychological depth to Loy, or Leider was unable or unwilling to probe it. For all of the encyclopedic detail devoted to the life, the book mainly illuminates the art of “an enormously subtle actress, whose minimalism belied her mysterious powerhouse capabilities.” Such subtlety accounts for the fact that even when the Oscars paid considerable attention to her hits such as The Thin Man and The Best Years of Our Lives, they didn’t even bestow nominations on Loy.

Only for fans of a golden era of Hollywood stardom, as long as they’re not looking for much gossip or personal revelation.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-520-25320-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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

NIGHT

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

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