Mordden’s keen eye, broad vision, wealth of detail and sparkling style bring to life the American rialto at its peak.

A scintillating take on Broadway drama’s finest decades.

Anyone who wishes they had witnessed the Great White Way’s great past gets a second chance in this latest from Mordden (Beautiful Mornin’, 1999, etc.). A vivid stylist, he seats readers fifth-row center as Laurette Taylor in The Glass Menagerie, Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne in almost anything collaborated with many others to bring American dramatic theater to heights that it seems it may never again climb. More than enlivening description, Mordden offers social, political, aesthetic and cultural context as he discusses what led to Broadway’s ascendancy and demise. He examines topics as diverse as the Depression, the Method, McCarthyism and stagecraft to explore the ways in which they shaped what happened on- and off-stage. Against this backdrop, he covers dramas justly and unjustly forgotten. He summons forth the now largely overlooked Rachel Crothers, arguing that she created a new form in her plays, from He and She in 1911 to Susan and God in 1937. He finds the themes in Life with Father worthy of Ibsen and Shaw, ranking Lindsay and Crouse’s long-running comedy along with Thornton Wilder’s Our Town as the two most underappreciated achievements in Broadway history. He suggests that Auntie Mame anticipates Stonewall and the emergence of gay voices on Broadway. But Hollywood, once at Broadway’s heels for scripts and stars, began to surpass it as cool, moody actors like Brando, Newman and McQueen went west to build another entertainment empire.

Mordden’s keen eye, broad vision, wealth of detail and sparkling style bring to life the American rialto at its peak.

Pub Date: April 3, 2007

ISBN: 0-312-33898-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2007



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955