HOW TO GROW OLD DISGRACEFULLY: My Life by Hermoine with Anne Clements Eyre Gingold


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The waspish Miss Gingold packs her 89 years, husbands, lovers, and shows into 214 pages--and dies in the epilogue. Her story skips along, she ruffles her skirts and invents funny stage bits, and gets off some of her best rejoinders to Noel Coward, Hermoine Baddeley, Jack Paar, and Merv Griffin, but most of her once risquÉ lyrics or biting song passages have been blunted by time. The keynote really is ""disgraceful."" Gingold started her career very early, at ten working on the London stage with Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Ellen Terry, and Lady Patrick Campbell. She was a total virgin, with no idea where babies come from, when she married Michael Joseph (the future publisher), had three babies and much preferred her cat. She and Michael quarreled a lot, so she ran off to Capri with his fellow litera-tus Eric Maschwitz (very big at the BBC), let Michael divorce her and keep the kids. Her idyll collapsed when she discovered that Eric was sleeping around; he suggested she take a lover, which she did. Thereafter, she and Eric lived together happily for many years, though in separate bedrooms. During WW II she had her biggest hit, leading the revue Sweetest and Lowest, which entertained Londoners and servicemen all through the war and had the second-longest run ever on the London stage. Americans remember her for being the Madame to Leslie Caron's Gigi and her duet with Maurice Chevalier, for her infrequent film appearance, and as a smash hit regular on American TV talk-shows. At 80+ she took on a jaunty 25-year-old lover for five years, but complained that after 85 her sex drive dimmed. ""This confession surprises even me, because up till then, I had been a sex maniac."" Original and outrageous, but not a Must Read.

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 1988
Publisher: St. Martin's