Email this review


A succulent tidbit for inquiring reporters on what goes on behind other people's bedroom doors, in which an ex-wife presents bright and bitter report on Bernarr Macfadden, bumptious millionaire ""father of physical culture"". Previous biographies have been written by devoted followers. But his third wife exposes the Barnum of Brawn as a small man, with no hair on his chest and a Napoleonic complex. Mary met and married him when she was 19 and he 44. He had chosen her, a Yorkshire carpet mill worker, as Britain's Perfect Woman. For the term of her marriage she was what she wryly refers to as his ""biological laboratory"". Mary submitted to experiments on her person with a fortitude, naivete and faith that was unshaken until he refused to get a doctor for their infant son, who subsequently died. She signed a written pact that she would not have a doctor, but the birth was a gruelling one, brought on by her rescuing Bernarr from the surf (he could not swim). She lived virtuously on debilitating vegetarian diet, cooperated in his sex-determination experiments, and permitted tryouts of his theories on the children. In the end it was Bernarr who called quits when she refused to bear any more ""guinea pigs for his experiments"". While she makes a valiant attempt to be fair to him, this barely skirts the fringe of a scurrilous attack. Just might go for it is brisk entertainment in its field.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1953
Publisher: Holt