OPPOSITE ATTRACTION: The Lives of Erich Maria Remarque and Paulette Goddard by Julie Gilbert

OPPOSITE ATTRACTION: The Lives of Erich Maria Remarque and Paulette Goddard

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Overlong and breathlessly written, this dual biography of a German novelist and a Hollywood star wilts well before their late-life romance finally blooms. Gilbert (Ferber: The Biography of Edna Ferber and Her Circle, 1978) sets herself an ambitious, intriguing program. Alternating chapters narrate two converging stories. One concerns novelist Erich Maria Remarque, who made his reputation by penning the famous account of the horrors of WW I All Quiet on the Western Front. Hitler's ascension to power found the dashing Remarque expatriated to Switzerland and the United States, where he would become a cosmopolitan playboy. Remarque's later novels included some big sellers, but the true dramas unfolded in bis affairs with the world's leading ladies, chief among them Marlene Dietrich. Gilbert's other story here concerns the actress Paulette Goddard. Rising from humble beginnings, she took the roaring '20s by storm. Paulette married rich -- inspiring, some claim, How to Marry a Millionaire -- divorced, made her way to Hollywood, and was cast by Charlie Chaplin in his classic Modern Times. Chaplin, for a time Goddard's husband, introduced her to powerful circles, where she captivated famous personages from George Gershwin to Anthony Eden. By the late 1940s, however, Goddard's star was in eclipse. Happily, she met Remarque, who was comfortable enough writing his more or less successful novels and screenplays, enjoying more or less masochistic relationships, and amassing a spectacular art collection. Relying heavily on transcriptions from diaries and letters, Gilbert details how the couple met, fell in love, and subsequently fell into decline together. Her account of their marriage, while complete, fails to provide satisfying resolutions to their two stories. Despite their moments of glamour, Goddard and Remarque emerge here neither as fascinating individuals nor as a uniquely interesting couple. This book's index will provide a veritable dictionary of 20th century celebrity. Too bad that the Goddard and Remarque don't stand out from this crowd.

Pub Date: June 26th, 1995
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Pantheon