170 YEARS OF SHOW BUSINESS by Madeline Lee & Kate Harkin Mostel Gilford

170 YEARS OF SHOW BUSINESS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A quadraphonic autobiographical sketch--low-key, down-to-earth anecdotes from the very famous Zero Mostel, his fairly famous friend Jack Gilford, and their less famous but talented wives Kate Harkin and Madeline Lee. Mrs. Mostel is the spokeswoman for the foursome (now, sadly, a threesome), a ""lowbrow exdancer from Philadelphia"" who happily ditched the Rockettes to become longsuffering wife to an ""intellectual snob"" and comic genius who preferred the solitude of his painter's studio to all else. With this cast (Mrs. G. was a radio actress and then a producer), show-biz and zany-at-home stories naturally predominate: both comics' N.Y. nightclub stints, Zero's string of triumphs from Rhinoceros to Fiddler, the mild Gilford's unlikely role as homewrecker (Mrs. Gilford was Mrs. Somebody Else first), and the Gilford-Mostel teaming in A Funny Thing Happened. . . (""All I hoped was that Forum would run long enough for me to have the couch reupholstered""). But the subtext is McCarthyism. Madeline Gilford was the only vigorous activist in the group (via Actors Equity and the American Student Union), yet all four lives were skewed by the HUAC: Zero's blacklisting forced Kate Harkin to return to the stage (not altogether reluctantly) and forced Gilford out of clubs and, indirectly, into TV; the FBI tailed pregnant Madeline, who treated them to her sloppy kiss for Alger Hiss (a total stranger) in the park; colleagues like Jerome Robbins became ""friendly witnesses,"" posing the question of to-work-or-not-to-work with people you hate. ""I would have personally destroyed all of them by one of several painful means,"" says Mrs. M., but her commentary on the hearings seems to have been muted by cautious editors. A similar lack of focus permeates this whole project, in fact, but the natural warmth and world-awareness of this gutsy, versatile quartet lifts their memoir well above the standard backstage chitchats.

Pub Date: May 19th, 1978
Publisher: Random House