A HELL OF A LIFE: An Autobiography by Maureen & Jane Scovell Stapleton

A HELL OF A LIFE: An Autobiography

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A feisty memoir by one of America's most gifted actresses. Although movie fans might know her best as the pushy mother of Dick Van Dyke in Bye Bye Birdie (a part she played when she was in her 30s), theater buffs have long revered Stapleton for her power in parts ranging from the heavily dramatic (Lillian Hellman's Toys in the Attic) to the wildly comic (Neil Simon's Plaza Suite, in which she played three roles). Personally, she was known as a very outspoken lady with a roller-coaster private life. Now Stapleton, with celebrity coauthor Scovell, has put all sides of her personality on display in this fascinating autobiography. Despite her unconventional looks and figure (about which she's very hard on herself), Stapleton leapt to stardom quite young, when Tennessee Williams took a chance on this relatively unknown actress by casting her for the lead in The Rose Tattoo, a part he had written for Anna Magnani. It was an exciting time in the theater, and Stapleton knew, and tells wonderful anecdotes about, Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, and many others. We see her move with apparent ease from theater to television to film, eventually winning several Tonys, an Emmy, and an Oscar. Writing in a pleasing conversational tone, Stapleton is also candid and refreshingly unapologetic about the darker sides of her life: her phobias (multiple), her drinking (heavy, for many years), and her relationships (varied, including one with the legendary George Abbott, from the time he was 81 until he was 91, when he left her for a younger woman); but throughout the rockiest portions of her life, the reader feels the thrill she still gets from her work. Stapleton has written an autobiography reminiscent of her best performances: brash, peppery, sometimes sad, sometimes hilarious, and always involving.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster