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Amid the current flood of dysfunctional-family memoirs, this one by biographer Bosworth (Diane Arbus, 1984, etc.) stands out for its lack of self-pity and its magnetic central figure, her father, Bartley Crum--a habituâ in the realms of celebrity and power who was finally destroyed by personal weakness and devotion to principle. With their talent, elegance, and glamour, Bart and wife, Anna Gertrude Bosworth (known as ""Cutsie""), a former San Francisco reporter and novelist, must have resembled Dick and Nicole Diver to their friends. Approaching life with ""supreme self-confidence and an attitude of entitlement,"" Bart used his connections as a prominent San Francisco lawyer to gain entrâe to Hollywood and Washington. Patricia and her brother, Bart Jr., grew up near the glow of celebrity, with visitors such as Montgomery Clift, Rita Hayworth (whom Bart represented in her divorce from Aly Kahn), and Wendell Willkie (whom Bart advised in the 1940 presidential campaign). Yet their father continually passed in and out on either business trips or one of his perpetual political crusades; a dismayed Cutsie retreated into sullenness and affairs. Then, when Bart denounced the House Un-American Activities Committee as an attorney for two members of the blacklisted ""Hollywood Ten,"" he was trailed by the FBI. Family troubles followed: insolvency, Bart's worsening addiction to alcohol and pills, Patricia's marital difficulties, Bart Jr.'s troubled youth and suicide, and, in 1959, after a disastrous appearance before the Senate Rackets Committee investigating Jimmy Hoffa, Bart Sr.'s own appointment in Samarra. In the aftermath, using her mother's diaries, interviews with colleagues, and her father's FBI dossier, Bosworth had to square her ""fantasy image of Daddy as Superman"" with the reality of a decent man forced to inform secretly to the FBI. An unflinchingly honest depiction of a family undone by the whirlwind revolving around an ebullient, compassionate man who was also a weak husband and father.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster