SPARKS FLY UPWARD by Stewart Granger


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Amiable, chattily longwinded reminiscences from a 1950s film-star--with a few juicy morsels of Hollywood scandal involving such biggies as Howard Hughes and Ava Gardner. Born James Stewart (an obvious problem later on), Granger grew up in an odd English household: his mum's true love, ""Uncle Victor,"" was virtually part of the family, tolerated (even with affection) by Jimmy's retired-Major father. And the family's strained finances meant that would-be doctor Jimmy went looking for work at 17, soon winding up as an extra (""young upper-class playboy type""), along with Michael Wilding. Drama school and rep followed, marriage to beautiful Elspeth (who suffered miscarriages and stillbirths), foreshortened Army service (ulcers), and then: overnight U.K. stardom in The Man in Grey. Along with success, however, came extramarital temptation: brief, guilty passion with Deborah Kerr. And throughout these pages, in fact, Granger, never a Casanova and ""allergic to being a film star,"" is being seduced or near-seduced by aggressive women: bossy Hedy Lamarr (""If only she'd shut up and stopped giving orders, the ordeal might have been consummated""); steamy Ava on location. But his heart soon belonged exclusively to young Jean Simmons--even when Hollywood called him away in 1950 for King Solomon's Mines. And when they eventually married, Cary Grant offered to help them have a no-publicity wedding; he called on the resources of Howard Hughes--who did indeed arrange an elaborately secret ceremony. . . but also took a fierce, crude liking to Jean. Result? A long ordeal (the book's most interesting section)--as ""dirty, double-crossing"" Hughes bought Jean's contract, pursued her, then tried to ruin her career There are other feuds too--with Hedda Hopper, George Cukor--plus Granger's general scorn for the Hollywood scene: he lost or turned down parts in From Here to Eternity, A Star is Born, and Ben Hur. And the book ends as his troubled marriage to Jean crumbles, about 1960. Lots of details on dangerous African-location shooting, a few glimpses of Liz Taylor at home and Vivien Leigh in by-now-familiar distress--a seemingly cheerful, fairly lively memoir which, however, never becomes either genuinely buoyant or directly involving.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1981
Publisher: Putnam