Stage and Screen Biographies

October 23, 2001

Can you remember when popcorn was a nickel and movies were a dime? Then you can probably remember seeing some of the all-time great actors on the big silver screen or listening to the old-time radio show stars. Here is a list of biographies from some of these famous people. We hope you enjoy the life stories of these entertainers as selected by Reader Advisor Carol Mathews.

To order any of these titles, contact the library by email, mail or phone. You may also request these titles online through our OPAC. Happy Reading!

Gracie: A Love Story by George Burns.
RC 28814.
Burns remembers his life with Gracie Allen both on and off the stage and screen. Burns and Allen were married for forty years, but their life together began even earlier, when they met on the vaudeville circuit. It ended with Gracie's death from heart disease in 1964. The book is written as if Burns were talking to the reader in his living room. He even tells when he takes a puff on his cigar.

Minnie Pearl: An Autobiography by Minnie Pearl, with Joan Dew.
RC 15816, BR 4718.
With anecdotes from both personal and professional life, the popular country entertainer covers her early aspirations of becoming a dramatic actress to her success as a gifted comic. Some of her experiences include an embarrassing comedy routine as a last minute contestant in a beauty pageant and an encounter with the looser morals of "show biz" on the traveling minstrel circuit.

The Great One: The Life and Legend of Jackie Gleason by William A. Henry III.
RC 35490.
Best known as Ralph Kramden from the television sitcom The Honeymooners, Gleason also acted in Broadway shows and motion pictures. Acknowledging the late actor's exaggerated tales about himself, Henry balances Gleason's career with his off-stage life, including his drinking, his troubled marriages, and his false friendship with actor Art Carney. Some strong language.

Myrna Loy: Being and Becoming by James Kotsilibas-Davis and Myrna Loy.
RC 27238, BR 7234.
Myrna Loy, 1930s movie queen best known for her role opposite William Powell in the Thin Man movies, writes of her life and career.

Bing Crosby: The Hollow Man by Donald Shepherd and Robert F. Slatzer.
RC 17114.
A biography that portrays Bing Crosby as a man very different from his appealing public image. The authors depict the crooner as a "monstrously callous" man driven by his desire for fame and fortune, citing particularly his treatment of his first wife, Dixie Lee, and of all his children.

Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields by Simon Louvish.
RC 45324.
A portrait of comedy's bibulous curmudgeon, W.C. Fields. Traces the career of the juggler and comic misanthrope from burlesque and vaudeville to radio and the movies. Debunks myths that Fields had a Dickensian childhood and that his tombstone reads "I'd rather be in Philadelphia."

Life Is Too Short by Mickey Rooney.
RC 33012.
Rooney, born in 1920, made his first professional appearance on stage at the age of eighteen months. Writing of the ups and downs of his life as a singer, dancer, comedian, actor, husband, and father, he tells about his eight wives and nine children, his drug addiction, the squandering of a fortune, the more than 200 movies he made, and his relationships with many of the famous stars of stage, screen, and television.

George Burns and the Hundred-Year Dash by Martin Gottfried.
RC 44300.
Life of the beloved star of stage and screen who died in 1996 at the age of one hundred. Discusses his show business beginnings in vaudeville, where he later achieved considerable fame teamed with his wife, Gracie Allen, as "Burns and Allen." Also examines Burns's career resurgence in 1975 with his Oscar winning performance in The Sunshine Boys. Some strong language.

Will Rogers by Donald Day.
RC 9823.
Biography of the American philosopher and humorist who commented wittily and irreverently on the American scene and on politicians from the president on down.

Mary Pickford: America's Sweetheart by Scott Eyman.
RC 31374.
Born Gladys Smith in 1892 in Canada, Mary Pickford was a liberated woman long before the idea became fashionable. Not only did she act, but she also wrote and produced films, and along with her first husband Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, and D.W. Griffith, founded United Artists. Eyman interviewed many of Pickford's friends and her husband, Buddy Rogers, for this account of her rise to stardom.

Fred Allen: His Life and Wit by Robert Taylor.
RC 31769.
Portrait of comedian and satirist, Fred Allen, born in 1894, who reached his professional heights in the 1930s and 1940s in radio. He began his career in vaudeville, combining juggling with humorous patter. Unlike most comedians, he wrote his own material, and his style has influenced the work of humorists such as Garrison Keillor and Woody Allen.

Balancing Act: The Authorized Biography of Angela Lansbury by Martin Gottfried.
RC 48837.
Gottfried describes how he talked with the actress, her family, and her colleagues, and learned of her belief in the importance of maintaining a balance between personal life and career. Looks at the actress's offstage accomplishments and her success in the movies, on Broadway, and on television.

Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland by Gerald Clarke.
RC 49967.
Examines the life of performer Judy Garland, tracing her family roots, marriages, lovers, and children until her death at age 47. Describes various people who influenced the star including her mother, who gave Judy amphetamines at age four, and the unsavory Hollywood characters of her later years. Some strong language.

Lucy and Desi: The Legendary Love Story of Television's Most Famous Couple by Warren G. Harris.
RC 34506.
Harris draws upon interviews with family members and friends for his portrait of television’s popular couple. Little attention is given to the early years of either performer or to their lives after their divorce in 1960. Instead, Harris concentrates on their twenty-year partnership; I Love Lucy; one hour specials; and Desi's womanizing and drinking that led to their divorce.

Charlie Chaplin by John McCabe.
RC 16025.
Biography of the famed comedian from the years of squalor during his London boyhood at the workhouse through every phase of his career and private life. Shows how his comic genius and unfortunate marriages were rooted in his boyhood. Contains anecdotes from contemporaries and analysis of films.

The House of Barrymore by Margot Peters.
RC 32826.
Ethel, John, and Lionel Barrymore lived countless lives on stage and screen, and countless more off. From their birth into an already theatrical family, they dominated and entertained audiences for decades, winning acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic, generating tales of substance abuse and tangled relationships, and inspiring books, plays, and films. This biography adds to the history of American theater in providing the story of this popular family.