‘Life Revealed’ a Reading Highlight of 2015


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Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed – the first biography of the legendary actress to be published in 85 years, which tells ‘the tragic story of the beautiful, Academy Award-nominated film and Broadway star’ – has been named among the Best Film Books of 2015 by historian Thomas Gladysz, in his annual round-up for the Huffington Post.

Born On This Day: Clifton Webb 1889-1966


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Webb Parmelee Hollenbeck was born in Indiana on November 19, 1889. His father, Jacob Grant Hollenbeck, a ticket clerk, had married Mabel A. Parmelee, daughter of a railroad conductor, earlier that year. They separated in 1891, and ‘little Webb’ was raised by his mother. They moved to New York City in 1892, and Mabel remarried in 1900. Continue reading

Born on This Day: Jean de Limur 1887-1976


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Jean de Limur (centre) with Charlie Chaplin (right), 1923

Jean de Limur (centre) with Charlie Chaplin (right), 1923

Jean Chamur Limur was born on November 13, 1887, in Vouhé, a town in Southern France. He began his film career as an actor in Hollywood, under the name Jean de Limur. Continue reading

Art Decades 5: ‘Amy’, and More


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10848031_401443916698716_5793559625984160443_nMy review of Asif Kapadia’s documentary, Amy, is featured in Issue 5 of Art Decades, out now. This marks the first anniversary of the magazine. Singer Sophie Auster graces the autumnal cover, and the contents include a profile of filmmaker Candida Royalle, who died recently; art by Kevin Bittle; photography by Dylan Staley, John Levy, and editor Jeremy Richey, featuring models Andrea Margaret, Barbara Scheider, and Carmen Stinson; and self-portraits by Zaira Mandouj.

As before, Art Decades 5 has a strong female focus. There is also a literary aspect to this issue. Jeremy Richey interviews British horror author Anthony Crowley; and Bryce Wilson looks back at Bret Easton Ellis’ 2006 novel, Lunar Park. Adding to the UK contingent is Steve Langton, who remembers seeing artists from the Ramones to the Dead Kennedys play at Nottingham’s Rock City.

My own favourite piece is a profile of nouvelle vague actress Bernadette Lafont, excerpted from Marcelline Block’s recently published book, French Cinema in Close-Up. For the rest of 2015 at least, Art Decades will be a monthly publication. In the next issue, I’ll be talking about Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed.

My review of Amy coincides with the film’s release on DVD, Blu-Ray and i-Tunes this week. A soundtrack is also available, featuring rare demos and live recordings from Amy, as well as instrumental themes by Antonio Pinto. Art Decades 5 can be ordered from Amazon (for £7.79 in the UK, or $12 in the US.) If you’re a regular reader, you can subscribe here.

Born on This Day: Rita Hayworth 1918-1987


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582438_10151374140895923_1330601733_nOne of my favourite Hollywood stars, Rita Hayworth, was born on this day in 1918. Hollywood’s ‘love goddess’ also starred in a 1953 musical remake of Rain, entitled Miss Sadie Thompson. In Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed, myself and co-author Eric Woodard devoted an entire chapter to the actresses who followed in Sadie’s footsteps.

Rita would have been almost twelve years old when Jeanne died. In an interview with John Kobal for his book, Rita Hayworth – The Time, the Place, the Woman (1977), she recalled enjoying Eagels’ movies as a child.

I was eight when we moved to Los Angeles. My father had a [dance] studio on Vine Street and Hollywood Boulevard. After my classes were over I had to take care of my two brothers because my family was working. So we used to go to the movies. We’d go to the Iris Theatre where they had all the silent movies, because it cost so little – ten cents for kids – and I used to take them and we’d sit there for hours. I liked Jeanne Eagels and Ruth Chatterton, and all of those people. I always wanted to stay longer but Vernon and Eddie got angry because they wanted to leave when they got tired of that stuff…

Incidentally, Ruth Chatterton – Rita’s other idol – would replace Jeanne Eagels in her last film, The Laughing Lady, after the actress became fatally ill.

As I revealed in an article earlier this year, there also striking parallels between Rita’s career and that of another screen beauty, Marilyn Monroe, whose own dream of playing Sadie Thompson would never be fulfilled.

Born on This Day: Ina Claire 1893-1985


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ina_claire_by_vintagedream_stock-d4qgoo8Of Irish descent, Ina Fagan was born in Washington on October 15, 1893. She never knew her father, who had died in a car accident four months previously. With no family breadwinner, Ina and her mother went to live in a boarding-house. From an early age, Ina had a talent for impersonations, and made her vaudeville debut in 1909 as ‘the dainty mimic’, under her mother’s maiden name of Ina Claire. Continue reading

Ziegfeld and His Follies


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Cynthia and Sara Brideson are twin siblings, and the co-authors of Also Starring… , a 2012 book profiling forty character actors of Hollywood’s Golden Era. For their latest project, Ziegfeld and His Follies, they have chosen an even more ambitious topic – the life and times of that most fabled of Broadway producers. Many other writers and film-makers have explored this subject, but while Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.’s name remains a symbol of glamour and excess, the man himself is a shadowy figure – like the great and powerful Oz. Continue reading

Jeanne Eagels: A Fitzgeraldian Life


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Jeanne72dpiTarainAnother great review of Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed, this time from blogger David Marshall James. He compares Jeanne’s turbulent life to a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was fascinated by her husband, Ted Coy, a retired football star – even depicting Coy in his fiction.

It’s as if F. Scott Fitzgerald penned her life’s story:  Midwest girl with stars in her eyes makes it to Broadway, seizes the role of a lifetime, then declines as dramatically as she has arisen … Authors Eric Woodard and Tara Hanks have expended an exceptional effort in presenting Jeanne Eagels, through the record of her life and her accomplishments, and through the memories of those who knew her.

Liz Smith Loves ‘Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed’


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books2Liz Smith is a legendary columnist whose career began in the 1950s. She has known everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Madonna, and continues to offer her wise and witty opinions on today’s entertainment world. In her regular New York Social Diary column today, she has written an in-depth review of Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed.

The liberties taken with Jeanne’s life were extraordinary.  Now, there is some redress in a new book, Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed by Eric Woodard and Tara Hanks.  And of course, the real story is far more interesting than the exaggerations.

Eagels, who began working on stage as a teenager, was an intense woman and an even more intense actress, one who seemed lit from within, a fire too hot not to cool down and too blazing not to take a toll.  Her great legacy was a staggering four-year run as Sadie Thompson in the stage adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s Rain. This role would define her, in ways both positive and negative. There were those who felt that the always highly strung Eagels was driven over the edge, playing this role for such a long time.

She was fiercely independent, intelligent, resistant to authority (she famously fought against joining Actor’s Equity) and subject to substance abuse … A Life Revealed offers a startling look at the actress and her times. Stage work remains hard work, but in Jeanne’s day it was downright grueling. Her climb to the top was long, and once she attained stardom, she intended to keep it … Her films were few, but her strange, unique quality was just as evident on screen, especially in 1929’s The Letter 

I recommend this new book because it is packed with detail and drama, and does bring Jeanne Eagels into 21st century focus as an ambitious, driven woman who often fought the system, but could not defeat her own demons.

Born on This Day: Émile Chautard (1864-1934)


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Next up in an ongoing series profiling key figures in Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed is Émile Chautard. One of cinema’s early pioneers, he directed more than 100 films, and acted in sixty. Continue reading


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