Silent Star Autobiographies

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
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maliejandra

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Silent Star Autobiographies

PostFri Feb 21, 2014 2:05 pm

Which silent movie stars or movie-associated people wrote autobiographies? I've read some but I am interested in reading more. I am aware of the following:

My Story: An Autobiography by Mary Astor
We Barrymores by Lionel Barrymore
Darling of the Twenties by Madge Bellamy
Adventures of a Hollywood Secretary by Valeria Belletti
Lulu in Hollywood by Louise Brooks
Adventures with D.W. Griffith by Karl Brown
My Life is In Your Hands & Take My Life by Eddie Cantor
The Name Above the Title by Frank Capra
Whatever Happened to Baby Peggy? by Diana Serra Cary
My Autobiography by Charles Chaplin
My Father, Charlie Chaplin by Charles Chaplin Jr.
My Life With Chaplin by Lita Grey Chaplin
The Real Joyce Compton by Joyce Compton
Dark Lady of the Silents by Miriam Cooper
The Times We Had by Marion Davies
Laugh and Live by Douglas Fairbanks
The Salad Days by Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Dark Star by Leatrice Gilbert Fountain
The Movies, Mrs. Griffith & Me by Lillian Gish
Papa's Delicate Condition by Corrine Griffith
Intimate Close-Ups by Georgia Hale
My Wonderful World of Slapstick by Buster Keaton
Kiss Hollywood Good-bye by Anita Loos
The Talmadge Girls by Anita Loos
The Shocking Miss Pilgrim by Fredrica Sagor Maas
My Hollywood by Patsy Ruth Miller
Silent Star by Colleen Moore
Memoirs of a Star by Pola Negri
My Rendezvous with Life by Mary Pickford
Sunshine and Shadow by Mary Pickford
Why Not Try God? by Mary Pickford
Silent Snowbird by Alma Rubens
Swanson on Swanson by Gloria Swanson
Fun in a Chinese Laundry by Josef von Sternberg
On the Other Hand by Fay Wray

There are also books which have good biographies or interviews with lesser known stars. These include:

Broken Silence by Michael Ankerich
Dangerous Curves Atop Hollywood Heels by Michael Ankerich
The Sound of Silence by Michael Ankerich
Speaking of Silents by William Drew

Can you add anything?
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Frederica

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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostFri Feb 21, 2014 2:44 pm

maliejandra wrote:
Can you add anything?


I can recommend Coy Watson, Jr.'s The Keystone Kid, which is uber-charming. Salka Viertel's autobiography, The Kindness of Strangers, is also good. I just checked amazon, Viertel's book is a bit on the spendy side, but I got it from the library. Otto Friedrich's City of Nets is worth a read, too.

Ethel Barrymore also wrote an autobiography.
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ajabrams

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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostFri Feb 21, 2014 3:04 pm

I read "Billy Bitzer: His Story- The Autobiography of D.W. Griffith's Master Cameraman" by G. W. Bitzer and Beaumont Newhall several years ago and found it really interesting.
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FrankFay

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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostFri Feb 21, 2014 3:07 pm

Budd Shulberg's "Moving Pictures- memoirs of a Hollywood prince" has some nice material on early Hollywood, but when Shulberg switches to talking about himself it becomes an orgy of self aggrandizement.

Similarly there's Donald Ogden Stewart's book "By a stroke of luck!" - a nice picture of his life and work in the 20's and 30's, but the later part of the book is full of political meanderings and an effort to plus his "serious" writings.

If you want a nice portrait of the era read Corey Ford's autobiography "A Time of Laughter" - there's very little about movies because Ford didn't write for them, but he knew everyone.
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JFK

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Unpublished/Unfinished Entertainment Memoirs

PostFri Feb 21, 2014 4:44 pm

This thread has the makings of a nice Wikipedia page devoted to books,
published or not, fiction or non, written or illustrated, by entertainment workers
(the more unheralded the better e.g. Dorothy Tree, (Dracula, The Asphalt Jungle)
who started in silents with It, wound up writing non-fiction as Dorothy Uris) .

ALSO SEE
Nitrateville: "Unpublished/Unfinished Entertainment Memoirs"
Last edited by JFK on Thu Feb 27, 2014 11:22 pm, edited 15 times in total.
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostFri Feb 21, 2014 7:06 pm

Esther Ralston's "Some Day We'll Laugh"(1985) was published with an introduction by Anthony Slide, but occasionally
Ralston's memory gets things mixed up, as I recall
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostFri Feb 21, 2014 8:54 pm

From Hollywood with Love by Bessie Love-
Slight but fun.
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostSat Feb 22, 2014 2:11 pm

I'm currently reading 'Storyline: Reflections of a Hollywood Screenwriter', the memoirs of Lenore Coffee, quite a little-known screenwriter who worked in Hollywood from 1919 up until the 50s. A good read, it's out of print but I recommend that you find yourself a copy. There are a few factual issues here and there, and she raises a few debatable points such as her understanding on the Arbuckle scandal, but from what I'm read so far, she has a great 'voice' and paints a vivid picture of the Hollywood of the time. On the whole it's like listening to some fantastic old Auntie, not quite perfect, but really quite brilliant.
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostSat Feb 22, 2014 7:40 pm

I'm currently re-reading Doug Fairbanks Jr's Salad Days - I remember feeling that it was a little over-written the first time round, but I'm not getting that this time. It is quite poorly edited though - spelling mistakes, incorrect names for films and that sort of thing, which is a shame, as it's otherwise very entertaining. Swanson on Swanson is also worthwhile. Lulu in Hollywood should really be read in conjunction with Barry Paris' book on Brooks; while it's intelligently written, it's not very factual.

Skip Mary Astor's My Biography and go straight to her A Life on Film - in my opinion, one of the best of all the star autobiographies. She writes well, although you sometimes find yourself wishing she wasn't so damn hard on herself.
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Bob Birchard

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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostSun Feb 23, 2014 3:55 pm

Pola negri wrote an autobio
Adventures With D.W. Griffith by Karl Brown is great
I Found My Way by Margery Wilson is wortwhile
A lot of fun is It Took Nine Tailors by Adolphe Menjou
An American Comedy by Harold Lloyd
Such Sweet Compulsion by Geraldine Farrar
Splinters From Hollywood Tripods by cameraman Virgil Miller
The Light on Her Face by Capra's cameraman
A Short Time For Insanity by William Wellman
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostSun Feb 23, 2014 6:41 pm

Don't forget UP THE YEARS FROM BLOOMSBURY, the first volume of George Arliss's entertaining memoirs. His account of making his screen test in 1920 and then watching the results on the screen is hilarious, easily worth the price of the book. Mr. A also provides recollections of silent filmmaking in the early 1920s.

Photo from the 1923 version of THE GREEN GODDESS - Harry Fischbeck at the camera, Sidney Olcott in the director's chair. Actors from left to right: Ivan Simpson, George Arliss, Alice Joyce, and Harry T. Morey.
Image
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostMon Feb 24, 2014 9:13 am

Oh Bob, you stole my thunder. :) I first became acquainted with that book of Arliss's twenty-five years ago. It was the only thing on him at the time and up until your wonderful book.

Since Mr. Arliss is mentioned, I'd also add < "Johnston Forbes-Robertson: A Player Under Three Reigns"> (c.1925) ..Sir Johnston is better remembered as a Shakespearean and stage actor, and you will learn a lot about 19th century Victorian theatre, but he did make several films , one of which "The Passing of the Third Floor Back"(1918) has just been made available from Grapevine, and maybe headed to Alpha. Due to the age of this book it may be harder to find and I don't think it was ever reprinted. Some well stocked college shelves, not yet turned into internet cafes, may still shelve it.
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostMon Feb 24, 2014 9:29 am

"Women Have Been Kind" (1931) - Lou Tellegen
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostMon Feb 24, 2014 9:36 am

venerable character actress Emma Dunn wrote two books about voice and acting. Since I only recently learned of them they might give some insight into how the actress thought about herself and her profession
*"Thought Quality in the Voice"(1933)
*"You Can Do It" (1947)
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostMon Feb 24, 2014 10:24 am

If you want a palate cleanser after all these autobiographies, you could read Sandford Doty's "Giving up the Ghost," and then segue to that greatest of film star autobiographies, "Little Me," by Patrick Dennis.
Fred
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostMon Feb 24, 2014 10:42 am

autobiography

SIlent Star - Colleen Moore

bios:

Peg Entwhistle and the Hollywood Sign Suicide by James Zeruk
For Art's Sake: The Biography and Filmography of Ben Turpin by Steve Rydzewski
King Baggot: A Biography and Filmography of the First King of the Movies by Sally A. Dumaux
Harold Lloyd: Magic in a Pair of Horn Rimmed Glasses -- Annette D'Agostino Lloyd
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostMon Feb 24, 2014 11:36 am

sepiatone wrote:Oh Bob, you stole my thunder. :) I first became acquainted with that book of Arliss's twenty-five years ago. It was the only thing on him at the time and up until your wonderful book.

Since Mr. Arliss is mentioned, I'd also add < "Johnston Forbes-Robertson: A Player Under Three Reigns"> (c.1925) ..Sir Johnston is better remembered as a Shakespearean and stage actor, and you will learn a lot about 19th century Victorian theatre, but he did make several films , one of which "The Passing of the Third Floor Back"(1918) has just been made available from Grapevine, and maybe headed to Alpha. Due to the age of this book it may be harder to find and I don't think it was ever reprinted. Some well stocked college shelves, not yet turned into internet cafes, may still shelve it.


Sepiatone, you hadn't mentioned Mr. A's second volume of memoirs, MY YEN YEARS IN THE STUDIO, in which he brings his first volume from 1927 up to date in 1940. If you hadn't read it yet, you won't be disappointed. For example, he writes his own Introduction stating that he was going to ask George Bernard Shaw to write it. He adds, GBS would have refused, but he could have asked him. I like that. I later found that GBS commented on this, saying that Mr. A is such a good writer he didn't need GBS to write the Intro. That's pretty high praise!
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostMon Feb 24, 2014 11:52 am

Bob, I'm glad we're mentioning Arliss' book Up the Years from Bloomsbury because I think (as you already know) that it is one of the best written autobiographies of all the film stars. And, as far as not easily found - not really true: it's pretty readily available at Abebooks.com, where currently there are 128 copies available.
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostMon Feb 24, 2014 1:58 pm

R Michael Pyle wrote:Bob, I'm glad we're mentioning Arliss' book Up the Years from Bloomsbury because I think (as you already know) that it is one of the best written autobiographies of all the film stars. And, as far as not easily found - not really true: it's pretty readily available at Abebooks.com, where currently there are 128 copies available.


Michael, both Arliss volumes must have sold well because while both are OOP now, copies are easy to find and are inexpensive. As you noted, abebooks.com is a great online source and if you wade through the various copies listed you can even find a few personally autographed by Mr. A.
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostMon Feb 24, 2014 2:12 pm

Adolphe Menjou wrote an autobiography around 1950 I think it's called It Took Nine Tailors, I have an autographed copy at home somewhere. Hedda Hopper wrote several books although mostly about the sound era.

None of Corinne Griffith's dozen books can truly be called an autobiography although all but one of them are (allegedly) nonfiction. PAPA'S DELICATE CONDITION was a memoir of her childhood and it does come the closest though to being a standard autobiography. Griffith rarely likely to recall being a part of the silent era (as one of her associates once put it his autobiography "she likes to be thought of as a contemporary of Bette Davis") to the point she once denied she was the Corinne Griffith of silent pictures although personally I suspect this was part publicity stunt and part to get out of a messy divorce as quickly inexpensively as possible although it backfired on her and had some questioning her sanity.

The Fredrica Sangor Maas book is the most toxic thing I've ever read, I didn't post a interview on the net anywhere because I didn't want my words to anger the old gal enough to remove her from the living (she went on to live about a decade past publication, making in several years past 100). I hated it so much I declined to purchase it when my library pulled it from their shelves a few years later and put it on their "old book sale table" for a quarter ( it was in wonderful condition, wouldn't be surprised if I was the only one who checked it out). She went after nearly everyone in it except for Norma Shearer, complained on virtually every page. I seem to recall the "endorsement" from Kevin Brownlow on the dust jacket was rather qualified and suspect he too had problems with the book.
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostMon Feb 24, 2014 2:47 pm

Harlowgold wrote:The Fredrica Sangor Maas book is the most toxic thing I've ever read, I didn't post a interview on the net anywhere because I think want my words to anger the old gal enough to remove her from the living (she went on to live about a decade past publication, making in several years past 100). I hated it so much I declined to purchase it when my library pulled it from their selves a few years later and put it on their "old book sale table" for a quarter ( it was in wonderful condition, wouldn't be surprised if I was the only one who checked it out). She went after nearly everyone in it except for Norma Shearer, complained on virtually every page. I seem to recall the "endorsement" from Kevin Brownlow on the dust jacket was rather qualified and suspect he too had problems with the book.


It would be hard to beat Miriam Cooper's effort for sheer bile, though. It read like she had a checklist of everyone who'd ever done her wrong, or who she thought had done her wrong, or who had passed her on the sidewalk one day when she was in a foul mood, and she was finally getting her chance to pay them back. What a little ray of sunshine she was.
Fred
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostMon Feb 24, 2014 4:21 pm

Frederica wrote:and then segue to that greatest of film star autobiographies, "Little Me," by Patrick Dennis.


I second that emoticon
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostMon Feb 24, 2014 4:58 pm

We do also have Mack Sennett's largely ghost-written book KING OF COMEDY, based mostly on interviews with Sennett, from what I remember. It's not very reliable for facts and accuracy but a rather fun read.
Daughter of Max Linder, Maud, wrote two books on her father in the early 1990s, both in French, though.
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostMon Feb 24, 2014 8:07 pm

Smari1989 wrote:We do also have Mack Sennett's largely ghost-written book KING OF COMEDY, based mostly on interviews with Sennett, from what I remember. It's not very reliable for facts and accuracy but a rather fun read.
Daughter of Max Linder, Maud, wrote two books on her father in the early 1990s, both in French, though.


she also did a touching documentary on him and the suicide with her mother. Is Max's daughter still with us?
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostMon Feb 24, 2014 8:11 pm

bobfells wrote:
R Michael Pyle wrote:Bob, I'm glad we're mentioning Arliss' book Up the Years from Bloomsbury because I think (as you already know) that it is one of the best written autobiographies of all the film stars. And, as far as not easily found - not really true: it's pretty readily available at Abebooks.com, where currently there are 128 copies available.


Michael, both Arliss volumes must have sold well because while both are OOP now, copies are easy to find and are inexpensive. As you noted, abebooks.com is a great online source and if you wade through the various copies listed you can even find a few personally autographed by Mr. A.


thanks Bob , Michael. I might recall Mr. A's follow up book or maybe Im telescoping the two into one. It's been a long time. Im glad to know copies are easily accessible, I usually go to Alibris myself. The Forbes-Robertson book was the one I was referring to as hard to find.
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostMon Feb 24, 2014 9:44 pm

Frederica wrote:It would be hard to beat Miriam Cooper's effort for sheer bile, though. It read like she had a checklist of everyone who'd ever done her wrong, or who she thought had done her wrong, or who had passed her on the sidewalk one day when she was in a foul mood, and she was finally getting her chance to pay them back. What a little ray of sunshine she was.


Miriam's book has been on my want list for a long time. Thanks for the warning - it's not now!!
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostMon Feb 24, 2014 10:44 pm

My Life East and West by William S. Hart.

Three biographies that are essentially book-length interviews with their subjects:
Keaton by Rudy Blesch
Harold Lloyd's World of Comedy by William Cahn
Born to Star: The Lupino Lane Story by James Dillon White
Rob Farr
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R Michael Pyle

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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostTue Feb 25, 2014 6:05 am

Rob Farr wrote:My Life East and West by William S. Hart.


Really good read! Hart also wrote novels and other things, besides. Pretty good writer at times. His autobiography is the best read of all of his, though.
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostTue Feb 25, 2014 6:48 am

I have duplicate copies of two terrific books: Edward Wagenknecht's Movies In the Age of Innocence (pb) and Anthony Slide's Silent Players (hb). I would love to trade one or the other for a good copy of the Menjou autobiography.

Jim
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Re: Silent Star Autobiographies

PostTue Feb 25, 2014 9:22 am

sepiatone wrote:
Smari1989 wrote:We do also have Mack Sennett's largely ghost-written book KING OF COMEDY, based mostly on interviews with Sennett, from what I remember. It's not very reliable for facts and accuracy but a rather fun read.
Daughter of Max Linder, Maud, wrote two books on her father in the early 1990s, both in French, though.


she also did a touching documentary on him and the suicide with her mother. Is Max's daughter still with us?


I believe she'll be 90 this June.
I know of the documentaries LAUGH WITH MAX LINDER (1963) and THE MAN IN THE SILK HAT (1983)--but neither covers much of the suicide. So she has actually done yet another documentary in more recent years? Is it available anywhere?
Max Linder blog: http://maxlinderblog.wordpress.com

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