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"BOXED, LIKE PROUST"

Read any good books lately?

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"BOXED, LIKE PROUST"

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » June 26th, 2010, 12:10 am

The title I chose for this thread is from one of my favorite quotes from Auntie Mame when she was thinking about writing her memoirs.I couldn't help myself. But the latest book on my nightstand is one whose story I wanted to share.

Leslie Caron's memoir, Thank Heaven, published in 2009 by Viking Penguin, is a book that found its way into my bookshelf in a weak moment, but it seems I'm always having weak moments when it comes to books. One of my guiltiest pleasures is reading, and I especially have a penchant for volumes and volumes written by members of the Hollywood elite, gliterati, showboaters, grandstanders, and the lucky who just happened to be at the right drugstore at the right time.

For Ms. Caron, it seemed she was in the right tutu at the moment her pirouette of happenstance graced her with chance.

Beginning with her early childhood, in France, she takes us on a journey concerning the downsizing of her family's holdings,
partly related to the coming war, and partly related to a court case in which her paternal grandfather, Marcel Caron, would be posthumously exonerated by President Charles De Gaulle.

When her father was demobilized from the French army where he served as a medic in 1940, she and her family moved to the Latin Quarter in Paris so that her father could reopen his pharmacy, and the deprivations and difficulties of World War II and German occupation changed her life forever. The severe rationing of soap, a commodity currently much taken for granted, is a reminder of her mother's ability to salvage "wafer-thin slices of soap in a glass, adding water to bind the leftovers together." Many years after the war when she stays in a grand hotel, she can't help "snitching" a perfumed bar from the hotel bathroom because "I know that the maids will throw it away after my departure."

Caron recounts her brother Aimery's escape from a boarding school in the Alps, reminiscent of Louis Malle's Aur Revoir les Enfants, the shelling of her family's farmhouse, and the relief when the war was finally over.

At the age of eleven, Caron began taking ballet classes once a week at Madame Preobrajenska's, housed in the Studio Wacker, the same studio where Zelda Fitzgerald studied and wrote about in her Save Me The Waltz. Preobrajenska had escaped the Russian revolution and was a legendary figure, a prima ballerina at the Maryinsky Theater. Caron claimed she progressed "slowly," but under the ambitious shadow of her mother, Caron quickly decided her path and stated to her family that "I want to become a professional ballet dancer." At fourteen, she entered the national ballet school, Le Conservatoire. Her travels with Roland Petit as director of Le Conservatoire led the young ballerina to adventures in Egypt, Scotland, and many other international destinations.

Gene Kelly saw Leslie Caron dance at the Ballets des Champs-Elysees, and a year or so later, he came calling. "I'm going to do a film called An American in Paris," he said. A screen test was eventually made, and Caron's serious "classical ballet career" was all but over.

Her marriages, her children, her highly-publiced affair with Warren Beatty, her London parties, her renovation of "Auberge La Lucarne aux Chouettes" and the lack of French filmakers interested in her talents make for an interesting jaunt through the countrysides of Los Angeles, London, and Paris. Proudly claiming to have written these memoirs on her own, the story doesn't suffer. There are moments when reading Caron's memoir where it is obvious that her native French has influenced her words more than her adopted English, but it is a lovely distraction.

Au Revoir....
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Re: "BOXED, LIKE PROUST"

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » January 27th, 2011, 12:07 am

Everyone loves a mystery, and there are quite a few questions that finally have answers in this latest celebrity autobiography, One From the Hart by Stefanie Powers. When I saw it on the shelf, I knew I had to read it. What happened to April Dancer? What was it like to work with Tallulah Bankhead? How exciting was it to travel to Africa and China with the legendary William Holden? Was Herbie Standard or Automatic? What is a Boatnik?

But seriously, the woman has had a fascinating adventure here on this planet, and luckily for us, she has taken us along for part of her non-stop ride through the kingdoms she has conquered and the people she has known. She arrived to experience the end of the studio system, won awards for her acting and encouraged conservation with her activism.

Describing Hollywood Boulevard in the 1930's reveals how some things rarely change. "Gravitating toward the daily parade of hopefuls was an eclectic assortments of eccentrics..."Nature Boy"..."Goldilocks"..."Robin Hood".. who were character extras and aspiring actors just hoping to be noticed, and currently these hopefuls still populate tourist attractions like Grauman's Chinese Theatre, but today these characters are Samuel L. Jackson lookalikes and Disney princess wannabes. So she does create an atmosphere of respect for what Hollywood was, reveal how it has changed for her personally, and allowed us a glimpse of her private life among the glitterati.

Powers and her mother were unusually close and she explores their loving relationship and her early childhood with great affection. Especially rousing is her story concerning her attempt at mastering the art of driving a golf cart at the age of seven or eight, and how that eventually led to her "allegiance to the animal kingdom."

She has many brushes with show business greatness: Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner, Tallulah Bankhead, John Wayne, and a cast of many other notable names in the theater, literature, and the arts.

Her Mom, Julie, believed in the old adage,"When one door closes, another opens," and it is obvious Powers believes in it, too. She has happy accidents like bumping into Blake Edwards where they engage in the odd "sun glasses and Monte Carlo" exchange, and her serendipitous adventures are light-hearted, startling, fearful, and lucky, and not necessarily in that order.

Her ex-husband Gary Lockwood's experiences on 2001: A Space Odyssey and his contributions to the film as well as the ups and downs of their relationship are not necessarily revelatory in some ways, but they are not glossed over. Powers writes about her difficulties and joys in a classy way, taking the proverbial Scottish high road, even though it mainly detours through the Polish countryside when she writes about her heritage and and the joy and pride she feels in her connections to her European roots with relish and fervor. Her linguistic abilities have helped her through more airports and tight spots that she might acknowledge, but because of her facility with language, it has also aided her jet set lifestyle.

But the most tantalizing moments that garnered my attention were the stories about Powers' relationship with William Holden, the excitement and fun they shared on their travels to Kenya, China, Singapore, and many places in between, and how their love sustained the William Holden Wildlife Foundation.

Also of great interest are those few weeks in November of 1981 when Holden died, Natalie Wood accidentally drowned, and she and Robert Wagner had to continue on during the shooting schedule of Hart to Hart.

The death of Powers' mother and Powers' own battle with lung cancer seemed to have prompted the need to record some of her most celebrated moments, and those moments are entertaining, historical, and in some cases, groundbreaking, like testifying before the FCC about something called...uh...cable television.

If I had a wish list for this book, I would ask for an index (so many people and places!), and a little more effort on factual research due to some inadvertent errors that probably won't be noticed by the general public.

But it's greatest fault? I gave me jet lag!

A fun romp with a classy gal.
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Re: "BOXED, LIKE PROUST"

Postby moira finnie » January 27th, 2011, 1:21 am

Oooh, you had me up to the part where you said there was no index! I guess Stephanie Powers just figured her fans should read the whole book. Does she still help to maintain the Wildlife Preserve that William Holden started? Have you read Robert Wagner's autobiography? I really liked the part near the beginning in which he describes being a boy near a prominent golf course. Seeing Fred Astaire, Clark Gable and Randolph Scott playing together (did I forget anyone?) their casual yet elegant style made quite an impression on him. That moment is probably when he decided that it was an actor's life for him.
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Re: "BOXED, LIKE PROUST"

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » January 27th, 2011, 1:59 pm

CEO...

Yes, she is the Director of the William Holden WIldlife Foundation, founded in 1983: http://www.whwf.org/

Powers is most adamant in her reflections about the inroads to fundraising, education, purpose and adaptability of this great endeavor.
When I was seven, my mother arranged a wonderful birthday party for me and my friends. We all went to see Hatari! with John Wayne.
In some ways, I was then smitten by the idea of traveling to Africa and Kenya specifically to go on a photographic safari, and this film, whose title means "danger" in Swahili, coloured the parts of my life that made me seek out my own adventures. Even though I've never been to Kenya, that dream has basically never left me, and I see many parallels in those onscreen adventures in Hatari with the adventures Powers has had in her own life. It was an entertaining, as well as an enlightening read.

Hype...

One of the blurbs from her autobiography jacket that resonated with me is is that her story is about a "resourceful, empowered , and atypical" celebrity.
She certainly namedrops, but I would imagine that it was part of the requests from her publisher, Simon and Schuster, and the word "atypical" is one
description of her that I completely agree with.

Trained and Ingrained...

A fault of any good college English instructor is that they look at the words and meaning of the language and its fluidity, and one of my personal idiosyncrasies is that I always read the jacket descriptions before I purchase or borrow a book, and after I've read it, I peruse it again just to see if I personally agree with the hype. The word "atypical" is the phrase I most agreed with once I had completed her tome.

Wagnerian..

I also read Robert Wagner's autobiography entitled Pieces of My Heart and found it to be less affecting to me personally than Powers' efforts, but he does deal with one of the most difficult episodes of his life, Natalie Wood's accidental drowning, and so does she. Those few weeks in 1981 were devastating
personally for Wagner and Powers, but also to the Hollywood community at large.

The other moments in Wagner's life that most resonated with me include that moment you describe during his golf course days. How could he not absorb all that style and panache from those great guys? And his friendship with Barbara Stanwyck.

Outdexed...

When there is no index on a geographically intense biography such as Powers', it makes it especially difficult for reviewers and readers. If I have remembered something I want to highlight in a review, or I just want to reread an especially poignant portion of the text, I have to hunt for it manually. Maybe they were unusually pressed for time, or didn't have the funds to prepare it. I just don't know what happened, but I do know I would have certainly used it if it had been provided.
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Re: Stefanie Powers autobiography

Postby Professional Tourist » January 27th, 2011, 4:31 pm

Describing Hollywood Boulevard in the 1930's reveals how some things rarely change.

Considering Stefanie Powers was born in 1942, she would not be speaking from personal experience there.

She has many brushes with show business greatness: Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner, Tallulah Bankhead, John Wayne, and a cast of many other notable names in the theater, literature, and the arts.

Including Agnes Moorehead, whom Stefanie does not mention in her book. They worked together on television, for a 1971 episode of the series Love, American Style:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRnLPdEuIdo[/youtube]

If I had a wish list for this book, I would ask for an index (so many people and places!)

I agree that the lack of index in a print book is a big issue. I've run into that with Lauren Bacall's autobiography By Myself, and Then Some. Fortunately there is an eBook edition from Google of Stefanie's book, which of course has search capability. To me that serves even better than a print book with a good index. :)

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Re: Stefanie Powers autobiography

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » January 27th, 2011, 7:38 pm

Professional Tourist wrote:
Describing Hollywood Boulevard in the 1930's reveals how some things rarely change.Considering Stefanie Powers was born in 1942, she would not be speaking from personal experience there.



As with most biographies and autobiographies, there are always sections that describe the setting or introduce readers historically, and with Powers' book, she has her fair share of introductions for the purpose of dramatic staging. But she was not speaking from personal recollection in this section.

What most garnered my interest is that while attending the Turner Classic Movie Festival in April of 2010 in L.A., these same type of characters who are seeking recognition, fame, or discovery are still gracing the sidewalks in front of popular tourist venues. That was the point I was focusing on, but clarity must not have been my best suit here. In any event, I felt that the personal thoughts, exchanges, and conversations revealed in the text were about par for the course concerning revelatory events in the life of such a high profile actress. And I feel that there were several areas of personal interest that were glossed-over, but if I were a celebrity author, I wouldn't feel obligated to reveal anything untoward unless I chose to.

Sorry there was no special "Agnes Moorehead moment." I know she wasn't the only celebrity who was slighted or dismissed.

Search capabilities with an ebook are definitely a plus, but I am not a big fan of the sterility of ebooks. I need my page-turning, momentary- reading accomplishment fix. :)

Since you've obviously had a chance to read her book, did you have any favorite stories or sections? I especially liked what has happened with the burgeoning success of the William Holden Wildlife Foundation.
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Re: Stefanie Powers autobiography

Postby Professional Tourist » January 27th, 2011, 10:17 pm

Sue Sue Applegate wrote:Sorry there was no special "Agnes Moorehead moment." I know she wasn't the only celebrity who was slighted or dismissed. [. . .] Since you've obviously had a chance to read her book, did you have any favorite stories or sections?

I didn't mean to imply in my previous post that I felt Miss Moorehead had been slighted or dismissed because she was not mentioned in Miss Powers' book -- only to advise that Miss M had been one of her "many brushes with show business greatness," although not included, and to supply a clip of that production. I also did not mean to imply that I had read Miss Powers' book; I have accessed only Google's free preview (linked above).

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Re: "BOXED, LIKE PROUST"

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » February 4th, 2011, 9:09 pm

The hotel Leslie Caron so lovingly restored is under new ownership. Ms. Caron detailed her many expenses, trials, and tribulations creating a new boutique hotel and restaurant in Burgundy.

This link is in French:
https://www.totalrewards.com/hotel-rese ... home.shtml
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