Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Recommended Biographies

Most women love a bad boy, and here are four of the best!
A book that focuses on four different people naturally can't go into enormously great detail on any one of its subjects, but Hellraisers still gives a fine biographical narrative on Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O'Toole, and Oliver Reed, four men known not only for their acting but also for their wild partying ways. 
As I moved my way through this book, I found the parallels between Burton, Harris, and O'Toole's lives fascinating; all from working class backgrounds, who mainly seemed to start drinking as a means to bond with their respective fathers. Oliver Reed is the exception, having grown up in a relative world of privilege, he seemed to be a devil from the word "go". 
Like being at a party with someone who is drunk, their antics at first are humorous, outrageous, and entertaining, but as you go on it becomes difficult to read at times as you see the toll that is taken on their careers, health, and personal lives. Then again, if they didn't live as wildly as they did, would they have the notoriety that they now do? Would they hold the fascination of the public the same way? Probably not. It is an excellent look into the lives of four very gifted actors and how their wild ways shaped them, for better or worse.

I loved this book! A great deal of this is based on recordings the author made with Hepburn and George Cukor while visiting at his house so you get more of an intimate feeling about it. Naturally, it's not possible to do this with most biographies, but I find it so much more interesting and personal than the usual form of biography where it feels as if the author is narrating the subject's life. With this book, you can almost feel that Katharine Hepburn is in the room with you telling you these stories, as she told them to the author.
A number of topics are covered; how she got her start in acting at Bryn Mawr, her affair with Howard Hughes, how she dealt with the studio system, and her decades long relationship with Spencer Tracy. The recurring topic however, is the deep bond she had with her brother Tom, who died when she was fourteen while apparently practicing a hanging trick. Her relationship with her brother and his subsequent death affected her and her character more than anything else in her life, making her feel that she was not only living her life, but that she also needed to live life for him as well. It's haunting at times to see how that connection and depth of feeling for him never left her. 
If you're interested in reading about this remarkable woman, you won't be able to put this book down.

I will be listing more recommendations every now and then, so this is by no means my entire list! I hope you check these two out and enjoy them as much as I did..