Monday, January 10, 2011

Mann, William J. (How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood)

I actually agree with this author's thesis: that the studio system, the actress's own proclivities, and the public created the star we know as Elizabeth Taylor. I just found it difficult to wade through the gossip to get there.

Normally I would never pick up a book like this because of all its dish, but my book club foisted it on me. (Don't kill me, TS!) I wasn't all that interested in it for the same reason I'm not all that interested in Us Weekly. Actually I loathe Us Weekly, and thankfully this book is not loathsome. Just somewhat boring.

One of my biggest problems was the repetition. On nearly every page, he pushes the importance of understanding that Taylor grew up in the star-making system, and consequently knew no other way to live. First: I don't need to hear this ad nauseum, I got it the first couple times. Second: it's a little hard to believe that we were in awe of a woman who didn't know how to cook her own breakfast. I should appreciate this for what reason? I understand that movie stars = royalty in this country, but that doesn't mean I have to agree with how we treat them.

I also understand that he missed certain large aspects of Taylor's life. He tells us up front that he's going to do this. But when he tells us off-the-cuff that Burton re-married and that Taylor and Burton starred in something together long after their divorce, it just makes our antennae stand on end. If he's going to give us the play-by-play of their marriage, for what reason does he withhold more juicy gossip? I, for one, am not dying to know, but I can imagine others feeling exasperated.

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