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Act One: An Autobiography by Moss Hart Hardcover – September 10, 2002

102 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Moss Hart was in the thick of American theater when everyone wore black tie on opening night and the world's most witty people entertained each other around a grand piano at late-night supper parties. It's an era of glamour that will never come again, but we have Hart's words on paper, and that is no small thing. A renowned director and theatrical collaborator, the brilliant Hart died too soon after the curtain went up on Act Two. If you want to know what it was like to be on the inside track in NYC in the '30s, '40s and '50s, here's a good place to find out. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Moss Hart's Act One is not only the best book ever written about the American theater, but one of the great American autobiographies, by turns gripping, hilarious and searing. (Frank Rich)

Reading Act One is like going to a wonderful dinner party and being seated next to a man who is more charming, more interesting, smarter, and funnier than you ever knew men were capable of being. Moss Hart is alive in these pages, and I am in love with him. (Ann Patchett, author of This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage and Bel Canto)

Is Act One for you? Only if you know that theater is spelled theatre, cast albums are not soundtracks, and intermission is twice as fun as halftime. In that case, not only is Act One for you--it is immediate and required reading. (Tim Federle, author of Better Nate Than Ever and Five, Six, Seven, Nate!)

Act One is legendary in the theater world for one simple reason: it speaks personally to those of us who have chosen a life on or around the stage. (James Lapine) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; Reissue edition (September 10, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375508600
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375508608
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,075,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By MOVIE MAVEN on July 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
Whenever I teach a class for actors, I recommend Moss Hart's autobiography, ACT ONE. It is simply the finest book I know about the theatre and what it was like to work on Broadway in the 1920's thru the 1950's. It was a true tragedy that Hart died so young, robbing not only his family of husband and father, but the world of a great playwright and director and chronicler of his times.
This is a funny, perceptive, first-hand account of life in the fast lane of one of the best playwrights Broadway has ever produced. An obsessive worker (it was the stress of his constant work that ultimately killed him), a perfectionist, a brilliant upstart, Hart teamed with George S. Kaufman to write some of the best and funniest plays of the first half of the 20th century...and even today. Is there really a better play about a family coping through love during the Depression than "You Can't Take It With You?" (That was a rhetorical question). And as Nathan Lane proved only two years ago, "The Man Who Came To Dinner" is very much worth reviving in a first class production even if you have already seen it in your local community or dinner theatre. The autobiography doesn't so much end as it stops and it is obvious that Hart meant to write a second and, perhaps, a third volume that would include his other writing partners, his Hollywood career, his directing, etc.
Steven Bach has written a biography of Hart's entire life called DAZZLER, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MOSS HART that is a fine companion to Hart's own, unbeatable ACT ONE. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By John Kenrick (jbk@corcoran.com) on April 10, 1998
Format: Paperback
ACT ONE is not just the engrossing story of a remarkable life -- its a precious gift from an author who captures the spirit of his past and passes it on to us. Moss Hart brings the New York of the early 20th Century to life, immersing the reader in the everyday life of that lost world. The despair of his family's poverty, the challenge of survival, the long-gone Catskill resort camps where he got his start, and the glamour of Broadway in its glory years -- all of these things Hart recalls with such vivid impact that they become tangible realities for us in ACT ONE. While Hart was justly acclaimed as a master playwright and director, ACT ONE proves that he also had a gift for superlative, irresistibly readable prose -- you feel you are listening to this man in warm, intimate conversation. Theatrical legends like Sam Harris and the inscrutible George S. Kauffman become three-dimensional and fascinating. Most importantly, this is one autobiography where the author shares a piece of his soul with the reader. Instead of just telling about his family being poor, he gives us a sense of how poverty can crush the soul -- and, conversely, how escaping from such poverty can set the soul free. The result is an autobiography that is not just interesting or entertaining, but genuinely moving. Hart's passion radiates throughout ACT ONE -- passion for success, for New York, for the theatre. And oh, how he brings you into the world of the theatre as he knew it -- the maddening and eccentric personalities, out of town tryouts, exhausting re-writes, soul-breaking failures and sky-high triumphs. If theatre or New York interest you, you canot afford to miss this book. If you simply love a great read, you also cannot afford to miss this book. We all owe ourselves a little joy, and ACT ONE is a joy from start to finish.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A. R. Karpe on April 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
"Act One," Moss Hart's timeless autobiography, is not only the story of a man's life and dreams, but of an era that feels as legendary and distant to us as Camelot. All of the theatrical giants are there, peppered in among a cast of characters that include Hart's painfully dysfunctional family as well as his colorful array of employers and cohorts as he scratches out a living in pursuit of a seemingly impossible goal: life in the legitimate theatre. More than anything, it is an inspirational tale of taking charge, of setting out to rise above oppresive beginnings and follow the soul's destiny, no matter how foolhardy that may seem. We know the outcome, but Hart's ability to spin the tale and build the tension is impeccable! Will he really make it? Of course he will, or we wouldn't be reading this wonderful book, but so involving is Hart's journey, that one can't help but get pulled along for the ride. Like the last drops of water in a scorching desert, I wanted to stretch this book out, greedily reading only a few paragraphs at a time so that tomorrow I'd have some left over. If you love the art of live theatre, or if you're an artist in need of a creative jump-start, "Act One" will provide the juice.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mary Jane Post on June 28, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A few years ago when I was doing a lot of theatrical reading I heard about Moss Hart's "Act One" and at the time it was out-of-print. I did not have a computer then, but a local bookseller was able to locate a used copy for me and it is a treasure. Moss Hart was truly an amazing man. He started out in a time when there was not much around in the way of financial security...to put it mildly, but he never gave up. It seems that he was always there to fix whatever problems came up in the Broadway theatre. He wrote this book because his wife, Kitty Carlyle Hart, asked him to and it is a little gem.
I am so happy to see that it is now available again and I am going to give it as birthday gifts to two dear friends who share my love of the theatre. They will love it as much as I do.
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