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An Actor and a Gentleman Hardcover – May 3, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Today, it's hard to imagine the world Gossett Jr. inhabited during much of his acting and music career: driving to a Hollywood movie studio in a convertible in 1968, he was stopped eight times by police who assumed he had stolen the car (a similar event would occur in 1986); during that same period, while his white co-stars stayed at swank hotels, he checked in at a fleabag Washington Boulevard motel that was one of the few to admit blacks. It's a testament to Gossett's perseverance and faith in his fellow human beings that he is not bitter, but rather has devoted time and money to developing "The Eracism Foundation," an organization devoted to cultural diversity and ending racism. Gossett looks back on an impressive career that includes his Oscar-winning role in An Officer and a Gentleman and Emmy-winning work in Roots, but also a lifelong struggle with alcohol and drugs. For all his eventful recollections, however, Gossett's tone is strangely flat, robbing his memoir of emotional resonance and making it a bit of a chore to get through.
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From the Inside Flap

He was a Broadway star at age seventeen. His first job out of college was the 530-performance run of Lorraine Hansberry's groundbreaking play A Raisin in the Sun, in which he appeared with Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, and Ossie Davis. At age thirty-two, he became the first African American actor to play an authority figure in a major primetime network broadcast, which was also the first-ever made-for-TV movie, Companions in Nightmare. As impressive as these accomplishments are, they all occurred long before Louis Gossett Jr. won an Emmy Award and an Oscar and became one of the best-loved and most famous and respected actors in America.

In this frank and revealing autobiography, Mr. Gossett looks back over his fifty-five-year career in theater, film, and television (with a little basketball, singing, and guitar playing on the side). He reminisces about a mostly happy childhood in Coney Island; tells wonderful stories about working and playing with the biggest names in show business; and reveals how, in spite of what might seem to many a charmed life, his road was often made rocky by the scourge of racism from without and personal demons within.

Among the most treasured memories of his early Broadway days are the twice-weekly poker games with Poitier and Paul Newman, between shows on matinee days, and playing softball in the Broadway Show League, where he discovered very quickly that he wasn't the only gifted athlete in show business. He tells the story of his brief but unforgettable romance with the highly talented but tragically short-lived actress Diana Sands, and he reveals how Shirley Booth kept him from being fired from the cast of a pre-Broadway touring show and got him invited to a lot of parties at the same time.

Mr. Gossett's bitterest memories include a day that still ranks among the worst in his life. Having arrived in Hollywood and being put up, for the first time, in the lavish Beverly Hills Hotel, he started out on what should have been a leisurely drive from the rental car office back to the hotel. Almost immediately, he was pulled over by an L.A. County sheriff for DWB (Driving While Black). He was stopped six more times before he reached the hotel. In the end, that short trip took four hours. But the horror and humiliation of that experience were just a foretaste of what L.A. police officers would put him through later that same night. These events, and many more like them, were part of what inspired him to launch the Eracism Foundation in 2006 and devote the rest of his life to an all-out offensive against racism, violence, and ignorance.

Louis Gossett Jr. is not your run-of-the-mill movie star, and An Actor and a Gentleman isn't just another Hollywood memoir. It is a funny, fascinating, and sometimes heartbreaking tour through the last half-century of American life, as seen through the eyes of one of our most talented artists.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (May 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470574712
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470574713
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #185,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Nancy L. Mehagian on June 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
As a lover of memoir, I found Lou Gossett's journey to be heartbreakingly honest and inspiring. Aspiring young theater and screen actors will find this tome especially informative as Gossett chronicles his education and rise to become one of America's most gifted actors. As a treatise on what it is like to have come up during a time of blatant racism, the reader will receive an education as well. Highly recommended.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By David A. Rand on May 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lou is a true American Hero. He as moved the hearts and minds of countess souls and to read his story is quite and honor.

Most may remember him for his film roles but the real man goes even deeper in character and mind, as some may play a hero in a story but Lou is the real deal in real life.

An inspiring story for young and old. I highly recommend this great book.

Dave Rand
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Will Kane on September 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr. Gossett remains an inspiring artist to a generation of black actors who follow his trail of excellence, humanity, courage, and power. I use the phrase "black" actor for the specific arc that is a part of his legacy of images that fed our need for that power and dignity that have so often been denied. Any actor can respect his excellence and diversity. Humanity is this man's strength and this book is flooded with it. A great read.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Philip Brice on June 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was an enjoyable book from start to finish. I have watched Mr. Gossett work his magic in movies and television shows over the years and loved all of his work. I had no idea what a wonderful life he has enjoyed to this moment. He has had his share of ups and downs but is still standing strong. You will be touched when you read of his experiences with racism but through his good upbringing, he was able to handle it with dignity and tact.

I thank him for sharing his life story and recommend it highly. He is truly an inspiration to all.

Go Lakers!!!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By claire ford fullerton on November 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautiful read: heart-warming, elegant and telling of what it means to have been born and raised in an era which does not encourage the climb Gossett, Jr. achieved. I was drawn to this book on the recollection of this actor's iconic and groundbreaking performance in "An Officer and a Gentleman," yet was not prepared for the insightful, riveting read of this autobiography! This book is a page turner that stands on its own merits! Do yourself a favor and pick it up!
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