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In and Out of Hollywood: A Biographer's Memoir Hardcover – October 27, 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Beginning when he was a journalist in Australia, Higham began meeting the greats— Dietrich, Sinatra, Garland—and his stories about them are . . . telling personality portraits.”—Todd McCarthy, chief film critic for Variety


“This is a very entertaining page-turner, full of wild and alarming stories, famous names, and exotic places.”—David Thomson, author of The Classic Biographical Dictionary of Film

About the Author

Charles Higham is a biographer, critic, film historian, playwright, and poet. He is the bestselling author of The Duchess of Windsor; Kate (Hepburn); Bette (Davis); Howard Hughes: The Secret Life, the main source for Martin Scorsese’s film The Aviator; and Trading with the Enemy. He has appeared on Today, Good Morning America, Larry King Live, The History Channel, and A&E Biography. Higham lives in Los Angeles.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; 1 edition (October 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0299233405
  • ISBN-13: 978-0299233402
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,349,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I'm a glutton for film and theater biographies. I've often wondered, "WHO writes these? Who gets that close? How do they navigate the mindfield of egos and illusions?

Some of them, one realizes, are terrific writers-- and Charles Higham was one of them, among the best. You start reading for the "gossip" but soon realize you are more interested in his keen eye and sensitivity to the sea changes in this most mercurial of colonies.

In particular, his sense of how sexuality works inside of Hollywood, versus how it is portrayed to "civilians" is keen indeed.
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Charles Higham has long been accepted as a premier biographer of the rich/famous and (in some cases) the infamous. Based purely on his reputation and my own familiarity with his work, I assumed that this would probably be an interesting read. However, this book truly exceeded my already high expectations.
In and Out of Hollywood addresses the life and career of Mr. Higham. As the title implies, it chronicles Mr. Higham's life as a married man in a heterosexual relationship as well as his life as a gay man. Mr. Higham also discusses his career as a journalist, his varied projects, stories he couldn't use in the course of his research, and many interesting tidbits relating to the celebrities he came to know often on a social basis. And if that weren't enough, this book took many interesting twists and turns regarding odd fortune which resulted in some pretty heady stuff. For example, I was fascinated by Higham's story about the real cause of Bette Davis' 2nd husband's death until I moved on to how Higham was able to connect Errol Flynn to a nazi conspiracy. If the Flynn story wasn't enough, it was amazing how many prominent people covered for Flynn. And speaking of people with nazi sympathies, the information Higham provided about the Duke and Dutchess of Windsor(Wallis Warfield Simpson) crystalized for me the odd stories I had heard over the years.
While I am certain that the more sensational aspects of this book are enough to get people to read it(and yes, it is impossible for me to touch on everything I found interesting), Higham's own story was just as compelling. He approached this project with a lot of personal honesty and heart and he had me hooked from the first page.
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As the person who typeset this book for Mr Higham, who wrote everything on an old-fashioned typewriter, I got to know him quite well, meeting at his home once a week every week until this project (originally titled "Nobody"s Child" and then "Myself Among Others") was finished. We even became friends, after a fashion, and it was always entertaining to sit with him and hear anecdotes about Hollywood's golden days. At times he cracked himself up, I must add, laughing uproariously at his own stories (such as when Lucy was skiing and sailed into the living room of an elderly couple, who saw her reflection in the TV screen while they were watching "I Love Lucy" and thought their screen went double). His stories were not always believable, but his enthusiasm was contagious.

I also typeset a second book for him called "Legion of the Lost", which was a series of short essays on films Mr. Higham thought were important, but which are largely forgotten today. I don't know if that book will ever see the light of day as we drifted out of contact shortly after I completed the typesetting, and I don't know if it was ever submitted to publishers. He died about a year and a half later.

Mr Higham had also been planning a book on Lizzie Borden, for which I helped with online research. He aborted that project to do "Legion of the Lost", but would undoubtedly have returned to it had he lived longer.

I recommend "In and Out of Hollywood" to anyone curious to know what it may have been like to work with, or around, stars from the old days of Hollywood, as well as what it was like to live back then in general. It's an interesting time-piece, even though the chapters could easily go into greater detail.
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I was so surprised by this book. I'd heard of Higham, knew he wrote celebrity biographies, but hadn't heard his work was particularly exceptional. I was shocked to find his writing so gorgeous in the beginning of the book. And I had no idea he was such an intellectual and ran in the same circles as T.S. Eliot, et al, once upon a time. His childhood was fascinating, although I could have used a "trigger alert" before he wrote the graphic details of his sexual abuse, however brief. (Horrible, horrible parental figures.)

For those who love inside scoops on celebrities, this is a great book. He really dishes. Reading this was like eating candy.

He had quite a few psychic experiences, too, which I always find fascinating.

But I have to say, towards the end of the book, he lost a little credibility with me. For instance, re: Watergate, he said Nixon had nothing to do with it. It was all Howard Hughes' idea. Uh...I don't think so. And he said, Oswald acted alone and The Mob had nothing to do with it. So Oswald shot from two locations simultaneously. Pul-eese. Even Bobby admitted JFK was assassinated because he went after the mob.

Anyway, I found the book thoroughly entertaining, although a few of the stories I take with a grain of salt.
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