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Luck and Circumstance: A Coming of Age in Hollywood, New York, and Points Beyond Hardcover – September 27, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 273 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf (September 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307594688
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307594686
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #833,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Beautifully written . . .  a mysterious mix of memory and insight . . . the book’s charm is Lindsay-Hogg’s ability to convey the texture of his unusual life.”
—Deirdre Donahue, USA TODAY  

“Irresistible….[Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s] incisive writing and ability to deftly transcribe every dramatic moment that shaped his life makes Luck and Circumstance stand out…[a] marvelous coming-of-age story.”
—Lizzie Crocker, The Daily Beast
“[Luck and Circumstance] is a candid, chatty and enlivened by wonderfully detailed mini-portraits of the famous supporting players in his life.”
—David Wiegand, San Francisco Chronicle

“Sad, funny and intelligent . . . Show-business memoirs are often long on gossip and short on introspection. This one has plenty of entertaining anecdotes about the famous characters who pass through Lindsay-Hogg’s life . . . But Lindsay-Hogg is at his most compelling when trying to make sense of his ambiguous feelings about his parents and his obsession with Welles.”
Moira Hodgson, The Wall Street Journal
Number 3 on Entertainment Weekly’s Must List: The Top Ten Things We Love This Week: “Fascinating. . . Unconcealed flashes of pride mixed with resentment . . . imbue this memoir with its power.”
“Generous, funny, and often poignant. . .”
Megan O’Grady,
“Lindsay-Hogg makes every effort to parse the practically Shakespearean drama that shaped his life. Epic love, mistaken identities, letters revealing secrets—they’re all here.”
—Alex Witchel, The New York Times Book Review

“An unusual story of a life lived among a galaxy of stars, told with enough insight and intelligence that even those who dismiss celebrity memoirs should enjoy this jaunt through the glitz.”
“A really good read. It’s interesting, and funny, with a poignancy to it also, and the mystery surrounding the elusive big bear, Orson Welles, is fascinating.”
—Mick Jagger
“A perfect memoir. Filled with exquisite, fascinating portraits of legendary artists at work in the theatre and the movies and rock and roll. The mystery of Orson is a chorus reprised in various corner booths through the years. A sheer pleasure to get to know these people and their vanished worlds, and heartbreaking to lose them one by one.”
—Wes Anderson 
"This explains a lot."

—Lorne Michaels

“The ambiguity Michael Lindsay-Hogg has been dealing with all his life would have broken many a lesser man and artist. With truth shifting, and objects of love being uncertain, one feels the pain and sadness and confusion he must have felt. But he shows a touching generosity I don't think I could have shown to the culprits in his life.”
 —Larry Kramer 
 “Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s memoir, honest and witty, is also a mystery story with all the surprises of a detective story. Along with intimate and humorous stories of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, as well as Hollywood in the ‘40s, there is a courageous revelation of the deepest fears and desires of family life and individual identity.”
—Susanna Moore
“When—if ever—should a secret be revealed? I’ve puzzled over this for years . . . In this brilliant, compelling memoir of haunting questions you will find the answer.”
—Gloria Vanderbilt

About the Author

Michael Lindsay-Hogg studied at Oxford before becoming a director of the 1960s British television rock series Ready, Steady, Go! On Broadway, he has directed Whose Life Is It Anyway?, Agnes of God, and The Boys of Winter. His films include Nasty Habits, Frankie Starlight, The Object of Beauty, and Waiting for Godot. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Lisa.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What's it like to grow up fatherless in a family with a surfeit of fathers? Michael Lindsay-Hogg writes about never knowing who was his father in his fascinating memoir, "Luck and Circumstance". Lindsay-Hogg, now in his early 70's was the son of the Irish actress Geraldine Fitzgerald and...someone. Maybe Fitzgerald's husband at the time, Edward Lindsay-Hogg, or possibly director Orson Welles. Michael's mother never quite told the story of his conception and admitted and denied facts all her life. Edward Lindsay-Hogg, divorced from Fitzgerald after WW2 was the "distant father", Orson Welles was the "fantasy father", and Geraldine's second husband, "Boy" Scheftel, was the "acting father" who raised him.

Between writing of both physical and psychological search for his father, Michael Lindsay-Hogg tells of growing up the son of a famous Hollywood actress who then segues into theater acting. He, too, was initiated into the theater world early, skipping out on organised school classes to work as a professional behind the stage. He became a noted director and worked with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones on videos in the 1960's and 1970's. He also directed movies and many stage plays in his long career. He moved from being Geraldine Fitzgerald's and - maybe - Orson Welles's son to being a remarkable producer, director, and writer, famous and successful in his own right.

Lindsay-Hogg is an excellent writer and tells his story with a quiet intensity that belie the many questions he has about his own identity. Was Welles Michael's real father? Certainly there was a physical resemblance of sorts and Welles dropped in and out of Michael's life at odd times. Michael's mother hinted at his true parentage but stepped back from firmly identifying the man.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By R. Gold on October 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Michael Lindsay-Hogg has led a life that led him to working in entertainment in both the U.S. and England, and because his mother (Geraldine Fitzgerald) was in the movies and on Broadway, he has met many well known people during his life, but a lot of his personal energy has been directed toward the identity of his father. The man he called "father" was not much of a presence in his life, and the man whispered to be his father (Orson Welles) was only an occasional presence. His mother always denied the rumors that surrounded him and raised him to believe that she always spoke the truth. His look into family dynamics and the necessity to play a role in this world is a fascinating read. I really enjoyed this book, and bought it in the first place because I saw a newspaper article in 2010 where Lindsay-Hogg had announced that he was going to take a DNA test and because I had read the book by Chris Welles Feder where she speculated about Lindsay-Hogg's paternity. This is also an interesting look at The Beatles and the Rolling Stones and the rock and roll artists from the sixties. It is an easy read and very entertaining.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jesse Kornbluth TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover
In 1985, I wanted to make a film directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. I never got anywhere with my idea. But there were dinners that were almost as satisfying, with Michael talking, talking, and the rest of us listening, listening. He was a great storyteller, and although the stories were about famous people, you never thought he was name-dropping, because his mother was Geraldine Fitzgerald, who was so sensational in "Dark Victory" and "Wuthering Heights," and her friends were Hollywood and theater royalty, and, in a rock and roll way, so was Michael.

And now, all these years later, we have his memoir, "Luck and Circumstance: A Coming of Age in Hollywood, New York, and Points Beyond." It's a curious book. On the surface, it's an exploration of Michael's paternity, about which his mother had persistently lied. His father, she insisted, was Edward Lindsay-Hogg, an English baronet who was tall and dark and thin and lived in Ireland. Michael was to ignore all rumors to the contrary. "We [Orson and I] would go out for dinner together," she told her son. "And you know how people can put two and two together and make three."

Well, they did make three, as Michael learns at the end of the book from his mother's friend and his own sometime lover, Gloria Vanderbilt. I spoil nothing by telling you this, for the link is everywhere in the reviews and publicity. But the frame of the book that reviewers are praising obscures its real charm, which is Michael Lindsay-Hogg, talking, talking for 272 pages.

Picture a Brit, cigar in his fingers, a glass half full of some golden liquid, the meal finished, the night getting on. He is slim and elegant now, but he is telling you about his childhood, when his nickname was Pudge Hoag.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mary Verdick on December 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Michael Lindsay-Hogg, now in his 70's, was the son of Irish actress Geraldine Fitzgerald, glamorous movie star and confidant of Hollywood elite during the 40's and 50's. His mother hobnobbed with Bette Davis, Charlie Chaplain, Sir Laurence Olivier and many others, but especially with Orson Welles, with whom it was rumoured she'd had a romantic relationship. Michael was supposedly the son of an English baronet and the stepson of a member of the well-known Straus family, but there were always questions about who his real father was. Many thought it was the legendary genuis Welles, but Michael's mother,(who said she always told the truth),changed her story more than once. Eventually Michael grew up, attended Oxford,and became a well-known director in the theater and television, but he was always haunted by the question of just who his real father was. This is a sad, revealing book about a young man's search for identity, but instead of being bitter it is generous and forgiving to the people who let him down.
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