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Act One: An Autobiography Paperback – February 11, 2014
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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 the Audio CD edition.
“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
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Here are the things I enjoyed the most: the description of his collaborative process with George S. Kaufman; the ups and downs of the writing and staging of "Once in a Lifetime," his first Broadway hit; the ending, which was deeply satisfying; his concern and affection for his brother and aunt; the humor that infuses so much of the descriptions of his struggles.
What I wished was different: Oh my goodness, were there typos and formatting problems in this Kindle edition! I reported a lot of them, so I'm hoping they will be fixed. Most of the time I could figure out what was meant to be said: many times the word "die" appeared when the word "the" was wanted and many times a paragraph was broken in the middle and a few times the first word was truncated from the opening sentence of a paragraph. I also wished that he had described the plot of the play "Once in a Lifetime." And for me, the times he spent as a camp director were agonizing because they were agonizing for him. I know a lot of people found these passages very funny, and I understand that, but it was all too real for me. But these are very minor quibbles.
The book was uplifting, inspiring and written by a man who made his living writing. It gives you insight into the world of the theater and some of the things that come with it--parties, eccentric personalities, soaring triumphs and smashing defeats. It is a very enjoyable, accessible and fun read.
I also recommend "At Random," Bennett Cerf's autobiography about the publishing business, and "The Name Above the Title," Frank Capra's autobiography. They are both as gripping as this one.
My only issue with the book is that the Kindle edition is rife with typographical errors, including misspellings and broken lines. Such a classic should be presented with greater care and attention.
Enjoyed every moment of this beautifully written memoir of aspiration and achievement.