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A Most Remarkable Fella: Frank Loesser and the Guys and Dolls in His Life: A Portrait by His Daughter Paperback – September 1, 2000

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this engaging biography, the daughter of popular composer and lyricist Frank Loesser (1910-1969) recalls her father's life and work, weaving into the story an account of her own difficult childhood, which was marred by the alcoholism of her mother and the divorce of her parents. In his pursuit of a career in the theater, Loesser broke away from the conventions of his intellectual Manhattan family and affected a Lower East Side accent and a working-class persona. Nevertheless, even after achieving success with such Broadway hits as Guys and Dolls, The Most Happy Fella and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying , he struggled to win the respect of his brother, a critic and musicologist who disdained popular music, and of his mother, who was equally scornful of his work. Loesser was a difficult man with a violent temper, but he could be a loving father, and his daughter, a freelance writer, tells her tale with affection in a lively book studded with humorous anecdotes and numerous lyrics from her father's memorable songs. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Engaging life of brilliant lyricist, songwriter, and composer Frank Loesser (1910-69), whose genius with words brings life to this loving biography by his daughter (a journalist, editor, geologist, etc., who's been published in Life and Family Circle). Much of the charm here lies in Frank Loesser's never failing ingenuity as Susan Loesser quotes his lyrics, letters, and notes for stage productions. The composer spent his life in the emotional shadow of his older brother Arthur, a gifted classical pianist and teacher, and of their mother, Julia, for whom young Frank's Pulitzer-winning Broadway endeavors lacked intellectual refinement. Loesser could never satisfy either family member, even when his most ambitious work, The Most Happy Fella, was praised for its immense variety of musical forms and operatic scope. Loesser, though an apparent egomaniac, thought himself a comparative failure and would put himself down as just an entertainer writing for the moment, future glory not required. Meanwhile, the composer's first wife, Mary, Susan's mother, who was ``pathologically meticulous,'' survived her divorce from Frank by resorting to alcohol and working as a tough-talking Broadway producer. Loesser was a famous Hollywood lyricist before making the big leap to Broadway with Where's Charley?, writing both music and lyrics, then with the quintessential New York musical, Guys and Dolls, his greatest hit. Throughout, the author quotes passages cut out of her father's shows, including from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. The composer died of cancer at 59--when, we learn, he was already being swamped from all sides by detested rock music that was making him old hat. Though foulmouthed, Loesser grows on you wonderfully through his daughter's eyes. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Hal Leonard (September 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0634009273
  • ISBN-13: 978-0634009273
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,272,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book shines from the Broadway History bookshelf. What appears as a modest portrait of Frank Loesser by his daughter, turns out to be a delightful history of Broadway. The beautifully researched stories of his productions are priceless. The lyrics, which lavishly illustrate Loesser's wonderful use of the language, are perfectly scattered throughout. The stories of the man himself, the era in which he worked, and the people who were part of his creative world, reveal the complexities and changing scene of Broadway production. Driven and demanding, he alienated Sinatra and slapped a leading lady; yet he meticulously crafted legendary shows like Guys and Dolls, and Most Happy Fella. Susan Loesser brings great warmth, an enormous amount of research and, obviously, a first-person sensibility to the story of this brilliant, funny, difficult, irascible, demanding, creative, and driven man. Frank Loesser told his casts "Loud is Better". This book is not loud, but it is wonderful.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I highly recommend this well written, thoughtful, highly personal biography by Frank Loesser's daughter. If at all possible it is a good idea, I feel, to be playing through the "Frank Loesser Songbook" on your piano during the period you are reading this biography, as the combination of playing Frank Loesser's music on the piano in conjunction with reading his daughter's explanations of how the music came to be, is powerful to say the least. I had not realized until I read this book how important Frank Loesser is to Broadway. I now understand that Loesser is up there with Rogers/Hammerstein and Sondheim. Frank Loesser was larger than life. In my opinion we all owe a debt of gratitude to his daughter for writing a book about him that will live on to be the definitive, and only, book about this important man's amazing, interesting life.
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Format: Paperback
Susan Loesser's biography of her father, Frank, does what it set out to do: Tell us about the man behind the songs. Unfortunately, that man wasn't as appealing as his music. I was disappointed to find out how Mr. Loesser treated his family and those he worked with. It seems that those who are most talented are often prima donnas personally, and Frank Loesser certainly fit that mold. HIs violent temper, condescending attitudes toward those who didn't meet his standards, and complete failure as a father comprised the dark side of Mr. Loesser. And that sailor's tongue! Hats off to the author for not glossing over these facts. She's frank (no pun intended) in expressing her disappointment with certain traits of her father.
However, there was a very bright side to Frank Loesser, and the book focuses primarily on this side of his life. His astounding command of the language in his lyrics and his entertaining personal letters highlight the brilliant talents that made him the household name he is.
Of particular note are the details surrounding his vision of such shows as Guys and Dolls, and his various friendships (with people such as John Steinbeck) and his conflicts (his disagreements with Frank Sinatra were entertaining to read). It's also fun to hear the fascinating personal anecdotes shared by Susan Loesser.
Early on, I found myself bored with the details of the Loesser family, but soon warmed up to the book, enjoying it greatly. Frank gave us some wonderful lyrics and music, and despite his personal shortcomings, his story is, as the title says, remarkable.
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Format: Paperback
What do writers of today have in common with this popular 20th century composer and lyricist?

Not much except perhaps passion.

I picked up A Most Remarkable Fella because I'm drafting a book about my father, and I wanted to see if I could steal a few writing tricks. However, before I could focus on Susan's writing style, she'd swept me up into the portrait she created of her father.

It's a lively portrait, studded with lyrics from Frank's many songs, including his classic Guys and Dolls with its familiar tune, "Luck Be a Lady Tonight."

Susan captured Frank's astonishing gift of language. As I writer, I felt stunned by his apparent ease of composition, how rhymed and scanned language seemed to pour out of his mind, how he easily he invented lyrics and tunes like "Baby, It's Cold Outside" or "Heart and Soul."

Susan also catches her father's personality, his passion for partying, his sense of humor, and the nasty bite of his angry words. We quickly learn what a high-energy man Frank was - and how swift his temper.

And I did pick up a few writing tips from Susan as I watched the way she skillfully splices her own life into his: her difficult childhood, her mother's alcoholism, her parents' divorce.

At last, though, we get to the end of the book, the part I always despise about biographies, where the person predictably dies. As I dropped A Most Remarkable Fella to the floor beside other finished volumes, I felt chagrin at the shortness of human life, even lives as remarkable as Frank's.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is written by Frank's daughter. Not only is it great background on the life and times of Broadway's heyday, but Susan Loesser is a very good writer. It was a surprise how she wove her childhood and awe at her famous father into the fabric of this chronicle. It is a page turner. If you love Broadway, don't miss this book.
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