Thursday, September 25, 2014
MARIE DRESSLER: THE UNLIKELIEST STAR Betty Lee
This is another fine biography of the woman who became a top box office attraction even though she was old, fat and homely in a Hollywood full of young and pretty faces. The Unlikeliest Star records Dressler's triumphs and failures, her long stage career and in vaudeville, her silent and sound pictures, and her final days which combined pinnacles of success and Oscars with the terrible illness that eventually took her life. This book has more on the relationship between Dressler and her friend and companion, actress Claire Dubrey [actually Du Brey], as author Lee had access to the latter's unpublished manuscript on Dressler. If we're to take the ms. on face value, Dressler snatched away opportunities for Du Brey to continue to advance as an actress just so she could remain as her companion, and even objected when she wanted to go off and visit her sick mother [Dressler thought she was really going to see some man]. Whether this merely indicates the possessive, overbearing quality of the Celebrity towards one of her sycophants, or something deeper, is up to the reader to decide. After their split, Dressler worked on some of her most famous movies while Du Brey stayed in touch with the former's friends. Dressler's final days are well-documented. [Claire Du Brey actually had a long list of movie credits both before and after her period with Dressler, such as the Jones Family film Everybody's Baby.] NOTE: Mathew Kennedy also wrote an excellent tome on Dressler.
Verdict: Highly interesting account of the life and career of Marie Dressler. ***.