Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

MARIE DRESSLER Matthew Kennedy

MARIE DRESSLER: A Biography; with a Listing of Major Stage Performances, a Filmography and a Discography. Matthew Kennedy. McFarland; 1999.

The wonderful Marie Dressler had a long stage career in everything from opera to vaudeville, and just when she felt she was unemployable and washed up, she embarked upon a Hollywood career that brought her even more fame and money, turning her in her sixties into a major box office attraction -- this despite her abject lack of youth and beauty. Along the way she had one marriage, one long relationship with a man she only thought she was married to, and a possibly romantic relationship with a younger actress with whom she broke up some years before her death. In Hollywood Dressler made a few comedy-dramas teaming her with Polly Moran, such as Reducing; won an Oscar for her work in Min and Bill; and appeared in the wonderful Dinner at Eight, wherein she has one especially classic sequence with Jean Harlow. Dressler kept working even when she was dying of cancer and other ailments [indeed she had an exhausting life]. Don't be fooled by the sub-title -- this is a major biography and not just a reference work -- although there is a ton of scrupulous research in the exhaustive tome. Not only has Kennedy managed to put together an excellent and rich biography of this very gifted and unusual lady -- despite the fact that most of her contemporaries are dead --  but his writing is never dry and academic but always lively and interesting. Highly recommended not just to Dressler fans but to anyone interested in the theater, films, moviemaking, and just good biographies. Kennedy also wrote a fine book on director Edmund Goulding.

Verdict: In a word, superb! ****.

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