Thursday, June 9, 2016
This entertaining biography, written by the son of Robert Morley, looks at the life of stage star Gertrude Lawrence, who also appeared in a few movies, such as Rembrandt and The Glass Menagerie. The book delves into her early life and career appearing in traveling revues, her friendship with Noel Coward, her marriages, her London and Broadway triumphs, and the incredible amount of debts she amassed during her lifetime, until her friends and the tax people on two continents had to take matters into their hands. She starred in the unusual musical Lady in the Dark (Ginger Rogers did the film version), Tonight at 8:30, and finally in Rodgers and Hammerstein's spectacular The King and I with co-star Yul Brynner. During the run of the show she grew ill, never received proper treatment for hepatitis, and died suddenly in the hospital at only 54. Talented Lawrence lived primarily for her work and never made the best mother, attested to by quotes from her daughter, Pamela. The book is also bolstered by interviews with others who knew and worked with her. Julie Andrews played Lawrence in the film Star!
Verdict: Morley is perhaps not always as admiring of his subject's talent as he should have been, but otherwise this is a fine look at a fascinating artist. ***1/2.