The Memory of All that: Love and Politics in New York, Hollywood, and Paris
In her memoir, Betsy Blair tells the story of her life, from her days growing up in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, the epitome of the "nice kid," a redheaded girl next door, nurtured by her mother to believe that she could be and do anything (her dream: to be a great actress like Duse or to dance with Fred Astaire). She writes about dancing in the chorus of Billy Rose's nightclub, the Diamond Horseshoe - she was picked out of six hundred girls by the club's choreographer, Gene Kelly, then a little-known Broadway hoofer.
She writes about their whirlwind courtship: Kelly gave the sixteen-year-old dancer a Grade-A New York education - galleries, museums, classical music, a Marxist study group, visits to Harlem's Apollo Theater and the Cotton Club to hear Cab Calloway and the Nicholas Brothers. She writes about their wedding: Kelly proposed at the fountain of the Plaza Hotel, then whisked her off to Hollywood when he was signed by David O. Selznick.
We see Kelly making his first musical with Judy Garland (For Me and My Gal) while Betsy was the young wife and soon-to-be mother ... the fun they had as Gene Kelly started flying higher and higher among the stars at MGM. She writes about their famous Saturday night parties (among the regulars: George Cukor, Vincente Minelli, Leonard Bernstein, Lena Horne, Noel Coward, even Greta Garbo) ... their racing version of charades (they shouted, lost tempers, and collapsed on the floor laughing) ... their legendary Sunday afternoon volleyball games (the competition was lethal) ... all the while Betsy rejecting the Hollywood system (no swimming pool; no fancy cars; fur coats for premieres only). And throughout, she gives us, as never before, a sense of what Hollywood was like then, of the village they lived in called Beverly Hills (Betsy went everywhere barefoot and in blue jeans), of Rodeo Drive (it was like Main Street, U.S.A. - it had a grocery store, a book shop, a dry cleaner, a drugstore). She writes movingly about her work as an actress and - under Gene's tutelage - her growing political activism, which led her to the Communist Party (Kelly warned her she'd be "the worst Communist in the world"; the party concurred and turned her down because of her too-famous husband).
She writes of the blacklist, when the town split in two - subpoenas issued, rumors everywhere - and the optimism of the thirties and forties came to an end ... and of the terrifying moment when she found herself blacklisted, finally breaking it by landing the part of Clara in the Hecht-Hill-Lancaster production of Marty.
And she makes us understand why and how she ultimately burst out of the cocoon of her idyllic marriage and fairy-tale life - moving to Europe to begin anew as an expatriate living in Paris, coming into her own as an actress, winning the Golden Palm at Cannes for Marty, working with such directors as Michelangelo Antonioni and Costa Gavras, living in an entirely different society that included Simone Signoret, Yves Montand, Marguerite Duras, and Luis Bunuel. And finally meeting, falling in love with, and marrying the director Karel Reisz.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - msbosh - LibraryThing
I learned about this book after reading an end-of-the-year tribute to the under-rated actress Betsy Blair in the NYT Magazine. (She was among those who died in 2009). In this 2003 memoir, she looks ... Read full review
The memory of all that: love and politics in New York, Hollywood, and ParisUser Review - Not Available - Book Verdict
Blair has unquestionably led an exciting life, but her autobiography is likely only to engage dedicated Hollywood historians. Now 79 and living in London, the author was on Broadway at 15, married to ... Read full review
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