Biography & Memoir

Richard Attenborough: 1923 – 2014

Richard AttenboroughThis last Sunday brought us the passing of actor, producer and director Richard Attenborough.  He is perhaps most recently remembered today as John Hammond, the eccentric founder of Jurassic Park.    However, he has been involved in the movies since 1942.  Besides being on screen as an actor he has produced thirteen films, including Gandhi and Cry Freedom. He directed twelve films including Gandhi, A Chorus Line and A Bridge Too Far. The library has a nice collection of his films.  We hope you enjoy them.

 

     Richard Attenborough


Lauren Bacall 1924 - 2014

Yesterday we lost one of the most memorial actresses of classic film, Lauren Bacall. She exploded on to the silver screen in 1944 in the film To Have and Have Not as Marie “Slim” Browning opposite Humphry Bogart.  Few could forget the sultry look and delivery of one her most famous lines, “You know how to whistle, don’t you?  You just put your lips together and blow.”   This film also introduced her to Humphry Bogart the man who would later become her husband, in a life imitates art moment.  They were together until his passing in 1957. It is said that she placed a whistle in his coffin as a memorial to the line and film that brought them together.  She stared in more than forty-three films in her career.  In 2010 she was given an honorary Academy Award of her work in what is termed the Golden Age of Hollywood.

     Lauren Bacall

Robin Williams 1951 - 2014

Robin WilliamsLast night I read that we had lost one of the greats; Robin Williams was no longer with us.  When we think of him we most often think of his almost manic comedy.  He was one of the best, and perhaps one of the few that could go one on one with the late great Johnathan Winters in comedy improvisation.   We know however that Robin Williams was also a great actor.  Like many comedians his view of life gave him great insight into the human condition and he was able to bring this to his more serious roles.  He will be missed.  

          Books and Films by Robin Williams

Jame Garner

OJames Garnerver the weekend we lost one of my favorite film and television stars, James Garner.  He is perhaps best known for his starring roles in the television series Maverick and The Rockford Files.  His film roles were varied, often funny, but almost always heartwarming.   The link below will provide you with list of movies and books in the MCPL collection featuring this well beloved star.

James Garner – A list of DVDs and Books

New Life, No Instructions

Did you ever hobble around on crutches?  Discover that you most basic possession, your body, does not work as it once did? This excellent memoir about rehabilitation, friendship, loss, and the love of a great dog is a tearjerker at times, but always incredibly well-written. Wow, does Caldwell know how to spin a yarn.

Gail Caldwell suffered from polio as a small child. In this account she describes how her mother sprawled on the floor with her when she was young and did the tough leg exercises needed to strengthen Gail’s leg. 

All her life, Gail adapted to living with a bum leg. In her late fifties she decided to adopt a strong Samoyed pup. And as Tula grew, Gail soon found herself falling more and more often, and that she could no longer hike the three mile reservoir loop with her strong-willed pet.

Doctor after doctor told Gail that her limp, the weakness in her leg and her frequent falls were caused by her polio, but Gail finally sought another opinion. The new doctor asked to see her CT scans and X-rays but there were no recent ones. Upon doing them, he discovered that Gail’s hip was shattered with the ball absolutely flat.  She needed hip replacement immediately.

My Life in Middlemarch

Here’s what author Rebecca Mead said about a subject dear to our hearts, "Reading does not feel like an escape from life so much as it feels like an urgent, crucial dimension of life itself."  This book is both a biography and travelogue of what many consider the world’s best novel—Middlemarch.  It also is a personal memoir by Mead. 

In the first chapter Mead recalls how many times she has read the novel and how much it has changed for her over time. What drew her as a child to it was how full of adult life the book was. She also loved the intelligence of the characters, particularly the heroine, Miss Dorothea Brooke.

Along the way we learn about the novel itself, how it was first published as a serial in eight parts with the subtitle “A Provincial Life.” It bore a male author’s name--George Eliot but even Charles Dickens, a contemporary of Eliot’s knew immediately that it was written by a woman. He said, “I believe that no man ever before had the art of making himself, mentally, so like a woman, since the world began. “ Dickens also loved Eliot’s writing.  He said of her first novel, “Adam Bede has taken its place among the actual experiences and endurances of my life.”

Auto Focus

In the 1960’s one of the top rated TV shows of the time was a comedy about the unusual subject of a prisoner of war camp in Nazi Germany.    The show was the story was about a group of prisoners in Stalag 13 whose mission was to conduct secret operations behind enemy lines.  It was known as Hogan’s Heroes.   The film Auto Focus is not about this television show but about its star who found himself in the public’s eye and being held up to public as the example of the ideal family man.  His life and his actions were anything but ideal. 

A House in the Sky

This memoir is as compelling as any thriller, and much better written than most. In it a young Canadian describes how she escaped her family’s poverty and dysfunction in a small town in Alberta by reading National Geographic mags cover to cover. The family was so poor that she had to earn money to buy the used magazines herself, but while reading them she not only discovered the world, but was able to dream of a better, more interesting life.

Amanda didn’t have the money for college, so instead she became a waitress at high-end clubs and restaurants in Calvary when the money from oil and gas was flowing. She soon began to travel internationally to South America, India, Pakistan, and Nepal. Edgy, dangerous places appealed to her and those far off the tourist track. She went to

Jane Has Her Say

I love this new age of biography where not only famous people’s lives are examined but also everyman’s or in this case everywoman’s. Of course, Jane Franklin’s life would have faded into history were it not for her very famous older brother. But this compelling biography gives a very interesting account of the life of an ordinary, rather poor Boston woman during the time period of the Thirteen Colonies.

Jane grew up in a big family and Ben was six years her senior, and he taught her to read. They corresponded their whole lives, and were for many years the last two left from their nuclear family. Many of Jane’s letters have been lost, but can be somewhat reconstructed from her brother’s responses to them. Like her brother, she was very opinionated and thought of Benjamin as her “second self.”

At age fifteen, she married a saddler named Mecom, and for the next twenty plus years, she was either pregnant or nursing children. She had twelve children and all but one died before she did. Most, unfortunately, died as adults which was less common at that time. Her husband was not a good provider and eventually went crazy. So Jane and her children boiled and sold soap from home.

Her letters to her brother and his gifts of books, many of which he had printed himself, gave her an intellectual life that she otherwise would not have had.  They shared many secrets from the rest of the family, some of them jokes.

Hippie Child: How a Young Boy Helped Parent his New-Age Mom

Think your childhood was non-mainstream? A little kooky? Perhaps on the bizarre side? Well check out the hand Josh Safran was dealt being born in the early 70s in a commune in San Francisco during the height of Flower Power and the counter-culture.

Safran makes his childhood—first in city communes; later in remote cabins in the mountain wilderness actually sound happy.  Credit his mother, Claudia, for that.  Highly intelligent, emotionally warm, full of passion for political change and hope for a just world, Claudia imparted to Josh many values.  Yet, she also barely kept food on his plate and never gave him a beautiful home. In fact for one three month period, they lived in a visqueen shelter on tree stumps in a rain forest. Yet these are failings of poverty not intent. Much worse were allowing her lovers to abuse him and to threaten them both by driving under the influence of alcohol on icy mountain roads, often in the dark.

The book is sad, poignant, funny, and a surprising page turner from beginning to end. Check out this hook of an opening sentence “By the time I was ten, I had hitchhiked thousands of miles and befriended hundreds of remarkably strange people.”  Here’s a short list of them: Crazy John, Uncle Tony (no blood relation), conniving Bob, deal-making

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