20th Century, Reviews: resources, books, museums

Friday Reads: A Star Danced

This book was another of my ‘cheap, old, in-an-op-shop and with an interesting title’ discoveries.  I’ve learned a little bit since My Theodosia and I take the time to read a few pages before buying a book now.

The intro to A Star Danced sold me immediately:

Foreword by Charles B Cochran

CB Cochran!  1911 theatre productions!  Over-blown language!  I’m so there!

I also realised when reading the introduction that I actually know who Gertrude Lawrence is – one of the generation of pre-WWII British actresses who, because they never made it to Hollywood, have faded into sadly underserved obscurity in recent years.

Gertrude Lawrence photographed by Cecil Beaton  Via Culture Concept

In her own day Gertrude Lawrence was the ‘brightest star’ (as the phrase goes) of the London theatre scene, close friends with Noel Coward, and a smashing success on Broadway.  A Star Danced is her autobiography, tracing her life from less-than-conventional childhood to international stardom.

Celebrity autobiographies are always a bit hit and miss, but either Gertrude had a lot of help or she could sing, dance, act AND write, because the book is unfailingly interesting and fascinating.  The book takes us back and forth between the present, with Gertrude traveling from America to England, around Great Britain, and even to Normandy as she entertains troops in the days before and after D-Day, and the past, as little Gertie determines to be an actress, and pursues this goal with single minded determination.

Little Gertie’s early days

Gertie’s story is the story of the 20th century: born in 1898 she grows up with Edwardian deals: her scrawny physique and straight hair a dissapointment compared to her plump, curly-haired blond cousin.  She comes of age as a chorus girl in the mad ’20s, and comes into her own as a star in the 30s.

Gertrude Lawrence  Via Planet Barberella

 And the life she lived as a star!  The future Edward VIII and the Windsor Set visited her dressing room, she was the toast of Manh