Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I Said Yes to Everything: A Memoir

Author:  Lee Grant
Genre:  Autobiography

Five Stars

Born Lyova Haskell Rosenthal in New York City, actress Lee Grant spent her youth accumulating more experiences than most people have in a lifetime: from student at the famed Neighborhood Playhouse to member of the leg­endary Actors Studio; from celebrated Broadway star to Vogue “It Girl.” At age twenty-four, she was nominated for an Academy Award for Detective Story, and a year later found herself married and a mother for the first time, her career on the rise.

And then she lost it all.

Her name landed on the Hollywood black­list, her offers for film and television roles ground to a halt, and her marriage fell apart.

Finding reserves of strength she didn’t know she had, Grant took action against anti-Communist witch hunts in the arts. She threw herself into work, accepting every theater or teaching job that came her way. She met a man ten years her junior and began a wild, liberat­ing fling that she never expected would last a lifetime. And after twelve years of fighting the blacklist, she was finally exonerated. With cour­age and style, Grant rebuilt her life on her own terms: first stop, a starring role on Peyton Place, and then leads in Valley of the Dolls, In the Heat of the Night, and Shampoo, for which she won her first Oscar.

Set amid the New York theater scene of the fifties and the star-studded parties of Malibu in the seventies, I Said Yes to Everything evokes a world of political passion and movie-star glamour. Grant tells endlessly delightful tales of costars and friends such as Warren Beatty, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, and Sidney Poitier, and writes with the verve and candor befitting such a seductive and beloved star.

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What can I say about this biography?  It's stark, all-encompassing, heartfelt and honest.  Ms. Grant lays bare her soul.  I wanted to read this because I have always liked her as an actress.  My favorite movie with her is Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell.  Admittedly, she has a supporting role; but in my opinion, she stole the movie without trying to upstage anyone.  Her mere presence on the screen is riveting, and so is this autobiography.

She begins literally at the beginning:  her relatives emigrating to Ellis Island, how her parents met, her birth, her parents' divorce and subsequent remarriage, etc.  She explains how difficult it was growing up Jewish in New York, and how she survived it. 

She became an actress as a teenager, and was nominated for an academy award in 1952.  She married Arnold Manoff, a Communist; and while he attempted to get her to join the party, she was basically apathetic about it.  Yet because of him, and friends they socialized with, her career was completely and finally cut off.  The marriage was tempestuous, and everything she did had to be with Arnie's approval.  When she finally struggled her way back to acting, she eventually did win the coveted Oscar, for Shampoo.

I was extremely interested in hearing her stories about the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committe), which was started by Senator Joe McCarthy.  For those who have no knowledge (and I am sure that is not many), it was a time in America where famous people were expected to 'name names' if they wanted to keep on working.  Many would not, and their careers would be over forever.  Ms. Grant was one of the lucky ones; she was able to find her way into acting again, although it was not easy.

Ms. Grant tells some interesting stories about the people she knew, the sets she worked on, the movies she made.  She tells us about the mistakes she made, her life with her husbands (her second husband is Joey Feury) and her children, Dinah Manoff and Belinda Feury.  She is honest in her mistakes in parenting, and the things she did right.

Not all of the stories are flattering to the people portrayed; but neither are they intended to be hurtful.  I believe they are honest, and although I already knew some of them, there were still quite a few revelations about others.

I believe that anyone who is interested in biographies, or Ms. Grant herself, will enjoy this book immensely, if only for the honesty with which it is written.  Highly recommended.

http://www.amazon.com/Said-Yes-Everything-Memoir/dp/039916930X/

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