Fatal Charm: The Life of Rex Harrison

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Charm has always been a dangerous gift. For Rex Harrison - who drove two women to suicide for love of him - it was fatal. For decades, Rex Harrison was the king of the English stage. My Fair Lady immortalized his persona as the epitomal English gentleman; yet, beneath those easy manners, that cool wit and sophistication, lurked an ego of tyrannical proportions. Always in need of a woman to stand at his side, Harrison married six times; both Carole Landis, a young starlet, and Rachel Roberts, the troubled actress ...
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Overview

Charm has always been a dangerous gift. For Rex Harrison - who drove two women to suicide for love of him - it was fatal. For decades, Rex Harrison was the king of the English stage. My Fair Lady immortalized his persona as the epitomal English gentleman; yet, beneath those easy manners, that cool wit and sophistication, lurked an ego of tyrannical proportions. Always in need of a woman to stand at his side, Harrison married six times; both Carole Landis, a young starlet, and Rachel Roberts, the troubled actress who was his fourth wife, killed themselves. And yet his devotion to his third wife, Kay Kendall, was such that he protected her from knowledge of the tragic illness that would fell her just two years into their marriage. Drawing on unpublished sources to which he has had sole access, and on conversations with Harrison himself and nearly one hundred of his friends and family, Alexander Walker traces the public and private life of this brilliant actor, from his genteel beginnings in the suburbs of Liverpool through hard times and triumph on the English stage to his arrival in - and eventual retreat from - a Hollywood he found prurient and unkind. And he reveals the dark nostalgia of the actor's last years, when the man who had made famous such British symbols as Henry Higgins and Doctor Dolittle grew embittered as he was denied, almost to the end, the honor he coveted - the title of Sir Rex. The definitive biography, Alexander Walker's Fatal Charm portrays brilliantly Rex Harrison the greatest high-comedy actor of his generation - and Rex Harrison the man, whose charm was fatal indeed.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Top-drawer, custom-tailored life of actor Rex Harrison, whose charm dynamited many a lady's heart while his towering tongue whipped her. By far the best of Walker's many books (Garbo, Dietrich, Elizabeth, etc.) and the best about Harrison (including the actor's own amusing but lightweight autobiography A Damned Serious Business, 1991), this presents itself in finely cut anecdotes and textured language that Harrison himself might have admired. Like Cary Grant, Harrison (1908-90) grew into his stage and screen persona so remarkably that one forgets he was not always a lady- killing swine—though he did take to acting at age four and became a monocle-wearing fop at 18. Harrison also took to girls very early, and as a child liked swimming nude in secret with a girl neighbor. He distanced himself from his father, modelling himself on his mother. Harrison played endless walk-ons and minor roles with the Liverpool Repertory Theatre, and he began imitating the casual by-play of "personality actors" who could dominate the stage no matter how bad their lines. Movie bits led to film and stage leads and at last to the film version of Shaw's Major Barbara. Harrison was never a light comedian, always playing high comedy, and Shaw became the centerpost of a career crowned by his role in Heartbreak House: The actor cared little for his films. His love life and six wives take up major space here, along with the suicides of lover Carol Landis and ex-wife Rachel Roberts, his cruelly rampant infidelities, and the glory of his unshakable snobbery. Tyrannosaurus Rex, tricked out in imperial purple. (B&w illustrations—not seen)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780752849010
  • Publisher: Orion Publishing Group, Limited
  • Publication date: 11/28/2002
  • Pages: 608
  • Product dimensions: 5.08 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.46 (d)

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