How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood

How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood

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by William J. Mann
     
 

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In the 60s, Elizabeth Taylor's affair with the married Richard Burton knocked John Glenn's orbit of the moon off front pages nationwide. Yet, despite all the gossip, the larger-than-life personality and influence of this very human woman has never been captured. William Mann, praised by Gore Vidal, Patricia Bosworth, and Gerald Clarke for Kate,

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Overview



In the 60s, Elizabeth Taylor's affair with the married Richard Burton knocked John Glenn's orbit of the moon off front pages nationwide. Yet, despite all the gossip, the larger-than-life personality and influence of this very human woman has never been captured. William Mann, praised by Gore Vidal, Patricia Bosworth, and Gerald Clarke for Kate, uses untapped sources and conversations to show how she ignited the sexual revolution with her on- and off-screen passions,  helped kick down the studio system by taking control of her own career, and practically invented the big business of celebrity star-making. With unputdownable storytelling he tells the full truth without losing Taylor's magic, daring, or wit.

Readers will feel they are sitting next to Taylor as she rises at MGM, survives a marriage engineered for publicity, feuds with Hedda Hopper and Mr. Mayer, wins Oscars, endures tragedy, juggles Eddie Fisher, Richard Burton and her country's conservative values. But it is the private Elizabeth that will surprise --a  woman of heart and loyalty, who defends underdogs, a savvy professional whose anger at the studio's treatment of her led to a lifelong battle against that very system. All the Elizabeth's are here, finally reconciled and seen against the exciting years of her greatest spirit, beauty, and influence. Swathed in mink, staring us down with her lavender eyes, disposing of husbands but keeping the diamonds, here is Elizabeth Taylor as she was meant to be, leading her epic life on her own terms, playing the game of supreme stardom at which she remains, to this day, unmatched.

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Editorial Reviews

"I have never read any of the autobiographies of me," Elizabeth Taylor once joked, and if she had, she probably wouldn't have been pleased. This soft-spoken actress doesn't easily fit into any narrow Hollywood niche and her career resists any facile capsulation. Fortunately, William J. Mann, the author of the New York Times Notable Book Kate, has arrived to set things right with a revelatory look at a superstar we all thought we knew so well. Mann's Taylor surprises us by pounding at the studio system, juggling lovers, and sparking a pre-Woodstock sexual revolution. Along the way, she also feuds with enemies, fights for juicy parts and against innumerable health crises, and battles for a full array of good causes. A must-have for vintage film fans.
Publishers Weekly
In his proficient and titillating biography of one of the last greats to emerge from the Hollywood studio system, Mann (Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn) spotlights Taylor's feverish, sensuous years during the high '50s and '60s, when she set her own standards of fame, both moral and professional. Tinged by scandal as well as touched by greatness as an actress, Taylor was the first female movie star to earn a million dollars for a movie plus a share of the profits (Cleopatra in 1963). Mann relishes depicting Taylor's larger-than-life appetites, whether for men, jewels or food, and marvels at her ability to arouse and sidestep scandal, as well as to demonstrate continually a singular devotion to her acting craft, as captured in A Place in the Sun and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Taylor managed not only to play along with the old Hollywood system perfectly—for example, allowing MGM to orchestrate her first marriage to Nicky Hilton in 1950 in order to pump publicity for her film Father of the Bride—but to flout it outrageously, e.g., by becoming the ultimate home wrecker in Eddie Fisher's marriage, and all to her advantage. Mann employs an authoritative voice, promising intimacies but still remaining respectful of his subject, and concentrates on Taylor's skillful use of marriages and illness to get what she wanted. By refusing to apologize for her flagrant adulterous affair with Richard Burton, Taylor possibly “spurred the sexual revolution of the 1960s,” Mann suggests. Reading this life is like gorging on a chocolate sundae. (Oct.)
San Luis Obisbo Tribune

"This is a juicy telling of a screen idol who always did things her own way."

The Sunday Times (UK)

"...a richly enjoyable biography..."

The Oregonian

"William Mann has picked the perfect title for a biography of Taylor. She was, truly, the last great movie star."

EDGE New York

"...she knew by instinct, generations before today’s crop of starlets, how to interface her personal and professional lives with the public, who adored her for it. Taylor lived out loud, and the world sang along to her tune."

New York Times Book Review

"...the sorts of details a reader craves...all are rendered with a verve and fluidity that keep the book moving along in a fleet fashion... [Mann] has clearly done his research and just as clearly adores his subject."

"Taylor was at the furious center of it all, and provides as handy and captivating a guide through [the era] as any star of the 20th century could."

— Frank Bruni

Salon.com

"Mann's eminently yummy entry is pretty much everything you'd want in a Hollywood biography... What does make How to Be a Movie Star distinctive is its focus on the changing nature of personal fame as embodied by a woman whose life has consisted of one superlative after another."

USA Today

"William J. Mann's ridiculously entertaining biography of Elizabeth Taylor in her Hollywood heyday is yummier than digging into a hot-fudge sundae and a stack of Us Weeklys."

New York Times Book Review - Frank Bruni

"...the sorts of details a reader craves...all are rendered with a verve and fluidity that keep the book moving along in a fleet fashion... [Mann] has clearly done his research and just as clearly adores his subject."

"Taylor was at the furious center of it all, and provides as handy and captivating a guide through [the era] as any star of the 20th century could."

From the Publisher

"How to Be a Movie Star is more than a well-told, thoroughly researched tale about the most compelling movie star of her time. It's the captivating story of how movie-making magic actually happens—and a truly lively portrait of the greatest screen magician of them all. Mann knows his subject intimately."
—Peter Richmond, author of Fever: The Life and Music of Miss Peggy Lee

"Was Elizabeth Taylor the greatest product of the Hollywood star machine or its greatest victim? Or was she, perhaps, its inventor? At a time when celebrity culture seems to be spiraling out of control, William J. Mann's smart, engaging, clear-eyed case study of Taylor's unique life in the spotlight locates the 'real' person somewhere between her private life and her public image. It's a fresh, unique and wholly successful approach to a fascinating story."
—Mark Harris, author of Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood

"A dazzling and sagacious red-carpet Technicolor guide book to the lost art of Stardom . . . essential reading for aspiring love goddesses and mere mortals alike."
—Lee Server, author of the bestselling Ava Gardener: "Love is Nothing"

"When I saw Elizabeth Taylor in person, I suddenly found myself screaming like a teen at a Beatles concert. Mann deftly describes how, with great self-assurance, Taylor shrewdly and methodically orchestrated that reaction on a global scale. This is a smart book about a surprisingly savvy superstar. It's one of the best Hollywood biographies I've ever read."
--Ed Sikov, author of Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis

"William J. Mann's portrait is meticulous and delicious, capturing the essence of a great movie star, a woman who epitomized the old Hollywood glamour even as she was bucking the system--every system! Through shrewd and intriguing detail, this lively book brings fresh insight into why and how Elizabeth Taylor mesmerized the world she was helping to change."
--Julie Salamon, author of The Devil's Candy and Hospital

"This is a juicy telling of a screen idol who always did things her own way." --San Luis Obispo Tribune

"...a richly enjoyable biography..." --The Sunday Times (UK)

"William Mann has picked the perfect title for a biography of Taylor. She was, truly, the last great movie star." --The Oregonian

"...she knew by instinct, generations before today's crop of starlets, how to interface her personal and professional lives with the public, who adored her for it. Taylor lived out loud, and the world sang along to her tune." --EDGE New York

"...the sorts of details a reader craves...all are rendered with a verve and fluidity that keep the book moving along in a fleet fashion. [Mann] has clearly done his research and just as clearly adores his subject [...] Taylor was at the furious center of it all, and provides as handy and captivating a guide through [the era] as any star of the 20th century could." --The New York Times Book Review

"Mann's eminently yummy entry is pretty much everything you'd want in a Hollywood biography... What does make How to Be a Movie Star distinctive is its focus on the changing nature of personal fame as embodied by a woman whose life has consisted of one superlative after another." --Salon.com

"William J. Mann's ridiculously entertaining biography of Elizabeth Taylor in her Hollywood heyday is yummier than digging into a hot-fudge sundae and a stack of Us Weeklys." --USA Today

"William J. Mann dissects the crafty machinations of her stardom..." --Bookpage

"...wickedly entertaining biography..." --The Times (UK)

"Mann shows what all the fuss was about." --The New York Post

"Mann is carving out a niche for himself as a writer and historian capable of presenting fresh information about oft-covered subjects." --The Washington Blade

"This is an entertaining work, revealing much of the machinery behind star-building and star-maintaining back in the day. The trajectory of gossip queen Hedda Hopper's relationship with Elizabeth--from adoration to loathing--is deliciously conveyed. [...] Mr. Mann does an excellent job capturing the media/public frenzy of her greatest years..." --Liz Smith, for wowOwow.com

"...brilliant combination of history, criticism, and biography...Mann has found the perfect figure for an exploration of the seismic changes that took place in Hollywood--and in American pop culture--between the 1940s and the 1960s. It's a terrific read." --Connecticut News

"Mann's book underscores the fact that Elizabeth Taylor is--above all else--a survivor...Perhaps that is why she is so relevant and remains, even more than half a century later, one of the country's most fascinating celebrities." --Lincoln Tribune

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780547386560
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
04/01/2010
Pages:
528
Sales rank:
1,122,051
Product dimensions:
8.06(w) x 5.32(h) x 1.26(d)

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"How to Be a Movie Star is more than a well-told, thoroughly researched tale about the most compelling movie star of her time. It's the captivating story of how movie-making magic actually happens—and a truly lively portrait of the greatest screen magician of them all. Mann knows his subject intimately."
—Peter Richmond, author of Fever: The Life and Music of Miss Peggy Lee

"Was Elizabeth Taylor the greatest product of the Hollywood star machine or its greatest victim? Or was she, perhaps, its inventor? At a time when celebrity culture seems to be spiraling out of control, William J. Mann's smart, engaging, clear-eyed case study of Taylor's unique life in the spotlight locates the 'real' person somewhere between her private life and her public image. It's a fresh, unique and wholly successful approach to a fascinating story."
—Mark Harris, author of Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood

"A dazzling and sagacious red-carpet Technicolor guide book to the lost art of Stardom . . . essential reading for aspiring love goddesses and mere mortals alike."
—Lee Server, author of the bestselling Ava Gardener: "Love is Nothing"

"When I saw Elizabeth Taylor in person, I suddenly found myself screaming like a teen at a Beatles concert. Mann deftly describes how, with great self-assurance, Taylor shrewdly and methodically orchestrated that reaction on a global scale. This is a smart book about a surprisingly savvy superstar. It's one of the best Hollywood biographies I've ever read."
—Ed Sikov, author of Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis

"William J. Mann's portrait is meticulous and delicious, capturing the essence of a great movie star, a woman who epitomized the old Hollywood glamour even as she was bucking the system—every system! Through shrewd and intriguing detail, this lively book brings fresh insight into why and how Elizabeth Taylor mesmerized the world she was helping to change."
—Julie Salamon, author of The Devil's Candy and Hospital

"This is a juicy telling of a screen idol who always did things her own way."—San Luis Obispo Tribune

"...a richly enjoyable biography..."—The Sunday Times (UK)

"William Mann has picked the perfect title for a biography of Taylor. She was, truly, the last great movie star."—The Oregonian

"...she knew by instinct, generations before today's crop of starlets, how to interface her personal and professional lives with the public, who adored her for it. Taylor lived out loud, and the world sang along to her tune."—EDGE New York

"...the sorts of details a reader craves...all are rendered with a verve and fluidity that keep the book moving along in a fleet fashion. [Mann] has clearly done his research and just as clearly adores his subject [...] Taylor was at the furious center of it all, and provides as handy and captivating a guide through [the era] as any star of the 20th century could."—The New York Times Book Review

"Mann's eminently yummy entry is pretty much everything you'd want in a Hollywood biography... What does make How to Be a Movie Star distinctive is its focus on the changing nature of personal fame as embodied by a woman whose life has consisted of one superlative after another."—Salon.com

"William J. Mann's ridiculously entertaining biography of Elizabeth Taylor in her Hollywood heyday is yummier than digging into a hot-fudge sundae and a stack of Us Weeklys."—USA Today

"William J. Mann dissects the crafty machinations of her stardom..."—Bookpage

"...wickedly entertaining biography..."—The Times (UK)

"Mann shows what all the fuss was about."—The New York Post

"Mann is carving out a niche for himself as a writer and historian capable of presenting fresh information about oft-covered subjects."—The Washington Blade

"This is an entertaining work, revealing much of the machinery behind star-building and star-maintaining back in the day. The trajectory of gossip queen Hedda Hopper's relationship with Elizabeth—from adoration to loathing—is deliciously conveyed. [...] Mr. Mann does an excellent job capturing the media/public frenzy of her greatest years..."—Liz Smith, for wowOwow.com

"...brilliant combination of history, criticism, and biography...Mann has found the perfect figure for an exploration of the seismic changes that took place in Hollywood—and in American pop culture—between the 1940s and the 1960s. It's a terrific read."—Connecticut News

"Mann's book underscores the fact that Elizabeth Taylor is—above all else—a survivor...Perhaps that is why she is so relevant and remains, even more than half a century later, one of the country's most fascinating celebrities."—Lincoln Tribune

Read More

Meet the Author

WILLIAM J. MANN is the author of Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn, which was named a New York Times Notable Book, as well as several other acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction. He divides his time between Provincetown, Massachusetts, and New York City.

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