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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Elizabeth Taylor has never been short on star power, but in this unprecedented biography, the spotlight is entirely on her—a spirited beauty full of magic, professional daring, and wit.


Acclaimed biographer William Mann follows Elizabeth Taylor publicly as she makes her ascent at MGM, falls into (and out of) marriages, wins Oscars,

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Elizabeth Taylor has never been short on star power, but in this unprecedented biography, the spotlight is entirely on her—a spirited beauty full of magic, professional daring, and wit.


Acclaimed biographer William Mann follows Elizabeth Taylor publicly as she makes her ascent at MGM, falls into (and out of) marriages, wins Oscars, fights studio feuds, and combats America's conservative values with her decidedly modern love affairs. But he also shines a light on Elizabeth's rich private life, revealing a love for her craft and a loyalty to the underdog that fueled her lifelong battle against the studio system. Swathed in mink, disposing of husbands but keeping the diamonds—this is Elizabeth Taylor as she lived and loved, breaking and making the rules in the game of supreme celebrity.

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.

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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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."—

"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

"...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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How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood 3.7 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 23 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wrote one review before and now im going to spell this book out for you, fantastic! A lot of you know me as the 11year old vintage read o holic. But im not kidding when i tell you this is a 5 star book, its the real deal. I encouridge everyone thats a liz taylor fan to read it and you wont be wasting you time or money!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book for anyone fascinated with "old-time" Hollywood and especially the mystique of Elizabeth Taylor.
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TOverton More than 1 year ago
Yes she had the mouth of a sailor. She could curse like a plumber but acting before a camera she could do better than anyone in Hollywood circles will forever be her most outstanding legacy. Mann entertains. I love his writting style. Everything about Elizabeth can not be written in one book however for one who was aware of her but too young to follow her life I have certainly been informed here. Oh the actress! I want to see every film now. Mann's little extras surrounding certain films will aide my attention to them. The photographs supplied visually inform as well. Elizabeth at 17 was one knockout as well as in so many years following. Once underawy reading I picked the book up at least three times a day. I have to qualify that nearly every page held my interest. There was something everywhere that kept my intrigue on a continuum. It was a lot of fun.
mvaluri More than 1 year ago
A very interesting account of Elizabeth Taylor's rise to stardom. There are some nice insider references to her friendships among the actors she worked with at the time, and a good overall picture is presented of the machinations of the Hollywood studios of the time,down to orchestrating marriages for the sake of publicity
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unionmark More than 1 year ago
If the author of this book was ever the subject of a biography, the above would be a good title based on the over-admiring but very well-documented writing about a real movie star. Whether you love Miz Liz and her art, or believe her to be a somewhat nutty and slutty figure who can't act, the author provides a wonderful and engaging background of her life in Hollywood and beyond.
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TomOLeary More than 1 year ago
"How to Be a Movie Star" is another in depth and delicious movie star biography by writer William Mann. This book focuses on the woman who rose higher and plummeted lower than any other star in Hollywood : Elizabeth Taylor. This book is a page turner that is written in Technicolor! One almost feels as if one were reading a supremely intelligent but also funny graduate thesis written by Pedro Almodovar. (Elizabeth Taylor directed by Pedro Almodovar, now wouldn't that have been something?) The Elizabeth Taylor we discover within these delicious pages---stunningly well lit by millions of paparazzi through the decades---is a talented actress with a voracious appetite. An appetite for fame, for men, for diamonds, for food, for booze, for privacy, for motherhood and finally for more men. What Elizabeth seems to have little appetite for is what first made her famous: her acting. Reading Mann's gorgeous book I got an inkling of why Elizabeth became such devoted friends with Michael Jackson. Both were thrust into the limelight against their will by bullying parents (her mother/his father) at an impossibly early age. Both tasted fame at that early age but then began to lose their fame as they aged. Both then became even more monstrously famous. In different decades, but very similarly, Elizabeth and Michael each were the most talked about person on planet earth. Ms. Taylor's lack of true love for acting and her insatiable need for baubles, bust-ups and booze caused her to make some truly, truly dreadful late-in-her-career films. But her fans must be thankful that she never followed other screen divas down the horror movie path. (Paging Trog!) And we fans can be truly thankful for the many good movies Ms. Taylor did grace the screen in. And Elizabeth's late-in-life AIDS philanthropy (not really dealt with in this book) in many ways outshines even her greatest screen performances. Thank you, William Mann, for hitting another home run out of the park. I can't wait to read your next beautifully-researched and delicious bio. Could I interest you in a book about 60's British Female Stars? I believe Vanessa, Glenda and Julie are awaiting your discerning eye and pen. Bravo!
SagebrushCA More than 1 year ago
William J. Mann is definitely getting into the business of writing trash celebrity biographies joining the likes of Darwin Porter, David Bret and Marc Eliot. The book is full of anonymous sources, misinformation and fictionalized events. There's plenty of books about Taylor around. Skip this one.
Jon Thele More than 1 year ago
John Glenn did not orbit the moon!