Learning to Live Out Loud

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An intimate memoir by three-time Oscar nominee Piper Laurie, one of Hollywood's most gifted and respected actresses

At the age of seventeen, in the glory days of movie-making, Piper Laurie was living every little girl’s dream. Having been selected by Universal Studios to be a contract star, Piper was removed from her acting class and provided with stylists, chaperones, leading roles, and handsome dates, and elevated to the heights of Hollywood. Her beauty was...

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Learning to Live Out Loud: A Memoir

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Overview

An intimate memoir by three-time Oscar nominee Piper Laurie, one of Hollywood's most gifted and respected actresses

At the age of seventeen, in the glory days of movie-making, Piper Laurie was living every little girl’s dream. Having been selected by Universal Studios to be a contract star, Piper was removed from her acting class and provided with stylists, chaperones, leading roles, and handsome dates, and elevated to the heights of Hollywood. Her beauty was admired by the likes of Ronald Reagan, Howard Hughes, Paul Newman, Tony Curtis, as well as dozens of directors and legions of fans. Her name was emblazoned on marquees across America for hit movies of the fifties such as the The Prince Who Was a Thief, The Mississippi Gambler, and Ain’t Misbehavin’.

But Piper discovered early on that the little girl’s dream was not her own. Mortified by the shallowness of the roles and movies she was given, she longed for the freedom and fulfillment of her own artistic vision. After years in the studio system, shy Piper Laurie found her voice and the courage to burn her contract. It was only after she left the oppressive studio culture that she began to star in the TV shows, plays, and films that truly became the hallmarks of her career: The Glass Menagerie on Broadway, the original Days of Wine and RosesThe Hustler, the iconic Carrie, and Twin Peaks. She grew into a three-time Oscar-nominated actress, an accomplished sculptor, and a director. 

This memoir is the inspiring tale of Piper’s perseverance to break from tradition and to practice her craft at the highest level. She started life as a withdrawn, mute child who couldn’t find her voice and was transformed into a woman who learned to live out loud by her own rules.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Piper Laurie's acting career has been anything but typical. In a way, it was a consequence of her timidity: Because of her shyness, her parents enrolled her in elocution classes, which eventually evolved into small roles at nearby Universal Studios. Even after that unorthodox beginning, her progress in the trade was a strikingly atypical: She earned an Academy Award nomination for her 1961 staring role in The Hustler, but didn't appear in another film until 1976, when she delivered another Oscar nomination performance in Carrie. Her Learning to Live Out Loud brings us the authentic voice of an elegant, soft-spoken actress. (P.S. Laurie is still acting. She appeared in Hesher, which opened in May.)

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

This riveting autobiography by the nearly 80-year-old Laurie tells of her experiences from childhood through her contract years at Universal, as well as the ups and downs of her independent film, television, and stage career. Known for her roles in The Hustler and Carrie, Laurie's empathy for others makes this book far more than a star's attempt to hype an image. Family members and entertainment personalities are fully drawn and treated with honesty and respect. She recalls Ronald Reagan, her first lover, as a 40-year-old actor not yet on a path to fame. A USO tour in Korea during the war was a huge eye-opener for the 19-year-old actress, who had always experienced difficulty in speaking out and laughing; in fact, she had to be taught to laugh. Her early angst persisted for some time, as she recalls when she and actor Roddy McDowall were cast in the play, Handful of Fire: "We were thrilled. No matter how much success you have, the having to prove yourself never ends." Later in life, Laurie conquered an addiction to amphetamines, and enthusiastically embraced the eccentricities of the cult TV series Twin Peaks.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From the Publisher
In a candid memoir, Emmy- and Golden Globe–winning actress Laurie remembers her long, surprising life as a film, theater and TV star.
An “uncommunicative, silent child” who suffered from acute anxiety disorder, Laurie was inexplicably drawn to the world of stage performance from a young age. After suggesting that she “be in the movies,” her mother entered her in a contest that offered a screen test as first prize. Laurie won the contest but failed the screen test; yet the resolve to persist in following her dream remained strong. Her efforts eventually landed her a contract at Universal Studios when she was just 17.  What she did not know was that “Universal was a picture factory then, specializing in a disposable product for a double feature market,” and that she would be promoted as a glamorous B-movie “bimbo.” Five years later, Laurie began the painful process of speaking for herself and articulating her professional desires. She broke her contract with Universal to take more serious roles on Broadway and in such groundbreaking TV dramas and films as the CBS Playhouse version of Days of Wine and Roses (1958), The Hustler (1961), Carrie (1976) and Twin Peaks (1990-91). Laurie’s openness—about her struggles with shyness and amphetamine addiction and her quietly determined pursuit of artistic fulfillment and sexual freedom—save the book from reading like just another Hollywood career catalog. The self-portrait that emerges is of a gracious woman who was in many ways ahead of her time and who fought “the good fight” on the way to becoming “a part of the speaking world.”
Warmly intimate.
-Kirkus
Library Journal
Laurie has won an Emmy and a Golden Globe Award and has been thrice nominated for an Oscar—and she's not done yet. She'll soon appear in the film Hesher and is directing a one-man play based on Zero Mostel's life. And she's written a memoir, which traces her life from shy child to tough-willed actress who rebelled against the studio system. Lots of cameos and fun for all.
Kirkus Reviews
In a candid memoir, Emmy- and Golden Globe–winning actress Laurie remembers her long, surprising life as a film, theater and TV star. An "uncommunicative, silent child" who suffered from acute anxiety disorder, Laurie was inexplicably drawn to the world of stage performance from a young age. After suggesting that she "be in the movies," her mother entered her in a contest that offered a screen test as first prize. Laurie won the contest but failed the screen test; yet the resolve to persist in following her dream remained strong. Her efforts eventually landed her a contract at Universal Studios when she was just 17. What she did not know was that "Universal was a picture factory then, specializing in a disposable product for a double feature market," and that she would be promoted as a glamorous B-movie "bimbo." Five years later, Laurie began the painful process of speaking for herself and articulating her professional desires. She broke her contract with Universal to take more serious roles on Broadway and in such groundbreaking TV dramas and films as the CBS Playhouse version of Days of Wine and Roses (1958), The Hustler (1961), Carrie (1976) and Twin Peaks (1990-91). Laurie's openness--about her struggles with shyness and amphetamine addiction and her quietly determined pursuit of artistic fulfillment and sexual freedom--save the book from reading like just another Hollywood career catalog. The self-portrait that emerges is of a gracious woman who was in many ways ahead of her time and who fought "the good fight" on the way to becoming "a part of the speaking world." Warmly intimate.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823026685
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/1/2011
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Piper Laurie

PIPER LAURIE (born Rosetta Jacobs) has performed in a hundred films and dozens of plays. She has been nominated three times for an Oscar and received an Emmy and a Golden Globe Award. She was honored as Harvard’s Woman of the Year and with the Spirit of Hope Award for her many trips to entertain the troops in Korea. Her film credits include The Hustler, Carrie, The Grass Harp, Tim, and Children of a Lesser God. She is also well remembered for her dual roles as Catherine Martell and the Japanese businessman in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. She lives in Los Angeles. 

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Read an Excerpt

One evening I received a new script from Universal. My last movie had been Ain’t Misbehavin’, in which I’d been horribly miscast. I was told the reviews were punishing. Many times through the years, my agents and I had tried to change the structure of my contract, giving me some freedom to do other things. But they would not budge. Still, I was ever hopeful. 

I read the new script. This one wasn’t even a B western. It was a C western. The male star would be Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier of World War II. He was a genuine hero, had a likable natural presence on the screen, and had become a Universal movie star, playing the lead in many movies. The woman’s part was a prop and just barely that, possibly the worst part they had ever handed me. I suddenly felt so deeply insulted, so unappreciated, so mortally wounded. This time they had gone too far. I calmly got up, walked over to the fireplace, and dropped their script into the flames. With it went a little of the humiliation I had endured in the last five years. Something was coming alive in me. 

—From Chapter 8, “Burning the Contract”

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2011

    Highly Recommended.

    Piper Laurie has always fascinated me. I love movies and I always found her performances to be mystical. Perhaps it was her personality coming through. In any event, in writing this book she has presented her life's experiences in a most interesting way.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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