During the McCarthy era, Edwards (whose Early Reagan: The Rise of an American Hero was nominated for a Pulitzer) fled to Europe, along with numerous other Hollywood writers who suffered persecution. From 1954 until the early 1970s, Edwards raised her two children and wrote under an assumed name. Though the majority of the narrative focuses on her years abroad, Edwards deftly weaves in her fascinating family history. From an early age, the author was immersed in the Hollywood environment. At 17, Edwards wrote a standout high school play, landing her a position as a junior writer for Metro Goldwyn Mayer studio in Hollywood. Her uncle owned the famous Chasen’s restaurant, frequented by the writers and actors of the movie industry. Her extended family included notables such as W.C. Fields, James Stewart, Frank Capra, and John Barrymore. She resided in London, Switzerland, and the South of France before returning home. Edwards lards her lush memoir with scrumptious details recalling the locations she lived, her romances, and encounters with celebrities. Yet she never neglects the meat of her story—the devastating effect of blacklisting on her life and other McCarthy-era expatriates. (Aug.)
Edwards, a biographer, novelist, and screenwriter, here tells the story of her own life, or rather a part of it: the period, spanning roughly two decades, after she was blacklisted in the 1950s and left the U.S. (returning in the seventies). Swept up in the communist witch hunts, unable to work in her native country, she worked in Europe under a pseudonym. As her professional life was torn apart, her personal life also fell to pieces, as she was divorced and stricken with polio back-to-back. She tells a compelling story here....Some readers might find the book rough going...but those who persevere will be rewarded with a rich and often moving story of triumph over adversity and the courage to stick to personal beliefs in the face of nearly overwhelming pressure.
Anne Edwards has written several biographies, including those of Judy Garland, Katherine Hepburn, Shirley Temple and Ronald Reagan, but now this past-president of the Authors Guild of America turns the spotlight on herself. Edwards always knew that writing was her gift a gift she needed after a horrendous marriage and an attack of polio left her physically, emotionally and financially weakened. Anne was using her writing abilities in California for film and television projects, until she among others received invitations to appear before the House Un-American Activities Commission (HUAC). She did not know where to turn; so many of her fellow writers were jailed or sent into exile. But Edwards found the latter to be a fortuitous option, when she received an offer to write a film in London. She immediately relocated herself and her children, before she had to appear before HUAC. There she met other expatriates, with whom she could share her story: she had written numerous articles, petitions and letters to members of Congress about controversial issues and was friendly with even more suspicious individuals at a time when, as she writes, "guilty by association had become the committee's mantra." But in 1971, Edwards wrote Shadow of a Lion, a novel recounting the experiences of exiles such as herself and, once it was published, she could come home. In Leaving Home, she gives a factual account of her own experiences as a target of censorship in the Cold War era.
Anne Edwards makes being blacklisted look like fun. Divorced and afflicted by polio, she fled to Europe after HUAC came calling in 1954 and spent nearly 40 years writing biographies of everyone from Judy Garland to Ronald Reagan. The memoir…interweaves tales from her Hollywood childhood with celebrity anecdotes, but beneath the ain’t-life-grand patina is the story of a single mom trying to make a go of it.
[Anne Edwards] book is especially attentive to the shared plight of women.
While working as a Hollywood screenwriter in 1954, Edwards (Ever After: Diana and the Life She Led) discovered that she was on the graylist of the House Un-American Activities Committee. This memoir focuses on her resulting decision to leave the country with her two young children and the nearly 20 years she lived and worked as an expatriate in Europe. Edwards is at her best when she conveys the uncertainty that she and her fellow blacklisted Hollywood colleagues often felt as they tried to establish roots on a continent that wasn't truly home. Elsewhere, the book is uneven. Edwards vividly describes the areas of Europe in which she resided, and provides engaging anecdotes about celebrity acquaintances and friends such as Norman Mailer and Judy Garland; yet she lingers too long on her love life. While well meaning, her commentary about McCarthyism and political events during this period is stilted at best. VERDICT Despite its flaws, this book is a good resource for readers who want to learn more about how the Red Scare impacted Hollywood.—Chris Martin, Univ. of Dayton Lib., OH