Sunday, October 21, 2012

Life Is a Banquet

1977, 1979 Ace edition
Rosalind Russell and Chris Chase
Life Is a Banquet
Original price $2.50, purchase price unknown
Very worn paperback

Russell's posthumous biography is utterly delightful, still laugh-out-loud funny after I don't know how many rereads.  She comes across as not only witty but brave, warm, and self-deprecating.  If I have a quibble, it's that she doesn't discuss her specific films much, with the exception of His Girl Friday.  Oddly enough, that's one of only three of her movies I've seen, along with The Women and Auntie Mame.  (She does talk about the stage production of the latter, but not much about the screen version.) 

The title of the book of course comes from one of Mame's lines, and Russell did try to enjoy life, while still being an old-fashioned Catholic girl from Waterbury, Connecticut.  She was born a few weeks after Katherine Hepburn was born in Hartford, and like Kate had several siblings, in Rosalind's case the most colorful being her older sister, Clara, AKA "The Duchess."  Clara was quite a character, once not recognizing her ex-husband when she ran into him on the street, and Rosalind based her portrayal of Mame partly on her.

I was pleasantly surprised that Russell, although very patriotic, was against the Vietnam War, and she didn't rail against Hollywood and modern morality the way Anita Loos did.  Russell had her own beliefs, but she didn't try to tell other people how to live.  She also didn't like to dwell on the past, although she tells some great anecdotes about her family and about other celebrities.  All in all, one of the best biographies I own, and it's such a shame she died in her 60s.

I haven't seen the 2009 documentary, Life Is a Banquet, but it looks intriguing:

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