The movie stars and their love lives and how they got what they wanted out of their careers and their men makes for wonderful reading. But the setbacks and the heartbreaks also jump out at you. And these women had to endure it in front of the world, all the while remaining poised in their very private grief. Will anyone forget the quiet dignity of Jacqueline Kennedy on the day of her young husband's funeral? Liz Taylor's third husband Mike Todd died in a plane crash, but she continued to show up on the sets of 'Cat on the Hot Tin Roof' that she had been filming with Paul Newman, so the production wouldn't suffer. So there are instances of such professionalism and dedication to their careers, in every one of the bios I've read on these women.
Also, some stereotypical notions got shattered along the way. That of Princess Diana being just another beautiful but dumb blonde. She scored where it mattered the most - empathetic understanding of the world's major issues - landmines and AIDS among them. Marilyn Monroe, another blonde who most thought was just a sexy bimbo, was actually a shrewd manager of her career. She was the first Hollywood female star to get the right to choose her scripts, directors and co-stars. She was a canny judge of people too and even knew when she was being exploited. She allowed it to happen because it furthered her career.
The latest book I've read is on Ava Gardner and she was such a vibrant, bohemian beauty. She had love affairs galore and never felt apologetic about breaking up Frank Sinatra's marriage, (something Liz Taylor didn't feel too - she broke apart two marriages, when she married her fourth husband Eddie Fisher who had been married to another Hollywood actress, Debbie Reynolds and then later her fifth husband Richard Burton's first marriage too.) Katherine Hepburn also chose to remain as Hollywood actor James Stewart's mistress because he felt too guilty to divorce his wife as the Catholic church didn't allow it.
While I'm not condoning the broken hearts these women left behind, what I liked about them was their attitudes. They lived their life on their own terms, and we are talking of women in the 1940s and 1950s. By the 1960s, the hippie decade had started off in the West, and people were by then openly trying every kind of kinky stuff. Besides, the men in these women's lives were not passive spectators. They chose to be with these bold women despite knowing it was getting them notoriety. Well, in show-business, even notoriety was a good thing back then...as it is today.
The stars love lives helped sell tabloids and movie tickets. Some of the promos were fun for the audience too. One of Ava Gardner's movies 'Little Hut' ran a promo, which gave away an actual Fijian island to the winner! It's nuggets like these, which have been painstakingly researched by the writers of these biographies that makes them such fun reads. Go out and find your own list of entertainers - the wordsy kind!!
Here is a list of books I recall reading:
1. A Passion for Life: The Biography of Elizabeth Taylor by Donald Spoto
2. Ava Gardner: Love is Nothing by Lee Server
3. Marilyn Monroe: Unseen Archives by Marie Clayton
4. Diana: Her True Story by Andrew Morton and A Royal Duty by Paul Burrell
5. Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn by Donald Spoto
6. Me: Stories of my Life by Katherine Hepburn