Monday, December 5, 2016

Books: Ann Blyth: Actress Singer Star (audio)

Earlier this year, Jacqueline was kind enough to send me a gratis copy of the audio book version of her recent biography Ann Blyth: Actress Singer Star. This was my first audio book. I have noticed the recent growth in popularity of the medium, though I suppose I used to think they were for either blind people or folks too lazy to read or something. I mean, I feel funny even calling it a "book." Still, these things sell, so there must be something to them.

Blyth the audio book is narrated by Toni Lewis, a TV actress. I have not seen her in anything. She has a pleasant voice, well suited for this line of work.

I don't know if this is normal in audio books, but here Lewis makes an effort to "get in character" a number of times throughout the reading. She clearly adopts a different type of voice for Blyth - a little lighter, a little gentler. When reading newspaper reviews, she talks a little faster, more hyperbolically, as if she was in a Jimmy Cagney movie. She even attempts accents for people such as Blyth's Irish mother, though they're not very pronounced. The experience is not unlike listening to an old-time radio drama.

Those who followed Jacqueline's blog in 2014 will recognize the chapters here as having been adapted and polished from the blog and put in chronological order, covering the whole of Blyth's life and career, including her work on stage and television. There are even testimonials from other film bloggers. The whole thing is as comprehensive as one can imagine. One can only hope Blyth herself (or her children) gets to see this before she shuffles off this mortal coil.


Pearls = classy.
If there's a criticism, it does not stem from the writing and it's certainly not serious. After awhile, I kinda got a bit weary of hearing how great a person Blyth is! That's a terrible thing to say, but I can't help it: she has lived, by all accounts, a good life, which is commendable, but one almost suspects it's too good to be true, especially for a Hollywood star.

We have come to practically demand scandal from our celebrities. As a biographer, of course you want to present your subject in the best possible light, but as a reader, you tend to wonder: where's the struggle with alcohol? The abusive parent? The bitter spouse?

It's possible in ten years, another biography will be more forthcoming - assuming there's anything more to be found. I can't imagine another biography being more complete. For now, though, Blyth is a thorough, respectful and insightful portrait of a woman who succeeded in Hollywood on her terms, written by an author who loves old movies.

[Edited 12.5.16]
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Previously:
Meet Me in Nuthatch

2 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for reviewing the audio book, Rich. I really didn't expect this, and I appreciate it. One thing though: I never stated up front that I chose to ignore any and all controversy. I only stated that the book was about her career, not her personal life. No person's life is without trouble or controversy. But the book I wrote was an analysis of her work. While I admit that most film star biographies concern themselves with personal problems and not with the career aspect in detail, that was never the kind of book I intended to write. The nuts and bolts of the job is what fascinates me. Also, your assumption that Ms. Lewis' service "cost a pretty penny" is not accurate, but I won't go into the financial details of the agreement between the narrator and myself, as that would be inappropriate. Thanks again.

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  2. Maybe I was thinking about things you said elsewhere, like in our interview or something. I honestly thought you talked about avoiding controversy and maybe I got it entangled with the text of the book. My mistake. Regardless, thanks for letting me check out your book.

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