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Commento: Fine cloth copy in an equally fine dw. Particularly and surprisingly well-preserved; tight, bright, clean and especially sharp-cornered. ; 235 pages; Description: 235 p. , [16] p. Of plates : ill. ; 23 cm. Subjects: American wit and humor -- History and criticism. Humorists, American -- Biography.
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With Malice Toward all / Dorothy Herrmann (Inglese) Copertina rigida – 1982

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Book by Herrmann Dorothy

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1 di 2 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
5.0 su 5 stelle In Every Respect, Superior to Robert Drinnan's "The Algonquin [Round Table] Wits" 4 marzo 2015
Di Donald P. Reed - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina rigida Acquisto verificato
This is a composite review of two books by Dorothy Herrmann:

"S.J. Perelman, A Life" (humorist, screenwriter & playwright, 1904-1979; G.P. Putnam's Sons; 1986 hardcover) & "With Malice Toward All, The Quips, Lives & Loves of Some Celebrated 20th Century American Wits" (G.P. Putnam's Sons; 1982 hardcover)

"A Life" is a well-researched but humorless, hence eventually tiresome biography in which the author explains, or at least tries to account for, EVERYTHING. Sid did this BECAUSE. Perhaps. Maybe. Sid did that BECAUSE. Maybe. Perhaps. Sugar mainlined into the narrative gas tank.

It ought to be a felony for biographers to pseudo-psychoanalyze their subjects.

Dorothy --- possibly depressed by the lore of Perelman's private life (his lifelong & ultimately foolish wanderlust & unhappy marriage; his son's criminal behavior; his daughter's various failed marriages; & the permanent struggle to succeed as a free-lance writer whose style & wit never crossed the GWB) --- then ran out of gas about three-quarters of the way to the end, reminding me of Marion Meade's equally sad fate as the biographer of Dorothy Parker ("What Fresh Hell Is This?").

(See how annoying it is when the reviewers psychoanalyze the authors?)

Quickly re-reading "The Selected Letters of S.J. Perelman" got the SJP "bounce" back into the step.

After waiting about two weeks for some compelling urge or reason to review the book, I shelved "A Life" --- & along with it, Herrmann's "Malice Towards None" (1982) --- a MUCH better book, which profiles America's "20th Century Wits":

Tallulah Bankhead, Robert Benchley, W.C. Fields, Texas Guinan, G.S. Kaufman, Oscar Levant, Groucho Marx, Wilson Mizner, Dorothy Parker, Alice Roosevelt Longworth & Alexander Woollcott.

It's amazing --- almost thrilling! --- how well biographers can write when they're not intimidated by the talent & fame of their subjects; in this respect, recommended are "The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham," by Selina Hastings, & "Mrs. Jordan's Profession," by Claire Tomalin.

Speaking of playwrights, off we go to see Helen Mirren & supporting cast members in "The Audience." It will be a quite frozen audience watching Mirren portray Queen Elizabeth, who in the past has been described somewhat regularly as being almost perfectly frozen, regardless of the season.


"The Audience" Post Notes: Ten degrees Fahrenheit at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, February 20, 2015. The Hudson River was almost frozen solid, which made for an interesting ferry ride to Manhattan... one-way only.

The play itself was close to horrible --- wasted money.

Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II had no great task to master &, aside from her rousing closing to the first of two acts, didn't impress me as being her generation's Ethel Barrymore (come to think of it, she was inadvertently upstaged by the young lady who portrayed Elizabeth in 1952, with a perfect rendition of the to-be Queen's stirring radio address to the Commonwealth).

The main problem was the playwright's conception of his country's Prime Ministers. According to a published review, Peter Morgan felt entitled to portray them not as how they have been chronicled (by & large, factually, in prose & film), but as to what his educated guess is as to how Queen Elizabeth saw (perceived) them.

The all-too predictable trouble one can get into by doing this on a sustained basis arrived on time.

(Also out of the playwright's cuckoo clock was the ridiculous gimmick of staging "conversations" between the elder Queen Elizabeth & the pre-teen & teenaged Elizabeth. Seriously, this really did happen, but not, I suspect, in real life. Max Beerbohm's wonderful caricatures on paper of his elderly royals, politicians and theatre stars addressing their former selves are priceless. On a stage with live actors? Thud.)

Trouble: An unrecognizable Judith Ivey (superb in the revival of "The Heiress" in the fall of 2013) played Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher by channeling the older, eccentric & trashy Shelley Winters (Overheard in the lobby: "Since when does an English lady has a Texas accent?!"). Is this what the playwright thinks that the Queen saw at the time, or perhaps remembers today?

Also Not A Computer-Generated Effect: Standing awkwardly, she brandished a pocketbook, inexplicably the size of a small Alpine knapsack, looking as if she was intent upon bashing the maitre d'hôtel for not having been seated immediately after entering a restaurant.

There is no stretch of the imagination that can result in the possibility of the real Margaret Thatcher taking such an aggressively confrontational stance in the presence of Queen Elizabeth. None.

Only slightly better was Dakin Matthews's wispy & pedantic Winston Churchill, which meant that the salary budget could have been beneficially reduced by renting a "Winnie" wax dummy from the 42nd street inventory of Madame Tussauds.

No one in the Gerald Schoenfeld theatre on the evening of February 20, 2015 was reminded of the irrepressible wit who once addressed his colleagues in Parliament by saying: "I rise to commit an irregularity. The intervention I make is without precedent, & the reason for that intervention is also without precedent, & the fact that the reason for my intervention is without precedent is the reason why I must ask for a precedent for my intervention."

Nor was there the slightest trace of the Winston Churchill who had said of a previous Prime Minister that he was "the man who possessed 'the gift of compressing the largest number of words into the smallest amount of thought.' "

Dylan Baker's John Major reminded me of Will Farrell's SNL good-hearted spoof of the electric, head-swaying Chicago Cubs baseball announcer Harry Carey, which doesn't cost $250 per seat to witness on You Tube (even after factoring in the cable bill); & Michael Elwyn's revival of "Raggedy Ann Goes To 10 Downing Street" (Anthony Eden) rounded out the Cartoon Network supporting cast.

The only person I'll remember is Richard McCabe, whose Harold Wilson alone juiced the production & gave Mirren something to play against, providing a pace, instead of simply being there, reciting lines & debating the other actors who were instructed to portray their past & present countrymen in accordance with the playwright's shallow depth-perception, artifice & propaganda.
5.0 su 5 stelle With Malace Towards All 10 maggio 2012
Di jk - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina rigida Acquisto verificato
So Funny - I have bought about 10 copies over the years and given it away to those that would appreciate.
Loved it

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