Beginnings : a memoir /

"Since 1939, Horton Foote, "the Chekhov of the small town," has chronicled with compassion and acuity the experience of American life both intimate and universal. His adaptation of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and his original screen play Tender Mercies earned him Academy A...

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Main Author: Foote, Horton, (Author)
Format: Book
Language:English
Published:New York : Scribner, ©2001.
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Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

"The lady opened her eyes then and looked up at me, and said, `Seven hundred and fifty dollars is a fortune to me. A fortune.' `Yes, ma'am,' I said, and I wished she would get off the subject. I felt guilty enough about my daddy spending the money without her going on about it." This conversation about acting school tuition, between the author and a woman on a bus during the depression, is emblematic of the tone of this memoir and the bulk of Foote's dramatic work (which concern both the conflicting worlds of his quiet Texas hometown and boisterous 1930s New York). The author of The Trip to Bountiful and scenarist for To Kill a Mockingbird, winner of two Academy Awards and a Pulitzer Prize, has penned a nostalgic record of his early career, picking up where his earlier memoir, Farewell (2001), left off. Foote has a gentle way with words and emotions, and while his early days at Pasadena Playhouse were difficult he had to lose his strong Texas accent to even be considered for roles, and dealt with family tragedies (e.g., an uncle's suicide) and near-fatal appendicitis the tenor and temper of his writing is always calming. After moving to New York in 1935, Foote continued acting, but also took up writing at the suggestion of Agnes de Mille and launched a new career as a playwright. Foote's portrayal of the New York theater and arts scene in the mid-1930s is fascinating he met or knew everyone from Lynn Riggs (who wrote the play upon which Oklahoma was based) to Tennessee Williams and the book ends after he meets his future wife, Lillian Vallish. Often scanty in details or world-shaking insights, Foote's chronicle is still as charming as his plays and will be welcomed by his fans. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A wearisomely folksy account of a young actor's apprenticeship in the 1930s. Renowned playwright Foote takes up where Farewell (1999) left off, with his Depression-era departure from his hometown of Wharton, Texas, for a now-defunct acting school in Pasadena, California. He arrived in Pasadena a polite young rube and, judging by the aw-shucks narrative voice, left a polite young rube who could act. Considering that Dorothy Parker was then in her acerbic prime, it's astounding that he could manage-particularly given a life in the theater-to have remained so untouched by irony or worldliness. Foote's naivete is initially endearing but eventually cloying. Given his distinguished career in the theater and the movies, he obviously has a fine and discriminating mind. Yet the performer who emerges in these pages shows no promise whatsoever. Nor does the more retrospective author allow himself any discriminating comments about the productions he watched or took part in, the theatrical training he enjoyed, or his own emotional development, if indeed it ever occurred. When he confides that Pauline Lord's performance in Ethan Frome was the "most moving" that he ever saw, he never describes what so impressed him, but simply excerpts the New Republic's review of the show. Meanwhile, Foote adds enough descriptions of friends and events presumably of great interest to the author (an entire chapter is devoted to his appendectomy) to make him a double for your most rambling uncle-for example, when he repeats nearly verbatim the story of a friend's announcement that she is off to Germany only seven pages after already having mentioned it. The memoir cries out for a ruthless editor to help the octogenarian author give shape and meaning to his narrative. Academics writing about Foote's life and work will have to slog through these unselective, self-indulgent memoirs; other, luckier souls can just say no.

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