Cover image for Shattered applause the lives of Eva Le Gallienne
Title:
Shattered applause the lives of Eva Le Gallienne
Publication Information:
Carbondale : Southern Illinois University Press, c1992.
ISBN:
9780809318209

9780809330089

9780809386000
Physical Description:
xxii, 319 p., [41] p. of plates : ill.
Language:
English
General Note:
Paperback edition 2010.
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Summary

Summary

The first full-length biography of stage actress Eva Le Gallienne traces her life from her birth into the troubled but fascinating household of Richard Le Gallienne, British writer and intimate member of the Oscar Wilde circle, to her recent death. This comprehensive biography of the actress Rex Reed called ""a national treasure"" draws upon Robert A. Schanke's interviews and correspondence not only with Le Gallienne but also with more than one hundred of her colleagues and friends, including Glenda Jackson, Burgess Meredith, Eli Wallach, Peter Falk, Ellen Burstyn, Anne Jackson, Farley Granger, Jane Alexander, Uta Hagen, and Rosemary Harris. Forty-two illustrations offer highlights of Le Gallienne's many notable performances in such plays as Hedda Gabler, Liliom, The Cherry Orchard, Peter Pan, Camille, Mary Stuart, The Royal Family, and The Dream Watcher. Behind her public role as famous actress and as the founding and maintaining force of the first civic repertory theatre in the United States, Eva Le Gallienne led a private life troubled by her personal struggle with lesbianism. For more than fifty years she lived in shadows. Like many lesbians of her generation, she viewed herself as a man trapped in a female body. Because she was unwilling to compromise and hide her true self in a convenient marriage or to camouflage her relationships in order to boost her career, her sexuality became a nemesis that defined her great need for privacy. Le Gallienne complained that her lesbianism ruined her career. And as Robert Schanke points out, it also influenced her selection of scripts, management practices, and style of acting, ultimately affecting her work's critical reception. By presenting for the first time this complete account of the life of one of the theatre's great talents, Schanke provides his audience with a fascinating story that also serves as a barometer of the changing values, tastes, and attitudes of American society.


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

British-born Schanke ( Ibsen in America ) traces the remarkable six-decade U.S. stage career of Eva Le Gallienne (1899-1991) in a well-researched biography that draws heavily on interviews with her friends and students. Famed for her subtle interpretation of complex roles such as Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, Le G (as she was called) also founded the Civic Repertory Theater in New York City, the first of its kind. Tormented by conventional sexual mores, which made her ashamed of her lesbianism, she frequently turned to alcohol, believing that she was denied work because of her lifestyle. Schanke presents Le G's complicated personality in a sympathetic study, documenting her tremendous dedication to the American theater and her largely unrecognized contributions to its growth. Photos. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Choice Review

This is a handsome book, with 40 pages of striking photographs and drawings of Eva Le Gallienne, with lists of her writings in one appendix and of her productions in another. May Sarton's brief foreword contains interesting observations about Le Gallienne's acting. The text itself is a disappointment. This is a biography hobbled by its thesis. The author seems determined to show that Le Gallienne, woman and actress, suffered from being a lesbian, "a man trapped in a woman's body." Lesbianism is evoked pathologically throughout the book. Le Gallienne's triumphs in the theater, though reported, are somehow belittled by Schanke's constant need to remind readers of her suffering and shame at being a lesbian. The psychologizing is so amateur and outmoded as to be embarrassing, and gossip poses as scholarly report. Le Gallienne, who died at age 92 in 1991, was an important actress-manager and director; she deserves a better biography. Until there is one, Schanke's may interest a general readership and intrigue theater scholars as well as psychologists. D. E. Abramson; emerita, University of Massachusetts at Amherst