DAZZLER: The Life and Times of Moss Hart

Steven Bach, Author DAZZLER: The Life and Times of Moss Hart

When Moss Hart died in 1961 at the age of 57, New York Times theater critic Brooks Atkinson wrote in his obituary of this flamboyant figure's "unconquerable enthusiasm for life." Bach's lively, stylishly written chronicle perfectly captures this enthusiasm, along with the wit, the prodigious talent and above all the "unabashed love for the Broadway he came to personify" and that Hart lavished on an astonishing array of theatrical endeavors. Born in 1904 in a New York City tenement, Moss wrote and directed his first Broadway play at age 17. In 1930, he began collaborating with writer/raconteur George S. Kaufman—forming one of the most famous partnerships in theater history and creating two enduring classics, The Man Who Came to Dinner and the Pulitzer Prize–winning You Can't Take It with You. Hart's subsequent achievements included musical comedy collaborations (with Cole Porter, Kurt Weill and Irving Berlin) and a number of screenplays (among them, Gentleman's Agreement, which earned him an Oscar nomination, and the Judy Garland version of A Star Is Born). In 1956, he directed Broadway's My Fair Lady —"not only the biggest hit of Hart's life, but also the biggest hit in the life of everyone connected with it."Throughout his many triumphs—and the occasional failure—Hart was given to severe bouts of depression, which Bach presents in an admirably evenhanded tone; nor does the author shy away from suggestions of Hart's homosexuality. Despite being surrounded by a luminous, vividly depicted "supporting cast," Hart and his indelible contributions to the theater shine through this fascinating portrait, in a work that truly merits its title. 16-page photo insert. (Apr. 29)

Forecast:That Hart's widow, Kitty Carlisle Hart, "chose not to cooperate" with Bach has already brought Dazzler some off-the-book-page attention—and may well garner more. An excerpt in an upcoming issue of Vanity Fair will certainly boost word-of-mouth, and Knopf's 100,000 printing (as well as selection by QPB and for a BOMC alternate) will ensure that copies are everywhere.

Reviewed on: 03/26/2001
Release date: 04/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 504 pages - 978-0-306-81135-7
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