An Actor's Daughter

Aline Bernstein, Author Ohio University Press $14.95 (227p) ISBN 978-0-8214-0870-4
Also long out of print, this autobiography by Thomas Wolfe's long-time lover (see The Journey Down, above), is a delightful tale of her upbringing that ends with her father's death in her late teens, as she is about ""to take up my woman's life.'' Raised in New York City in the world of the theater at the end of the 19th century, Bernstein fondly recounts the sights and sounds of a vanished era (she tells of her first, wild ride in a ``horseless carriage,'' for example) and introduces the reader to a series of exuberant, appealing characters. They include her father, the well-regarded actor Joseph Frankau, who taught her many of the female roles in Shakespeare; her Aunt Nana, a hedonist who entertained many gentlemen visitors and had a drug habit; her Aunt Mamie, who ran a boardinghouse where Bernstein stayed up late at night watching adults play poker; and the neighbor Tom Watson, one of Aunt Nana's lovers, who encouraged Bernstein's artistic pursuits (she later became a Broadway stage designer). But there were also difficulties: in the last few years before the book's close, Bernstein's quiet, hardworking mother died and the family's bon vivant atmosphere began to crumble. This is a marvelous tale of intrinsic interest. (October)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1987
Release date: 10/01/1987
Genre: Nonfiction
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