Blessed Assurance: The Life and Art of Horton Foote

Marion Castleberry . Mercer Univ., $35 (600p) ISBN 978-0-88146-505-1
Castleberry's earnest but disappointing biography of acclaimed playwright Horton Foote takes its title from a hymn Foote's grandmother used to sing to him–a singularly appropriate choice, as family and faith were at the heart of Foote's life and work. Castleberry, a theater professor at Baylor University and stage director, effectively traces Foote's deep Texas roots, introducing us to the people who will be reborn in fictional form in Foote's theatrical masterpiece, The Orphans' Home Cycle, based on his parents' lives at the turn of the 20th century. The town of Wharton, where the playwright was born in 1916, would be immortalized as fictional Harrison in the numerous plays that established him as a skilled chronicler of small-town Southern life. He began with acting aspirations, but turned to playwriting in the 1940s at choreographer Agnes de Mille's suggestion. Foote also worked in television and film, winning Oscars for his scripts for To Kill a Mockingbird and Tender Mercies, but his true love remained the theater, in which he would win the Pulitzer Prize before his death in 2009. Castleberry's investment in and love for his subject–of whom he was a personal friend–is clear, but this closeness to the material seems to inhibit a more critical approach, lending an air of hagiography to the proceedings. (Illus.) (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/11/2014
Release date: 09/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
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