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Frances Farmer (1913-1970) was an American film and stage actress better remembered today for her traumatic private life than her professional accomplishments. In the early 1980s, Jessica Lange was Oscar-nominated for her starring performance in the film Frances, a somewhat fictionalized account of Farmer’s life, including the years she spent involuntarily confined to a mental hospital. Many of Farmer’s fans and supporters believe that she may not have been as seriously ill as her family believed, that she may have been mostly guilty of being an unhappy, outspoken, and volatile woman at a time when those traits were not always well-received.

Peter Shelley’s Frances Farmer: The Life and Films of a Troubled Star has two major components. The first section of the book tries to sort out fact from fiction in previous accounts of the actress’ life, as told in biographies, the aforementioned film, and a controversial memoir that Farmer authorized but may not have written. In the second half, Shelley takes a detailed look at the legacy left by Frances Farmer in her films. While she may not belong to the pantheon of great actresses, Shelley convincingly makes the case that the best of her work merits serious critical attention, which he provides here.

As so often happens when you read one book, Shelley’s led me to another. One of the long unanswered questions about Farmer’s life, which Shelley investigated in writing his book, was whether she was lobotomized during her years as a mental patient. In The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and His Tragic Quest to Rid the World of Mental Illness, author Jack El-Hai wrestles with a complex question. Was Dr. Walter Freeman (1895-1972), the controversial physician who championed the widespread use of lobotomies to treat mental illness (and was long-rumored to have performed the procedure on Frances Farmer), a fearless pioneer, a grossly irresponsible doctor with delusions of grandeur, or simply a tragically misguided man who did his best to help patients who otherwise had few chances for a productive life? (If you’re a follower of the Kennedy family history, you might know that one of Dr. Freeman’s patients was JFK’s sister Rosemary, though the operation apparently did her more harm than good).

These may not be the kind of books you want to drop into your beach bag to read by the pool this summer. But if you’re in the mood to read something that will keep you thinking long after you’ve turned the last page, give one, or both, a try.

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May 4 2011


by Dea Anne M

Born Audrey Kathleen Ruston on May 4 1929, Audrey Hepburn has remained a film icon, a decades long influence on fashion, and a model of humanitarian action. Born in Belgium, she was raised in Britain and in the Netherlands and experienced first-hand the privations and hardships brought on by World War II and Nazi occupation. Trained in classical ballet, she became an actress after being told that her height (she was 5’7″) would prevent her from becoming a prima ballerina. Hepburn began her career on the London stage before beginning to appear in films.

Hepburn’s first starring role in a film was in Roman Holiday (1953) which brought her near instant fame as well as that year’s Oscar for Best Actress. Arguably, her most famous role was as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. What lover of fashion can forget that nearly iconic “little black dress” and picture hat combination? The character’s style and sophistication became synonymous with Hepburn herself and so it seems more than a little odd that Truman Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe for the role and complained that Hepburn had been “grossly miscast.” Perhaps Hepburn’s most unforgettable portrayal is that of the cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, in My Fair Lady. Julie Andrews had originated the role on Broadway and Hepburn at first asked that Andrews be offered the film. She accepted the role after being told that either she or Elizabeth Taylor would get the part.

Here are other Hepburn films that you’ll find on the shelves at DCPL.

Sabrina (1954), Funny Face (1957), The Children’s Hour (1961), Charade (1963), Two For the Road (1967), and Wait Until Dark (1967).

Although she was modest about her acting talents, Audrey Hepburn is among a handful of people who have won the Academy, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony award as well as three Golden Globe awards. In later life, Hepburn, who was fluent in several languages,  became  a dedicated and tireless worker for UNICEF as their Goodwill Ambassador. If you’d like to read more about this interesting and beloved film star and humanitarian, check out these titles from DCPL.

Audrey Hepburn by Barry Paris.

Audrey Hepburn: an elegant spirit written by Hepburn’s son Sean Hepburn Ferrer.

Enchantment: the life of Audrey Hepburn by Donald Spoto.

For a in-depth look at Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the film’s impact on fashion, sexual politics, and other areas of culture try Fifth Avenue, 5 AM: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the dawn of the modern woman by Sam Wasson.


Dec 18 2009

Celebrating the Birth of two Georgians

by Amanda L

Today is the anniversary of the birth for two famous Georgians.  These two men made an impact in their respective fields. I knew the first one, Ty Cobb, was from Georgia but I was surprised that Ossie Davis was from Georgia.

Ty Cobb made his impact on the baseball world.  He was born in 1886 in Narrows, Georgia. He was known as the “Georgia Peach” and was considered an outstanding offensive player of all time.  He played for Augusta in the minor South Atlantic League. He set many Major League records. Several are still intact today.  Ty Cobb  was the first man elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame which was established in Cooperstown, Ohio in 1936.

Want to learn more about Ty Cobb? Check out these books.

Ty Cobb by Charles C Alexander

Cobb_A biography Cobb: a biography by Al Stump

Ossie Davis made an impact in films. He was born in Cogdell Georgia in 1917.  He was known as one of the busiest African-American Entertainers in the 1970’s.  In his career he wrote plays and books. He was a director, playwright and producer. He co-starred in a radio program with his wife in the mid-1970’s.

Want to learn more or see some of Ossie Davis’s work? Check out the following.

Black Directors in Hollywood by Melvin Donaldson

Finding Buck McHenry

Miss Ever’s boys

Ossie With Ossie Davis and Ruby: in this life together

Ossie pic book Just Like Martin by Ossie Davis

Want more information about these gentleman but can’t get into a library? You can use the Library’s electronic resource, Biography Resource Center. This resource along with other electronic resources can be found on our Reference Database page.