Cover image for Dazzler : the life and times of Moss Hart
Dazzler : the life and times of Moss Hart
Bach, Steven.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, [2001]

Physical Description:
xiii, 462 pages, 24 pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
PS3515.A7943 Z54 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PS3515.A7943 Z54 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The first full-scale biography of the "Prince of Broadway," the brilliant playwright and director Moss Hart. No one loomed larger in Broadway's golden age. Hart's memoir, Act One, which told of a youth lived in poverty and his early success on Broadway, became the most successful and most loved book ever published about the lure of the theater. But it ended at the beginning--when Hart was only twenty-five--and at times embroidered or skirted the facts. Now, at last, we have the full and far richer story. Hart exemplified wit, urbanity, and grace. He knew everybody, from the Algonquin Round Table crowd to the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Noël Coward, Cole Porter, and the Hollywood moguls. His passion for the theater gave wings to his long playwriting collaboration with George S. Kaufman; together they gave us such classic comedies as You Can't Take It With You and The Man Who Came to Dinner. On his own Hart wrote the stunning Lady in the Dark and Light Up the Sky. His screenplays include Gentleman's Agreement, Hans Christian Andersen, and the Judy Garland version of A Star Is Born. His career as a director was crowned by the creation of My Fair Lady and Camelot, his last two shows. They were still on Broadway when he died in 1961 at the age of fifty-seven. But Hart's life was not always golden, in spite of a Pulitzer Prize, Tony Awards, and Oscar nominations. His successes were shadowed by the unpredictable and often debilitating mood swings of manic depression. And he struggled with issues of sexual identity--documented here for the first time--finally marrying and fathering children in his forties. Dazzler is the story of the seen and unseen struggles that beset Hart in a life crowded with friends, glamour, and achievements, a life that seemed to be one triumph and delight after another. But it was actually a life tormented in ways we didn't know, and thus, heroic. It isn't just that Hart rose from humble beginnings to fame and fortune. It's that he rose above his private demons to achieve a kind of happiness that survives him still. He used to say, even in the face of failure, "Well, we aspired." Aspiration was a key to his life, and the key to this superb biography.

Author Notes

Steven Bach is the author of the best-selling "Final Cut" & of "Marlene Dietrich: Life & Legend", both "New York Times" Notable Books of the Year. Before turning to writing he was a Broadway producer & head of production at United Artists. He teaches at Columbia University & Bennington College, & divides his time between New York, Vermont, & Europe.

(Publisher Provided) Steven Bach was born in Pocatello, Idaho. After studying at the Sorbonne and receiving a degree in French and English from Northwestern University in 1961, he taught American literature at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois. He moved to Los Angeles in 1966, worked in a public relations firm, and received a doctorate in film at the University of Southern California. Before becoming senior vice president in charge of worldwide production at United Artists in 1978, he worked as a story editor on theatrical and film projects with the producer Gabriel Katzka, and as executive story editor for Palomar Pictures International.

While at United Artists, he helped bring to the screen such films as Raging Bull, The French Lieutenant's Woman, Annie Hall, and True Confessions. He is best remembered for taking the fall for the colossal failure of the western epic Heaven's Gate (1980). After being fired from United Artists, he wrote several books including Marlene Dietrich: Life and Legend (1992), Dazzler: The Life and Times of Moss Hart (2001) and Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl (2007). He also taught in the film program at Columbia University and taught film and literature at Bennington College. He died from cancer on March 25, 2009 at the age of 70.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

One of the great autobiographies of American theater is Moss Hart's compelling Act One (1962). That work, however, only covers Hart's life from his birth in 1904 into a poor Jewish family in Manhattan to 1930, the year of his first Broadway hit, Once in a Lifetime, written in collaboration with George S. Kaufman. Hart never wrote an Act Two, which is a shame, because his career following the opening of Once in a Lifetime was every bit as complex, dramatic, and trouble-filled as the initial 26 years leading up to his first great hit. Bach's fascinating, well-researched, immensely readable biography fills this gap, chronicling the full sweep of Hart's life, his early successes, his artistic missteps in middle age, and his later-life triumphs in the 1950s and 1960s as the screenwriter of the 1954 remake of A Start Is Born and the director of My Fair Lady and Camelot. This book corrects some of the elisions and memory lapses in Hart's own book, most notably his transformation of his psychologically troubled spinster Aunt Kate into a lovable eccentric whom, Moss argued, saved him in his poverty-filled youth by encouraging his creativity and his love of theater. Bach also tackles the tangled subject of Hart's ambivalent sexuality. His widow, Kitty Carlisle Hart, has always maintained Hart was straight as a blade. But Bach provides plenty of evidence to show that, at least until he married Carlisle and began to have kids, his sexual gate swung both ways. --Jack Helbig

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Hart overcame his impoverished background with enormous talent and the will to succeed. By the end of his short life (he was only 57 when he suffered a fatal heart attack), he had successful careers in the theater and Hollywood and won numerous awards. He had the golden touch. Hart co-wrote the oft-revived The Man Who Came to Dinner and You Can't Take It with You; wrote the screenplays for A Star Is Born and Gentleman's Agreement; directed My Fair Lady; and directed and helped rewrite Camelot, which would have bombed without his show biz skills. Yet battles with manic depression and issues with his sexuality took much of his energy and time away from his family and career. Bach (Final Cut, Marlene Dietrich: Life and Legend), who has a deep appreciation for Hart's talent and the entertainment industry, has done the needed research to give the reader a fascinating and detailed look into this world and Hart's contributions to it. An essential purchase for all academic and public libraries. (Index not seen.) [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/00.] Susan L. Peters, Univ. of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.