Cover image for Madcap : the life of Preston Sturges
Madcap : the life of Preston Sturges
Spoto, Donald, 1941-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Boston : Little, Brown, [1990]

Physical Description:
xiii, 301 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : portraits ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PN1998.3.S78 S66 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order


Author Notes

Donald Spoto was born on June 28, 1941 in New Rochelle, New York. He received a B.A. from Iona College in 1963 and a M.A. and Ph.D. in theology (New Testament studies) from Fordham University in 1966 and 1970, respectively. He taught theology, Christian mysticism, and biblical literature at the university level for twenty years.

He has written more than 25 biographies of film and theatre celebrities including The Art of Alfred Hitchcock, The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams, Diana: The Last Year, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: A Life, Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn, High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly, Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford, and The Redgraves: A Family Epic. He also wrote biographies on religious figures including The Hidden Jesus: A New Life, Reluctant Saint: The Life of Francis of Assisi, and Joan: The Mysterious Life of the Heretic Who Became a Saint.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Spoto gives a somewhat spotty, peculiar account of a spotty, peculiar life. Sturges (1898-1959) wrote and directed seven hit movie comedies, 1940-44, then took up with bad company in the persons of Howard Hughes and Daryl Zanuck. Before his directing success, he wrote some of the wittiest 1930s movies and, before them, a major Broadway hit (Strictly Dishonorable, 1929). Before that, he depended upon his eccentric mother, a protegee of Isadora Duncan and cosmetics hawker, who took him all over Europe and America and herself depended upon a succession of wealthy husbands and lovers. Sturges followed his mother's lead in being peripatetic in his amours and rather profligate. Withal, he was every bit as amusing as his classic movies The Lady Eve (1941), The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944), and Hail the Conquering Hero (1944). Spoto never quite does justice to his subject, lapsing into chatter rather too often, forgetting major details such as some of Sturges' most important openings, and avoiding analysis of his work. Still, this is a less annoyingly superficial Hollywood bio than most. Notes, filmography, bibliography; to be indexed. --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

One of our most influential filmmakers, Sturges (1898-1959) paved the way for the likes of Orson Welles, Billy Wilder and Woody Allen, among others, not only in terms of cinematic style but as a screenwriter who earned the privilege of sole control over his projects. The first writer in cinema to direct his own work ( The Great McGinty , which earned Sturgis an Academy Award for best original screenplay in 1941), he also added the title of producer to his credits, most notably for his comedic masterpiece, Sullivan's Travels (1942), a quasi-autobiographical story about the need for laughter in the midst of adversity, considered by cultists to be one of the best films ever made. Spoto ( The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock ) has done his homework; the detail-filled book makes a major contribution to the study of American film. Insight and narrative flair, however, are where this effort falls short. Sturges, who was raised in Europe by an eccentric mother (and her even more flamboyant friend, Isadora Duncan), led a life more emotionally complicated and colorful than most characters found in fiction. Although Spoto does justice to his subject's accomplishments, the definitive biography of the patron saint of screenwriters has yet to be written. Photos. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

It was a short but brilliant career, that of writer-director Preston Sturges. His legacy includes six comedy classics-- The Great McGinty, The Lady Eve, The Palm Beach Story, Sullivan's Travels, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek , and Hail the Conquering Hero --all written and directed in a five-year span (1940-44). Spoto, the author of books on Alfred Hitchcock, Tennesee Williams, and Marlene Dietrich, is best at describing Sturges's youthful years, particularly his mother's colorful escapades as an associate of Isadora Duncan and a much-married denizen of the Continent. Once Sturges's Hollywood career kicks into high gear, the book goes a little flat. But this is still a worthy addition to most film collections.-- Thomas Wiener, for merly with ``American Film,'' Washington, D.C. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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