Nicholas Haslam

Schlock teaser

The somewhat straightlaced theatre-going audiences of 1880s America, eager for performances by European artistes like Jenny Lind and solid, home-grown, classical actors such as Otis Skinner, were hardly prepared for the on-stage vulgarity that the (usually) Russian and Polish immigrant impressarios, with their particular nous for show-biz, were to unleash into the saloons and fleapits

What a difference a gay makes

Edmund White is among the most admired of living authors, his oeuvre consisting of 20-odd books of various forms — novels, stories, essays and biographies — though each one is imbued with his preferred subject, homosexuality. Edmund White is among the most admired of living authors, his oeuvre consisting of 20-odd books of various forms

All the Men’s Queen

It is entirely possible that nobody, not even perhaps Queen Elizabeth herself, has ever known what she was really like, so great the charm, the smiling gaze, the gloved arm, the almost wistful voice, the lilting politeness, yet so strong the nerve, so dogged the spirit, so determined the trajectory. And so many were the

Salt of the earth

As a young girl in Athens, Maria Callas would watch the films of the extraordinary Hollywood actress Deanna Durbin, and, entranced by that child-star’s utterly perfect voice, vowed to become an opera singer. A couple of decades later la diva divina went backstage at a New York theatre to congratulate another former child star with

Getting a kick

One frequently reads of chaps for whom their epiphany was the first sight and sound of Julie Andrews. Mine happened a good few years earlier, lying bed-bound with polio, just after the war. Someone had sent my mother a boxed set of the Broadway cast of Annie Get Your Gun. Ethel Merman’s flamboyant voice belted

How now Browne cow?

The Christmas book market is about to be flooded, if that’s the word for these somewhat juiceless jottings, by not one but two biographies of the actress Coral Browne. This dual assessment is perhaps just as well, as quite clearly there were two Coral Brownes, one a witheringly witty, ravishing (in the early 1960s she

Around the world in 80 years

Two summers ago at La Rondinaia, during one of those last evenings before he flew from his sky-high eyrie for the last time, Gore Vidal advised me to read the 19th-century memoirist Augustus Hare’s The Story of my Life, an author with whom he felt great affinity. ‘And read all six volumes, too’, he added.

Essex girl goes West

This highly entertaining and self-deprecating autobiography should dispel the myth, however craftily put about by the boy himself, that its author could ever have been a successful rent boy. Promotion of that role-play may rack up millions on the tabloid stage, but Everett is demonstrably far too original, headstrong and downright funny to ever have

Marriage à la mode

It is surely rare to find a book that describes a marriage with such breathtaking intimacy as Diana Melly does in her autobiography, Take a Girl Like Me. Not only are both the leading players very much alive, most of the varied cast are still vigorously kicking. Mrs Melly writes the story of her grippingly

Brilliance and bathos

That most astute of reviewers, Lynn Barber, recently wrote of this curiously bloodless biography that the subject is a minor star, now only remembered for one film, Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat. While this may be true, I imagine none but a dedicated cineaste can now name a film of Gloria Swanson’s apart from Sunset Boulevard, or