Shirley Booth's inspiring story of absolute determination to succeed despite all obstacles.
In 1963, the Hazel theme music played to an applauding audience, as sixty-four-year-old Shirley Booth stepped up to the stage for her second Emmy Award. As Hazel, her superb comedic and dramatic skills resulted from arduous years of perfecting her minimalist approach to acting.
More than fifty years earlier, Shirley first stepped onto the stage against the wishes of her father. How could Shirley Booth achieve so much success as an actress, winning every major acting award possible, without formal dramatic training?
Jim Manago chronicles Shirley Booth's many years of radio broadcasting, including Duffy’s Tavern, playing in stock theater roles, and starring in successful and abortive Broadway shows until she finally reached beyond her award-winning Broadway performance in Come Back, Little Sheba (1950) for which she earned a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play, and later the film version (1952), for which she won an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress.
Relive her entire career, including the critical receptions to Shirley's performances, through interviews with her friends and associates, and most notably, her own words, to understand her distinct philosophy of life.
"I thought I knew about this talented lady, Shirley Booth, from the awards for theater and movies and the wonderful television show. However, Jim Manago's book gives much more about her life and career. It's a very good read with so many beautiful pictures, and I'm delighted I found it, and highly recommend this book." -Wanda L. Clark, Lucille Ball's personal secretary, in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (11/14/08)
New Biography is Valentine Card to Shirley Booth
By Thomas A. DeLong
RadioGram, September 2008
published by The Society to Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety and Comedy (SPERDVAC)
Author Jim Manago’s presentation reads like a heartfelt Valentine card to actress Shirley Booth from her friends, associates and fans. It’s loving and upbeat with fond recollections and reviews of a much-honored performer on stage, radio and television. At times a cut-and-paste approach, the story brings to the reader a career long, multifaceted and rewarding.
With background in stock, Booth (1898-1992), stage-struck at an early age, made her Broadway bow in 1925 in Hell’s Bells opposite a pre-Hollywood Humphrey Bogart. Her appearances in undistinguished, short-run plays never discourage this undaunted trouper. Finally, a decade later, her break came with Three Men on a Horse, a George Abbott comedy that ran 835 performances. The Theatre Guild’s Philadelphia Story starring Katharine Hepburn followed. Booth is best remembered for her Tony-winning role as the frumpy housewife Lola in Come Back, Little Sheba—a part she reprised in the film version and for which she collected an Oscar.
She married radio actor-director Ed Gardner, and he cast her as lighthearted Miss Duffy, a memorable 1940s character with a Brooklyn twang on Duffy’s Tavern. Ed played Archie the manager, of course. Booth soon added other radio assignments on all networks, and a half-dozen pages of broadcast credits will please radio fans.
Booth won every major acting award without formal dramatic or musical training, notes Manago. When a youngster, he “discovered” Shirley in the role of smart, sassy, take-charge maid in the TV sitcom Hazel that placed high in the ratings. The series brought her two best actress Emmys in the 1960s.
The off-stage aspects of Booth’s life reveal an introversion unusual for one in the brightest limelight. She described herself as a “loner” but not lonely. “I’m not an exuberant person but I am a happy person,” Booth stated. “I think I’m one of the few happy people I know. I feel sorry for people that cannot be alone. I feel very sorry for people that cannot find things to do.” Those things included walking her dogs, redecorating her homes, shifting furniture from room to room, and cleaning out closets.
Manago had culled a realm of published interviews to tap Booth’s thoughts on a variety of topics: on being a “reluctant star,” on easing other people’s pain, on selecting a role, on her two marriages, on Hollywood, on housework. The book features illustrations from Booth’s later career, but there are few photos before 1951. Namely, for such Broadway hits as My Sister Eileen, Tomorrow, the World, Goodbye, My Fancy, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, in which she introduced the Arthur Schwartz-Dorothy Fields song that is the title of this book.