Elissa Landi: Cinema’s Empress of Emotion (hardback)
Cecil B. DeMille boosted the career of Elissa Landi in The Sign of the Cross (1932). Her leading men included Laurence Olivier, Fredric March, Cary Grant, and Robert Donat in The Count of Monte Cristo (1934). After 33 films, Landi gave up on Hollywood, to focus on her career as a novelist.
"O'Brien reveals things about Elissa, I never knew!"
- Suki Landi Sennett (niece)
Elissa Landi is Scott O’Brien’s eighth biography of classic cinema legends. His books have garnered positive reviews in such publications as Classic Images, Sight & Sound, and SF Gate. Three of O’Brien’s books have made the Huffington Post “Best Cinema Books of the Year.”
"Ever since he started writing biographies,
I have enjoyed Scott O’Brien’s work. His
latest, Elissa Landi: Cinema’s Empress
of Emotion (BearManor Media softcover
$25), is my favorite yet and—I think—his
"The Italian-born Austrian-American
Landi (1904-48) is best known by moviegoers
for her roles in The Sign of the Cross
(1932), The Count of Monte Cristo (1934)
and After the Thin Man (1936). She was an
intelligent, expressive actress—much different,
IMO [in my opinion], from other
Hollywood leading ladies. Sign of the Cross
director DeMille said it best when he told an
interviewer, “There is the depth of the ages in
her eyes, today in her body and tomorrow in
her spirit.” Her filmic reputation has not aged
well though the years, but O’Brien’s wonderful
biography restores her luster.
"O’Brien had the help of Landi’s daughter
(who wrote the introduction) and niece. In
addition to their memories, they supplied
him with personal photos.
"Landi had a much more interesting life
than many other actresses. Her mother, an
intriguing character on her own, claimed
to be the illegitimate daughter of Empress
Elisabeth of Austria. Was there royal blood
flowing through Elissa’s veins? You have to
read the book to find out. Also, Landi was a
prolific writer, penning several novels between
"The author handles the private and professional
lives adroitly. Each gets the same
attention to detail. O’Brien has been gifted
with an expressive style that is perfect for
describing movies and his subjects’ performances.
He does a fine job recounting her
stage roles—not an easy task since of course
these cannot be seen to evaluate. He put a lot
of work, as usual, into his research.
A few years ago, I did my own digging
on Landi. After a certain point in the early
1940s, I hit a roadblock, and from there I
could find only bits and pieces. O’Brien filled
in those missing years. I was amazed by his
ability to do this. I appreciated him bringing
Landi to the fore once more. I love learning
new things about actors I admire.
"Years ago, when I discovered Landi, I
never thought there would come a day when
I would get to read a biography on her. She
always seemed so mysterious to me. Now,
thanks to Scott O’Brien, her story has been
told. It is true that she was a complicated
lady, and the author really captured her essence
and guarded personality."
- Laura Wagner/Classic Images