Pieces of My Heart: A Life

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In this moving memoir, Robert J. Wagner opens his heart to share the romances, the drama, and the humor of an incredible life

He grew up in Bel Air next door to a golf course that changed his life. As a young boy, he saw a foursome playing one morning featuring none other than Fred Astaire, Clark Gable, Randolph Scott, and Cary Grant. Seeing these giants of the silver screen awed him and fueled his dreams of becoming a movie star. Battling a revolving door of boarding schools and a father who wanted him to forget Hollywood and join the family business, sixteen-year-old Wagner started like any naïve kid would—walking along Sunset Boulevard, hoping that a producer or director would notice him.

Under the mentorship of stars like Spencer Tracy, he would become a salaried actor in Hollywood's studio system among other hot actors of the moment such as his friends Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis. Working with studio mogul Darryl Zanuck, Wagner began to appear in a number of films alongside the most beautiful starlets—but his first love was Barbara Stanwyck, an actress twice his age. As his career blossomed, and after he separated from Stanwyck, he met the woman who would change his life forever, Natalie Wood. They fell instantly and deeply in love and stayed together until the stress of their careers—hers marching upward, his inexplicably deflating—drove them to divorce.

Trying to forget the pain, he made more movies and spent his time in Europe with the likes of Steve McQueen, Sophia Loren, Peter Sellers, Laurence Olivier, David Niven, Liz Taylor, and Joan Collins. He would meet and marry the beautiful former model and actress Marion Marshall. Together they had a daughter and made their way back to America, where he found himself at the beginning of a new era in Hollywood—the blossoming of television. Lew Wasserman and later Aaron Spelling would work with Wagner as he produced and starred in some of the most successful programs in history.

Despite his newfound success, his marriage to Marion fell apart. He looked no further than Natalie Wood, for whom he still pined. To the world's surprise, they fell in love all over again, this time more deeply and with maturity. As she settled into a domestic life, raising their own daughter, Courtney, as well as their children from previous marriages, Wagner became the sole provider, reaping the riches of television success. Their life together was cut tragically short, though, when Wood died after falling from their yacht.

For the first time, Wagner writes about that tremendously painful time. After a serious bout with depression, he finally resurfaced and eventually married Jill St. John, who helped keep his family and his fractured heart together.

With color photographs and never-before-told stories, this is a quintessentially American story of one of the great sons of Hollywood.

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About the author

Robert J. Wagner has been active in Hollywood for more than five decades and has starred in such films as A Kiss Before Dying, The Longest Day, The Pink Panther, and, most recently, the Austin Powers movies. On television, Wagner also starred in three long-running series, It Takes a Thief (with Fred Astaire), Switch (with Eddie Albert and Sharon Gless), and Hart to Hart (with Stefanie Powers). He is currently featured on Two and a Half Men. Wagner is married to actress Jill St. John and lives in Los Angeles.

Scott Eyman is the books editor of the Palm Beach Post and the author of nine books about the movies. The Wall Street Journal called his most recent biography, Lion of Hollywood: The Life of Louis B. Mayer, "one of the five best books ever written about Hollywood." He and his wife live in West Palm Beach, Florida.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Harper Collins
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Published on
Oct 6, 2009
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Pages
352
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ISBN
9780061982316
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Entertainment & Performing Arts
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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As her astounding, outrageous, and often tender life story unfolds, the actor-musician-mother shares her lifelong battle with personal demons and near-fatal addictions. She overcomes seemingly impossible obstacles again and again and journeys toward redemption and peace. By exposing the shadows and secrets of the past to the light of day, the star who turned up High on Arrival has finally come back down to earth -- to stay.
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Exploring Wayne’s early life with a difficult mother and a feckless father, “Eyman gets at the details that the bean-counters and myth-spinners miss…Wayne’s intimates have told things here that they’ve never told anyone else” (Los Angeles Times). Eyman makes startling connections to Wayne’s later days as an anti-Communist conservative, his stormy marriages to Latina women, and his notorious—and surprisingly long-lived—passionate affair with Marlene Dietrich. He also draws on the actor’s own business records and, of course, his storied film career.

“We all think we know John Wayne, in part because he seemed to be playing himself in movie after movie. Yet as Eyman carefully lays out, ‘John Wayne’ was an invention, a persona created layer by layer by an ambitious young actor” (The Washington Post). This is the most nuanced and sympathetic portrait available of the man who became a symbol of his country at mid-century, a cultural icon and quintessential American male against whom other screen heroes are still compared.
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In this groundbreaking biography of Ernst Lubitsch, undeniably one of the most important and influential film directors and artists of all time, critic and biographer Scott Eyman, author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller John Wayne, examines not just the films Lubitsch created, but explores as well the life of the man, a life full of both great successes and overwhelming insecurities. The result is a fascinating look at a man and an era—Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Born in Berlin and transported to Hollywood in the 1920s with the help of Mary Pickford, Lubitsch brought with him a level of sophistication and subtlety previously unknown to American movie audiences. He was quickly established as a director of unique quality and distinction. He captivated audiences with his unique “touch,” creating a world of fantasy in which men are tall and handsome (unlike Lubitsch himself) and humorously adept at getting women into bed, and where all the women are beautiful and charming and capable of giving as well as receiving love. He revived the flagging career of Marlene Dietrich and, in Ninotchka, created Greta Garbo’s most successful film. When movie buffs speak of “the Lubitsch touch,” they refer to a sense of style and taste, humor and humanity that defined the films of one of Hollywood’s all-time great directors. In the history of the medium, no one has ever quite equaled his unique talent.

Written with the cooperation of an extraordinary ensemble of eyewitnesses, and unprecedented access to the files of Paramount Pictures, this is an enthralling biography as rich and diverse as its subject—sure to please film buffs of all types, especially those who champion Lubitsch as one of the greatest filmmakers ever.
The New York Times bestselling biography of John Wayne: “authoritative and enormously engaging…Eyman takes you through Wayne’s life, his death, and his legend in a detailed, remarkably knowledgeable yet extremely readable way” (Peter Bogdanovich, The New York Times Book Review).

John Wayne died more than thirty years ago, but he remains one of today’s five favorite movie stars. The celebrated Hollywood icon comes fully to life in this complex portrait by noted film historian and master biographer Scott Eyman.

Exploring Wayne’s early life with a difficult mother and a feckless father, “Eyman gets at the details that the bean-counters and myth-spinners miss…Wayne’s intimates have told things here that they’ve never told anyone else” (Los Angeles Times). Eyman makes startling connections to Wayne’s later days as an anti-Communist conservative, his stormy marriages to Latina women, and his notorious—and surprisingly long-lived—passionate affair with Marlene Dietrich. He also draws on the actor’s own business records and, of course, his storied film career.

“We all think we know John Wayne, in part because he seemed to be playing himself in movie after movie. Yet as Eyman carefully lays out, ‘John Wayne’ was an invention, a persona created layer by layer by an ambitious young actor” (The Washington Post). This is the most nuanced and sympathetic portrait available of the man who became a symbol of his country at mid-century, a cultural icon and quintessential American male against whom other screen heroes are still compared.
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As a child DeMille learned the Bible from his father, a theology student and playwright who introduced Cecil and his older brother, William, to the theater. Tutored by impresario David Belasco, DeMille discovered how audiences responded to showmanship: sets, lights, costumes, etc. He took this knowledge with him to Los Angeles in 1913, where he became one of the movie pioneers, in partnership with Jesse Lasky and Lasky’s brother-in-law Samuel Goldfish (later Goldwyn). Working out of a barn on streets fragrant with orange blossom and pepper trees, the Lasky company turned out a string of successful silents, most of them directed by DeMille, who became one of the biggest names of the silent era. With films such as The Squaw Man, Brewster’s Millions, Joan the Woman, and Don’t Change Your Husband, he was the creative backbone of what would become Paramount Studios. In 1923 he filmed his first version of The Ten Commandments and later a second biblical epic, King of Kings, both enormous box-office successes.

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As Scott Eyman brilliantly demonstrates in this superbly researched biography, which draws on a massive cache of DeMille family papers not available to previous biographers, DeMille was much more than his clichéd image. A gifted director who worked in many genres; a devoted family man and loyal friend with a highly unconventional personal life; a pioneering filmmaker: DeMille comes alive in these pages, a legend whose spectacular career defined an era.
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