Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Review: The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father's Twentieth Century by Margaret Talbot

Title: The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father's Twentieth Century
Author: Margaret Talbot
Format: ARC
Publisher: Riverhead
Publish Date: November 8, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a history fan.
  • You're a biography fan.
  • You're interested in Old Hollywood.
What's the Story?:

From "Using the life and career of her father, an early Hollywood actor, New Yorker writer Margaret Talbot tells the thrilling story of the rise of popular culture through a transfixing personal lens. The arc of Lyle Talbot’s career is in fact the story of American entertainment. Born in 1902, Lyle left his home in small-town Nebraska in 1918 to join a traveling carnival. From there he became a magician’s assistant, an actor in a traveling theater troupe, a romantic lead in early talkies, then an actor in major Warner Bros. pictures with stars such as Humphrey Bogart and Carole Lombard, then an actor in cult B movies, and finally a part of the advent of television, with regular roles on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It to Beaver. Ultimately, his career spanned the entire trajectory of the industry.

In her captivating, impeccably researched narrative—a charmed combination of Hollywood history, social history, and family memoir—Margaret Talbot conjures warmth and nostalgia for those earlier eras of ’10s and ’20s small-town America, ’30s and ’40s Hollywood. She transports us to an alluring time, simpler but also exciting, and illustrates the changing face of her father’s America, all while telling the story of mass entertainment across the first half of the twentieth century."

My Two Cents:

Old Hollywood has always seemed like such a fascinating place to me. Just the name Hollywood evokes glamor. I love reading about it and was very excited to read The Entertainer based on the fact that it was about Hollywood alone. The Entertainer is both a personal history and a general history of Old Hollywood.

Margaret Talbot tells both the story of her father and Hollywood in this book. Through recollection of her father's many stories and her own meticulous research, she captures the transition between silent movies and the "talkies," as movies with sound were often referred to as when they first came out. Margaret Talbot's father, Lyle, was a screen actor who made this transition. The story follows Lyle from his sort of sad childhood growing up until his death as an old man. Most of the book focuses on Lyle's time in Hollywood. Even though I did not recognize Lyle by name, through reading the book I realized that I had seen some of the movies that he had been in.

This book is both a fascinating biography and a good history book. So many of the things that happened in Hollywood during the 1930s and 1940s changed the movie business and laid the ground work for many of the things that we see today in movies. I think that people who both like biographies and history will like this book. While sometimes Talbot could give descriptions that were a little bit too long, overall the writing style in this book was good. I liked that Talbot included her father's story rather than just making this a general history of Old Hollywood. Getting to see everything that was going on through Lyle's eyes was really fascinating.

Bottom line: History and biography lovers will enjoy this book!



  1. Sounds very interesting. I love old Hollywood.

  2. I love old Hollywood and was so excited about this book. At about 100 pages in, I felt like I'd read 300. But after trudging through it for a few weeks, I set it aside. I'm going to pick it up again, hoping it was my mood. Glad you enjoyed it.


Hi! Welcome to A Bookish Affair. If you leave a comment, I will try to either reply here or on your site!

As of 6/6/2011, this book is now an awards free zone. While I appreciate the awards, I would rather stick to reviewing more great books for you than trying to fill the requirements.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...