Photo: Philip Friedman/Studio D
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The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father's Twentieth Century
Margaret Talbot mixes biography, cultural history, memoir, and affectionate tribute in The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father's Twentieth Century. Born in 1902, Talbot's father, the late actor Lyle Talbot, got his start as a magician and hypnotist's assistant, toured the Midwest in tent theater troupes and stock companies, acted in dozens of movies while under contract with Warner Bros., had a leading role on Broadway in the 1940s, and appeared on television as a recurring character on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. While Talbot sometimes felt removed from the theatrical side of her father, who was 59 years old when she was born, she grew to cherish his stories. Some of the most colorful tales took place in the '30s, when the actor hobnobbed with the glitterati at Hollywood's swankiest nightclubs, dating a countess, a showgirl, and of course, actresses. The book is sprinkled with anecdotes about his famous peers, including Spencer Tracy, James Cagney, Bette Davis, and Clark Gable (with whom he almost got into a fistfight over Carole Lombard in 1936). Despite appearing in films with such marquee names as Mae West and Humphrey Bogart, Lyle was not destined to be a star. But he was the consummate performer, generous of spirit in life and art. His guiding philosophy: "Yes, the world is a stage and we have a duty to bring a little sparkle to even the most mundane scenes in the play."
— Pamela Newton