In Search of Gielgud
Herbert Adler Publishing
Jonathan Croall has created an industry around the life and works of John Gielgud.
His magisterial biography, John Gielgud: Matinee Idol to Movie Star is a great read. Subsequently, he drew on virtually same material for the rather lightweight, Gielgoodies and now publishes a third volume from a similar source.
However, this book with its subtitle "A Biographer's Tale" is something rather different. It largely comprises a diary that Croall kept while writing his biography across the turn of the millennium.
Broadly, there are three strands.
First, there is a kind of adventure story as we follow the biographer trying to track down enough people and information to write a full-scale biography of a much-loved star, who was less supportive than his putative biographer might have had a right to expect.
At the same time, he carries on an almost constant battle with his publishers in an effort to get enough money to survive, complete his biography and have the pleasure of searching the local bookshops to see how many copies they hold, seemingly signing every one.
Secondly, we get snippets of interviews with the great and the good of British theatre across most of the 20th century.
Thirdly, Croall found that he had entered something close to full-scale war with Sheridan Morley who was penning the official biography of John Gielgud at the same time. This really got rather unpleasant and unseemly, both men believing that they were in the right with each clearly desperately hating the other.
What might have been a rather tedious rehash of information already disseminated in the first two books turns into an exciting rollercoaster ride through the world of theatre and publishing as the pain and pleasure become all too apparent through a period of around three very stressful years. The good news was that Croall's adventure had a very happy ending.
This makes for a great read which will be of most interest to those who have already read the biography but will also amuse those with an interest in either writing or the stage.
The book is available direct from the publisher at www.herbertadler.co.uk and should also be obtainable from good bookshops and online.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher