The Man Who Saw a Ghost
by Devin McKinney (St. Martin’s, $30)
Devin McKinney’s “detailed and often provocative” biography of Henry Fonda paints the Oscar-winning actor as forever attempting to escape private pain, said Charles Matthews in The Austin American-Statesman. “Sometimes, McKinney’s love of wordy stylistic flourishes betrays him,” but “at his best” he gives us fresh insights to draw on as we watch Fonda in his breakthrough Young Mr. Lincoln, in The Grapes of Wrath, and in dozens of other striking films.
by Donald Spoto (Crown, $26)
You can understand why Donald Spoto thought one of acting’s most legendary families would make a good book, said Lloyd Rose in The Washington Post. Patriarch Michael, daughters Vanessa and Lynn, and granddaughters Natasha and Joely Richardson have endured enough triumphs and tragedies both on stage and in real life to fill several books. But Spoto spends too much time on Michael, whose career has mainly been forgotten, giving the more relevant Redgrave women short shrift.
The Richard Burton Diaries
edited by Chris Williams (Yale, $35)
“It’s hard to imagine a midcareer actor working today whose diaries will be half as literate or lemony” as Richard Burton’s are, said Dwight Garner in The New York Times. Burton has two loves in these pages: the English language, of which he’s a crack practitioner, and Elizabeth Taylor. Burton’s account of their tempestuous life together is “a love story so robust you can nearly warm your hands on its flames.” Skip all but the years 1965–72 and “you’ll miss little.”
by Margaret Talbot (Riverhead, $29)
In 1933, Lyle Talbot was considered a “star of tomorrow,” said Carrie Rickey in the San Francisco Chronicle. But Talbot became merely a character actor, in films and in TV’s Ozzie and Harriet. In this “novelistic” memoir by his daughter, a New Yorker writer, Lyle “achieves posthumous stardom” worth waiting for. The book lovingly traces the actor’s arc, from being a “prairie Barrymore” of the Midwestern stage to challenging Clark Gable for Carole Lombard’s affections.