I’m currently reading (listening to, actually) Act One, an autobiography by Moss Hart. It’s both a seminal theatre work and a highly enjoyable read (listen).
Moss Hart co-wrote several classics, including You Can’t Take It With You, a play I did in high school (which reminds me of a line from the New York Times review of a recent revival: “Those who saw, or performed in, You Can’t Take It With You in high school should not let that trauma taint the Broadway revival of that show.”).
Hart also directed the original productions of My Fair Lady and Camelot, so the guy was no slouch.
This is a book that, frankly, I wish I’d read when I was young and impressionable. His drive and ambition, as well as his ability to keep going despite setbacks, is inspirational. I suspect this book resulted in a lot of people moving to NYC over the years, in pursuit of theatrical careers. But few of them had Hart’s talent or – as he would likely be the first to admit – his luck. It’s a wonderful story, well told.
I finished this afternoon and the ending is fantastic. What a story. What a life.
Frank Rich wrote this about Act One, and it encapsulates the book’s appeal: “Hart’s memoir is one of the great American autobiographies because it gives a certain kind of reader hope. It says you can escape a home where you feel you don’t belong, you can escape a town you find suffocating, you can follow a passion (the theater, but not just the theater) that is ridiculed by your peers, you can—with hard work, luck, and stamina—forge a career doing what you love. However modest or traumatic your beginnings, you can find your way to Oz—and you don’t have to go back to Kansas anymore.”