The first full-length biography of stage actress Eva Le Gallienne traces her life from her birth into the troubled but fascinating household of Richard Le Gallienne, British writer and intimate member of the Oscar Wilde circle, to her recent death.
This comprehensive biography of the actress Rex Reed called "a national treasure" draws upon Robert A. Schanke’s interviews and correspondence not only with Le Gallienne but also with more than one hundred of her colleagues and friends, including Glenda Jackson, Burgess Meredith, Eli Wallach, Peter Falk, Ellen Burstyn, Anne Jackson, Farley Granger, Jane Alexander, Uta Hagen, and Rosemary Harris. Forty-two illustrations offer highlights of Le Gallienne’s many notable performances in such plays as Hedda Gabler, Liliom, The Cherry Orchard, Peter Pan, Camille, Mary Stuart, The Royal Family, and The Dream Watcher.
Behind her public role as famous actress and as the founding and maintaining force of the first civic repertory theatre in the United States, Eva Le Gallienne led a private life troubled by her personal struggle with lesbianism. For more than fifty years she lived in shadows. Like many lesbians of her generation, she viewed herself as a man trapped in a female body. Because she was unwilling to compromise and hide her true self in a convenient marriage or to camouflage her relationships in order to boost her career, her sexuality became a nemesis that defined her great need for privacy.
Le Gallienne complained that her lesbianism ruined her career. And as Robert Schanke points out, it also influenced her selection of scripts, management practices, and style of acting, ultimately affecting her work’s critical reception. By presenting for the first time this complete account of the life of one of the theatre’s great talents, Schanke provides his audience with a fascinating story that also serves as a barometer of the changing values, tastes, and attitudes of American society.