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Heat Wave: The Life and Career of Ethel Watersby Donald Bogle
Synopses & Reviews
Almost no other star of the twentieth century reimagined herself with such audacity and durable talent as did Ethel Waters. In this enlightening and engaging biography, Donald Bogle resurrects this astonishing woman from the annals of history, shedding new light on the tumultuous twists and turns of her seven-decade career, which began in Black vaudeville and reached new heights in the steamy nightclubs of 1920s Harlem.
Bogle traces Waters' life from her poverty-stricken childhood to her rise in show business; her career as one of the early blues and pop singers, with such hits as "Am I Blue?," "Stormy Weather," and "Heat Wave"; her success as an actress, appearing in such films and plays as The Member of the Wedding and Mamba's Daughters; and through her lonely, painful final years. He illuminates Waters' turbulent private life, including her complicated feelings toward her mother and various lovers; her heated and sometimes well-known feuds with such entertainers as Josephine Baker, Billie Holiday, and Lena Horne; and her tangled relationships with such legends as Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, Harold Clurman, Elia Kazan, Count Basie, Darryl F. Zanuck, Vincente Minnelli, Fred Zinnemann, Moss Hart, and John Ford.
In addition, Bogle explores the ongoing racial battles, growing paranoia, and midlife religious conversion of this bold, brash, wildly talented woman while examining the significance of her highly publicized life to audiences unaccustomed to the travails of a larger-than-life African American woman.
Wonderfully atmospheric, richly detailed, and drawn from an array of candid interviews, Heat Wave vividly brings to life a major cultural figure of the twentieth century—a charismatic, complex, and compelling woman, both tragic and triumphant.
"In this powerful biography, Bogle recovers the rich fullness of singer Ethel Waters's life (1896 — 1977). In vivid though often exhausting detail, Bogle traces Waters's rise from the poverty of her surroundings in Chester, Pa., through her early musical successes in Harlem in the 1920s and 1930s to her film and Broadway career and her later religious conversion as her health declined. Waters started singing very early, and worked the clubs and chitlin' circuit with ribald and sexy songs; she soon made her name as both black and white audiences flocked to hear her sing songs such as 'Am I Blue?,' 'Stormy Weather,' and 'Shake That Thing' in Harlem clubs. As Bogle notes, Waters's records helped to create a new record-buying public, and she ushered in a style of popular singing that later singers like Diana Ross would try to imitate. Bogle chronicles her intimate relationships with both men and women as well as her stormy relationships with other artists, like Josephine Baker and Lena Horne. Bogle's thorough and unflinchingly honest look at Waters's brilliant and flawed life will undoubtedly be the definitive biography of this great woman. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
“Mr. Bogle continues to be our most noted black-cinema historian.”
“Donald Bogle [is a] pioneering safe-keeper of the history of blacks in film.”
From Donald Bogle, author of the bestselling Dorothy Dandridge and Toms, Coons, Mulattos, Mammies, and Bucks, a groundbreaking history of African American portrayals in Hollywood, comes the long-awaited, definitive biography of one of Americas brightest and most troubled theatrical stars: actress and singer Ethel Waters. In Heat Wave, Bogle explores Waters relationships with other performing greats, including Lena Horne, Count Basie, Vincent Minnelli, and many others, and paints a vivid, deeply human portrait of this legendary performer—a must-read for any fan of jazz, blues, and classic American cinema.
About the Author
Donald Bogle, one of the foremost authorities on African Americans in films, is the author of three prize winning books. His book Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Filmsis considered a classic study of African American movie images. He adapted his book Brown Sugar: Eighty Years of America's Black Female Superstarsinto a four-part documentary series for PBS. Mr. Bogle wrote and executive-produced the series and headed the production's film research team. He is also the author of Blacks in American Films and Television: An Illustrated Encyclopedia.His articles have appeared in Essence, Film Comment, Spin, Ebony, Freedomways,and other publications. He lectures at universities and museums around the country, and teaches at the University of Pennsylvania and New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. He divides his time between New York and Los Angeles.
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