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Coral Browne: 'This Effing Lady' [Hardcover]

Rose Collis
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
Price: 19.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Oct 2007
A larger-than-life character that towered over the London stage for half a century, Coral Browne was remarkable for her mesmerising character performances, her glamour, her liberated attitude to sex and the quickness of her often-savage wit. Arriving from 'awful Australia' as a 21-year old she quickly became the talk of wartime London - performing as bombs rained, and V2 rockets crashed around her. Prodigiously talented and highly unconventional to the age she lived in, she forged a reputation as a brilliant classical actress, though she would later perform in the premiere of Joe Orton's "What the Butler Saw" in her underwear, alongside Ralph Richardson.She is also remembered for a series of iconic performances in films such as "Auntie Mame", "The Killing of sister George", "The Legend of Lyla Claire" and television dramas like "The Ruling Class", Dennis Potter's "Dreamchild", and Alan Bennett's "An Englishman Abroad", in which she played herself. Almost as famous for her bawdy wit and unashamed appetite for men (and women), her famous lovers included Maurice Chevalier, Cecil Beaton, Paul Robeson, Christopher Cazenove and Michael Hordern, though played confidante to many more, including Alec Guinness, John Schlesinger, Alan Bates, and, remarkably, the traitor Guy Burgess. Later in life, she became 'Mrs Vincent Price', one half of one of the most passionate and remarkable celebrity marriages of all time. "This Effing Lady" is the humane and often hilarious life of a remarkable and truly original star.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Oberon Books Ltd; 1st edition edition (1 Oct 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1840027649
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840027648
  • Product Dimensions: 3.3 x 16.5 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 386,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'Miss Collis...recognises and recounts, with cutting clarity, the less savoury side of the aging, fading star.' -- The Spectator, October 3, 2007

'Rose Collis' biography is hugely entertaining and awesomely well researched...Rose Collis' witty book goes beyond fag-hagiography to show Coral's fault as well as the generous spirit which made her "Darling Coral" to so many.'
Jonathan Cecil -- Daily Mail, October 12, 2007

'Her book is elegant and moving, a hoot...' -- Daily Telegraph, December 1, 2007

'Miss Collis...recognises and recounts, with cutting clarity, the less savoury side of the aging, fading star.'
-- The Spectator, October 3, 2007

'Rose Collis interviewed scores of Coral Browne's surviving friends and travelled more than forty thousand miles to gather the material that makes "This Effing Lady" such a delight.' -- 360 Magazine, October issue, 2007

'Rose Collis's admirable biography perfectly captures the wicked wit and the sheer fun of the woman.' -- one80, December 7, 2007

'The fruitiest Browne anecdotes are contained within this poisonously enjoyable book...Collis tells you when she detects the musty smell of theatrical apocrypha, and names her sources for material that has, over the years, been transformed by greenroom whispers.' -- Independent on Sunday, October 28, 2007

'Witty and well-researched in the capable hands of Rose Collis.'
-- Diva, February 2008

TNT's Top 10 Books Of The Year: No.3, Coral Browne: 'This Effing Lady'
'Her extraordinary life, loves and career are captured in this thoroughly researched and absorbing biography.'
-- TNT, December 28, 2007

`Elegant and moving, hoot.' -- Daily Telegraph, December 1, 2007

About the Author

Rose Collis is the author of a number of critically acclaimed books, including Colonel Barker's Monstrous Regiment: A Tale of Female Husbandry (Virago), Portraits To The Wall (Cassell), A Trouser-wearing Character: Life and Times of Nancy Spain (Continuum), and Portraits to the Wall: Women on Women (Continuum).

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Australia's First Effing Lady of the Stage 20 Jun 2011
Born, raised and trained, at least in her early years, in Australia, Coral Browne was a woman of sides, opposite and in competition. She looked like an aristocrat, but she had the mouth of a sailor. Her acid wit could reduce her victims to tears, yet she was horrified at being the cause of their pain. She was a lover of men, and of women, yet her apparent worldliness hid insecurities that damaged her relationships.

Rose Collis's book is a treat. Meaty, sparky, littered with theatrical stories and witty asides, she writes with heart and a solid appreciation of her subject's impact on her profession. The sadness of no longer being able to experience the great stage performances of one of the most glamorous and affecting actresses of the twentieth century, is tempered by the litany of witness statements from those who acted with Coral, and clips from contemporary reviews. It seems there were few who had a bad word to say about her skill and talent. She was sometimes the only bright thing in a sea of gloom, and could make up for a production's multitude of disappointments just by being there.

Her idiosyncrasies are beautifully described: the athletic eyebrow, arching at a moment's notice to make camp comment; the litany of filthy phrases that would give her free entry to the most earthy haunts; the insistence on only the best couture, and hang the expense. Brittle sometimes, but big-hearted, an absolute professional, and uncommonly kind when it really mattered.

Read many biographies, and they leave you with a feeling that you might just as well have gone to Wikipedia, since some writers think a list of performances and bald facts make a biography. This is a red-blooded telling of a white-hot life, and stands a Cecil-Beaton-hat taller than the rest.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read poorly proofed 21 Sep 2012
By Ian Mac
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This is a well written and well researched biography of a wonderful and fascinating actress and woman. Coral Browne was a true pro as well as quick-witted, larger then life, woman who really lived her life to the full - and one who definitely did not suffer fools gladly. The author pulls no punches but then neither did Coral Browne! The book gives a fascinating insight into the, sometimes bitchy, lives of not just Coral but her coterie of famous friends. I didn't always agree with the interpretations or conclusions of the author but she set out such facts as she had uncovered in a way that one was able to make up ones own mind about some of Coral's more dubious actions. The only real criticism of the book is that it is marred by numerous typos - which at least shows that I was taking everything in!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good on her early career 14 Oct 2013
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I've just started this book and am enjoying it hugely. Insights so far: Coral Browne must have crossed paths with New Zealand mystery writer Ngaio Marsh while Marsh was acting in rep. Did she influence any of Marsh's larger-than-life actress characters? Secondly, Browne's "unfashionable" height, brunette colouring and ultra-fashionable clothes obviously influenced the way people reacted to her, and the parts she landed. (So much for that well-worn mantra so often repeated in my youth, "Looks don't matter". Clearly your looks may determine the whole course of your life.)

Finished it now. For the most part, Rose Collis writes crisply, and knows how much of her impressive research to use and what to leave out. I agree with other reviewers - this book should have been copy edited. The French writer Giraudoux is Giradoux on the first mention and Girandoux on the second. Someone is "grain-haired"! (Transcription error.) Coral is "imbued", not impressed on Collis's mind. What grates more, though, are the author's attempts to reflect Browne's well-known wit. After an account of a play in which Coral was thrown in a horse-trough, she produces a laboured sentence in which Coral "gets her nose in the trough". A mention of "gentlemen firing blanks" introduces a story in which Coral was injured by an onstage blank cartridge. A play with a character called Dorothy is an excuse to use the expression "a friend of Dorothy" (code for a gay man). In the war grande dames of the theatre arrive "with gas masks in tow" - surely only if they were swimming across the Thames. When Coral's hair grows back after a bad bleach, she returns home "with follicular activity fully restored".
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5.0 out of 5 stars What a character, what a career 19 Sep 2013
By Steve Taylor VINE VOICE
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A lady with a remarkable life, she went everywhere, knew everyone, and slept with many of them. A very fine character actress in her day, a "celebrity" out of it, but she seemed to have enjoyed the whole experience.

Sadly largely remembered as the wife of Vincent Price, Coral Browne's was a life to be noted.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another author who can't spell "minuscule". 29 Dec 2009
By Tony Heyes VINE VOICE
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Having admired Coral Browne in many films I was looking forward to reading this book. Unfortunately it is not a sympathetic biography. Miss Browne, one gathers, could be a tiresome person yet very many people cared for her. This phenomenon is not satisfactorily explained and one ends up thoroughly disliking her. A rather more sympathetic biographer would have sought to explain her behaviour rather than confining herself to saying she was frightened and insecure. Did people always let her get away with murder, and if so, why? The author condemns the terms of her will which seemed eminently fair to me -their joint property to her husband and the interest on the rest for his lifetime. One's enjoyment was further marred by poor proof-reading that let not a few mistakes through.
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