B1515. James Harding. Sacha Guitry: The Last Boulevardier. New York, Scribner’s, 1968. 277pp. Index; Bibliography; Published Works; Plays & Films; Photos; DJ.
“In these 254 text pages, author James Harding in the first 50 favors the distinguished family tree and the father Lucien Guitry (1860-1925), also a legendary stage actor. Sacha was invariably indifferent to schools, so finally his father gave him a small part in a play, which the young man screwed up. The year was 1904, and father and son were alienated for 13 years. But after a year Sacha was writing plays, directing, and acting in them, commencing decades of popular and financial success. A woman addict, he had five wives (1907-1957), eventually 20 to 30 years younger than he, and they appeared with him in his plays, and then in movies beginning in 1935. Mostly comedic play texts and movie scripts just poured out of him. When Germany occupied France, rather than flee Sacha continued to work like a number of others in the entertainment field. After liberation, he was accused of collaboration - a heavy depressing blow, and it took him several years to recover. Thereafter he received some prestigious honors.
Sacha knew he was not handsome in face or figure: a bull-neck, stevedore's build, prominent nose - all like his father. Loathing exercise, he was into corsets by age 30, but his endless wit, fluid gestures, and charming smile french-sauced his appearances.
Sacha was cursed with rheumatism from early on. When he was 70, it led to painful incapacitating polyneuritis, and he required a regimen of morphine injections. At his funeral, ‘thousands of ordinary Parisians...as they shuffled through the rain, testified to the place Sacha really held in the affections of his fellow-countrymen. For with him had died the spirit of the boulevard and Paris was no longer quite herself’. In 1963 his beautiful Parisian home was bulldozed for its valuable land.
This biography pays attention to many other significant French men and women of Sacha's lifetime. There are 16 pages of good photos.”
- J. Faulk, 10 August, 2010
“Writer, producer and often actor in the 120 plays which made him the idol of Paris for over fifty years-with a short remission, Sacha Guitry was also an ironist, collector, passionate gambler and charmer. In short, a dragonfly. As a youngster under the influence of Madame Sarah, he determined to go on the stage where father Lucien was a prominent performer. He married five times, including Yvonne Printemps, exhausting all of his wives, and assuring his last, very young acquisition that she would be his widow. His closest friends were Cocteau, Monet and Tristan Bernard, although a great many others figure in this biography (his own memoirs are no longer in print) and he was obviously a very facile figure of enormous wit and elegance. (His apothegems appear throughout—‘As for the man who runs away with your wife, there's no worse punishment than to let him keep her...’). The one cloudy hiatus, his trial and imprisonment as a collaborator -‘Gestapette’-is diminished here. Mr. Harding writes pleasantly enough, but M. Guitry usurps the stage throughout.”
- KIRKUS REVIEW
“Harding's 1972 study, THE OX ON THE ROOF, of the French musical activities in the 1920s of the composers, including Poulenc and Milhaud, who comprised Les Six is one of his most acute.
James Harding is the Business and City Editor at THE TIMES in London. He was previously the Washington bureau chief of the FINANCIAL TIMES, He has written for THE WASHINGTON POST, THE NEW REPUBLIC, and SLATE, among other magazines.”
- KIRKUS REVIEW