Offers alphabetically arranged profiles of one hundred fifty female performers, including actresses, choreographers, comics, dancers, directors, musicians, performance artists, singers, songwriters, talk show hosts, and a stripper.
Choice of entries is multicultural and multinational, including Latina dancer Rita Moreno, Osage ballerina Maria Tallchief, Canadian singer and actress Eva Tanguay, and Chinese American actress Anna May Wong. The selection of entries rightly includes foreign-born women like Ingrid Bergman, Audrey Hepburn, and Elizabeth Taylor who anchored their careers in the U.S. The book considers performing arts broadly, even reaching out to rodeo for famed Wild West shooter Annie Oakley.
The writing style is simple, yet thorough. Introducing each entry are alternate names (e.g., Frances Anne Butler for Fanny Kemble), birth and death dates, and talents (e.g., Moms Mabley is described as "Comic, Actress"). Entries conclude with suggested biographies and periodical interviews and articles as well as recommended recorded performances, such as the video version of Sophie's Choice, a screen vehicle for Meryl Streep. Rounding out the text are a two-page list of sources, most composed after 1990; a list of entries by metier; a separate list of entries by birth date, ranging from 1800 to 1969; and a meticulous index by name and subject.
This work is heavily weighted toward film actresses, with lesser representation of singers, musicians, and theater actresses. Examples from the silver screen include Lauren Bacall, Hattie McDaniel, Ida Lupino, and Judy Garland; contemporary modern actresses include Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster, and Julia Roberts. Singers of all types of music from opera to blues, jazz, and country are represented, among them Aretha Franklin, Florence Mills, Marian Anderson, Joni Mitchell, Jessye Norman, Patti Smith, and Etta James. The least covered group are dancers (with entries on Martha Graham, Josephine Baker, and Marie Tallchief), musicians, and other types of performers. The lively, engaging style is perfectly suited to the report-writing, source-seeking student as well as to the casual reader who wants some, but not too much, information. The author omits some memorable stars, notably orchestral conductor Sarah Caldwell, pioneer TV comics Imogene Coca and Harriet Nelson, lead Mouseketeer Annette Funicello, ballerina Gelsey Kirkland, top USO performer Martha Raye, and Metropolitan Opera stars Rise Stevens and Kathleen Battle, two of many opera greats passed over in favor of popular personalities rather than major talents.
Despite these omissions, the book is an engaging text well suited to junior-high, high-school, and public libraries
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