Fishgall, Gary

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ADDRESSES: Home—St. Louis, MO. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Simon and Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

CAREER: Writer. Has worked as an actor, director, drama critic, and reporter.



Against Type: The Biography of Burt Lancaster, Scribner (New York, NY), 1995.

Pieces of Time: The Life of James Stewart, Scribner (New York, NY), 1997.

Gregory Peck: A Biography, Scribner (New York, NY), 2002.

Gonna Do Great Things: The Life of Sammy Davis, Jr., Scribner (New York, NY), 2003.

SIDELIGHTS: Gary Fishgall has written biographies of some of Hollywood's biggest stars, including Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck, and Sammy Davis, Jr. His first publication was Against Type: The Biography of Burt Lancaster. Burt Lancaster was a hard-working actor who made more than seventy films. Fishgall's book demonstrates the broad range of Lancaster's roles and acting ability, and the author provides critical commentary on each of Lancaster's films. In addition, he affords a look at Lancaster's personal life, including his three marriages and numerous extramarital affairs. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted that Fishgall's biography presents a man who is "distinctly less interesting than his work" and who was notably insensitive and humorless. Booklist reviewer Mike Tribby praised Against Type as "a straightforward, literate showbiz bio."

Fishgall's next subject was one of the most beloved actors of all time: Jimmy Stewart. Stewart made his reputation playing ordinary, decent characters whose integrity sometimes put them at odds with the world. His real character was quite similar, and as Alexandra Jacobs remarked in an Entertainment Weekly review of Fishgall's Pieces of Time: The Life of James Stewart. "Anyone hunkering down to write a juicy tell-all about the recently deceased Jimmy Stewart is in for a tough time of it." The actor's life was relatively straightforward and scandal-free. While he was known as something of a ladies' man during his youth, he eventually married and remained happily committed to his spouse until her death more than forty years later. Instead of sensationalizing Stewart's personal life, Fishgall concentrates on the actor's career. Jacob noted that the author "handles Stewart's early stage years in New York with obvious relish." Fishgall interviewed many people close to Stewart and researched his subject thoroughly; his book "may end up wearying" some readers, although those who are true fans of Stewart "will relish this enthusiastic life," according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly.

Fishgall chronicles the life and career of another upstanding actor in Gregory Peck: A Biography. Peck was born in California in 1916 and worked as a truck driver before attending the University of California at Berkeley. There he began his acting career, and after graduation he moved to New York, where he eventually made his Broadway debut. Once discovered by Hollywood, Peck was launched on a six-decade career on the screen. Peck's cooperation with Fishgall in writing this biography lends a formal air to the book, according to some reviewers. A writer for Publishers Weekly, for example, noted that in spite of Fishgall's deep research, Peck "remains a somewhat distant figure." Like his biography on Stewart, Gregory Peck is full of details and film commentaries, though it also provides the actor's dramatic and sometimes painful personal story, including the suicide of his son.

One of the most famous black entertainers of the twentieth century is the subject of Fishgall's Gonna Do Great Things: The Life of Sammy Davis, Jr. Davis was born in Harlem, New York, in 1925. He never attended school, but began performing in vaudeville with his father and his father's partner, both of whom were tap dancers. Sammy, whose mother had abandoned him, worked hard in show business and if the circuit took them somewhere that did not allow child actors, he was passed off as an adult midget. Davis went on to break many color barriers, but at the same time, he failed to connect with black audiences and seemed to harbor a great deal of self-loathing. During the civil rights era, he was actually booed by African-American audiences at political rallies. Davis's successes were great, but his lows were also extreme; he became mired in drug and alcohol addiction and even attempted suicide at one point because of a doomed interracial affair. Vincent R. Peterson wrote in Black Issues Book Review that Fishgall's biography is "a succinct, detailed and racially optimistic tale that celebrates Davis's aggressive talent."



Black Issues Book Review, January-February, 2004, Vincent R. Peterson, review of Gonna Do Great Things: The Life of Sammy Davis, Jr.,

Booklist, September 15, 1995, Mike Tribby, review of Against Type: The Biography of Burt Lancaster, p. 125; September 1, 1997, Jennifer Henderson, review of Pieces of Time: The Life of James Stewart, p. 49; October 15, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of Gonna Do Great Things, p. 373.

Entertainment Weekly, September 12, 1997, Alexandra Jacobs, review of Pieces of Time, p. 130; February 15, 2002, review of Gregory Peck: A Biography, p. 62.

Hollywood Reporter, December 4, 2003, review of Gonna Do Great Things, p. 23.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2001, review of Gregory Peck, p. 1735.

Library Journal, October 1, 1997, Phillip Oliver, review of Pieces of Time, p. 84; February 1, 2002, review of Gregory Peck, p. 100.

New York Times, September 21, 1997, Patricia Ryan, review of Pieces of Time.

Publishers Weekly, August 7, 1995, review of Against Type, p. 452; August 25, 1997, review of Pieces of Time, p. 57; February 18, 2002, review of Gregory Peck, p. 87; September 15, 2003, review of Gonna Do Great Things, p. 56.

ONLINE, (June 12, 2005), review of Gonna Do Great Things., (June 12, 2005), review of Gonna Do Great Things.