Shearer, Stephen Michael 1951-

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Shearer, Stephen Michael 1951-

PERSONAL:

Born January 21, 1951, in Bloomington, IL; son of a retired Navy chief petty officer and a retired registered nurse. Education: Missouri Southern State College (now University), B.S.E., 1973.

CAREER:

Writer, biographer, actor, and researcher. Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, researcher. Host of a local television series The Movies, 1971-73; appeared in the television series Dallas, 1981-1982, and Central Park West, 1994-95; appeared in films, including Split Image, 1982, Gunplay (also known as Deep in the Heart), 1983, and The Cotton Club, 1984; starred in the off-Broadway play The Appointment, 1994; directed the original off-Broadway production of the play The Last of September, 1994. Has also worked as a model.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Best Biography of 2006, Southern California Motion Picture Council of the Arts, 2006, for Patricia Neal—An Unquiet Life.

WRITINGS:

Patricia Neal—An Unquiet Life, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 2006.

Contributor to the Film Collectors Registry.

SIDELIGHTS:

Stephen Michael Shearer is a professional actor, writer, and biographer. In his Patricia Neal—An Unquiet Life, Shearer "unveils an impressive portrait" of the actor Neal, known for roles in movies as diverse as The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Breaking Point, and A Face in the Crowd, commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Shearer covers Neal's early life, from her birth in 1926 in rural Kentucky to her later life and golden years. He describes how she had become a professional actor by the age of nineteen and had performed in her star-making role in the Broadway production of Another Part of the Forest at age twenty.

In addition to her distinguished professional career, Shearer also covers aspects of Neal's private life, including her affair with famed actor Gary Cooper and her difficult marriage to British writer Roald Dahl. Tragedy also plagued Neal throughout her life, including an emotionally troubling abortion after her affair with Cooper, a taxi accident that severely injured the Dahls's four-month-old son, and two years later, the sudden death of their seven-year-old daughter from measles. A stroke in 1965 nearly killed her and left serious doubt as to whether she could ever return to acting. Shearer also recounts the high points of Neal's career, including her Oscar-winning performance in the movie Hud and her highly publicized triumphant return to acting three years following her stroke. Shearer was allowed broad access to Neal's papers and archives, and much of the material in the biography comes from primary source documents and first-hand accounts supplied by Neal herself. Also included are numerous interviews and more than 120 photographs. The Publishers Weekly reviewer predicted that readers "will seek out this biography for more of the actress's absorbing and inspirational story."

Shearer told CA: "My primary motivation for writing is to accurately and comprehensively chronicle the history and relevance of motion pictures and the celebrities who made them. The motion picture is without question the one true American art form. Its historical significance cannot be overlooked and lost, for the motion picture throughout the twentieth century helped shape our culture by influencing the way we thought, dressed, lived, and acted. My job as a biographer is to tell the reader what and why the subject is historically important; my duty as a biographer is to educate the reader as to who the subject is.

"My influences in writing film biography have been Gerald Frank, James Robert Parish, and Leonard Maltin. Regarding history, certainly the late Walter Lord influenced me at an early age.

"What influences my work is the growing void and loss of our major film stars of the twentieth century without their having been fully recognized for their artistic contributions to film. Their permanence in our history and culture must be chronicled, preferably within their lifetimes.

"My writing process is simple. I want to research and write the kinds of books I would want to purchase and read myself. These would be, for the most part, definitive studies with easily readable narrative, incorporating complete and accurate career information. Backstory and historical relevance are important."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Publishers Weekly, April 17, 2006, review of Patricia Neal—An Unquiet Life, p. 183.

Hollywood Reporter, June 1, 2006, Robert Osborne, review of Patricia Neal—An Unquiet Life.

Washington Post Book World, July 2, 2006, Dennis Drabelle, review of Patricia Neal—An Unquiet Life, p. 8.