Brian Kellow

Ethel Merman: A Life

A biography of the greatest star in the history of the Broadway musical. Kellow traces Merman's life from her beginnings as an only child growing up in Astoria, Queens, to her early days as a secretary, to her emergence as a new Broadway star, singing "I Got Rhythm" in the Gershwins' 1930 hit Girl Crazy. From that point, Merman went from one stage success to another, including Cole Porter's Anything Goes, DuBarry was a Lady, Panama Hattie and Something for the Boys, Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun and Call Me Madam, and her career-crowning achievement, the domineering stage mother Rose in Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim's Gypsy. Her personal life was marred by four failed marriages (including a spectacularly brief one to actor Ernest Borgnine).

Reviews:

"A CLEAR-EYED, PERCEPTIVE TAKE ON THE REIGN OF QUEEN ETHEL OF BROADWAY."

"An editor at Opera News and an entertainment reporter and biographer, Kellow nimbly sidesteps the booby traps other writers have hit while writing about Ethel Merman. Though he gives her temperament its due, he admirably avoids overloading his account with tales of a sometime-outrageous diva. He places Merman's ascendancy and success in the context of 20th-century New York City. . . Kellow displays a keen sense of how and why Merman worked, and his profile of her personal life is an aching refrain worthy of the musical Follies." -- Kirkus Reviews

"A vivid portrait of a Broadway diva who shone brighter and sang louder than anyone else . . ."
-- Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World

"Zippy . . . Kellow's chronology is dishy and seamless; he understands the dynamics of the theater world and makes you feel the exhilaration of an evolving hit and the frustrations inherent in working with a performer like Merman . . ." -- Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times Book Review

"Detailed and perceptive" -- The Atlantic Monthly

"Absorbing" -- MetroSource

"What emerges is a compelling portrait of Merman as a dogged, inspired, yet somewhat limited performer" -- Amy Reiter, The Barnes and Noble Review

"An elegantly written and immensely entertaining tribute." -- Robert Kimball, The Ira Gershwin Newsletter

Selected Works

Nonfiction
The acclaimed, first-ever biography of the most influential and controversial movie critic of the twentieth century.
An in-depth biography of the greatest musical star in Broadway history. To be published by Viking November 5, 2007.
The tumultuous lives of one of America’s royal families of Broadway and Hollywood.
A brassy memoir by an all-American diva who triumphed in both opera and pop.
Nonfiction Article
Opera News, November 2003