Brian Kellow


"If the test of an autobiography is whether the reader comes to know (and like) the subject, than Farrell succeeds admirably with this frank and charming account of her extraordinary career."
-- Library Journal

"This is the kind of memoir everyone should be able to write but few are. It can be read in an evening or two, and you will be sorry when it's over." -- American Record Guide

"CAN'T HELP SINGING: THE LIFE OF EILEEN FARRELL is the autobiography of the Irish lass from New England who became, surprising even herself, one of the greatest sopranos of the midcentury. It's written with Brian Kellow--executive editor--and superb columnist--of OPERA NEWS."

My Works

Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark
Pauline Kael wrote film criticism for The New Yorker from 1968 to 1991. During that time, she became the most widely read, intensely debated, provocative and powerful movie critic in America. In this richly detailed book, Brian Kellow examines her hardscrabble early years living in the Bay Area, her first taste of success managing the Berkeley Cinema Guild, the nation's first twin art house, and her emergence as a critic to be reckoned with. Kellow also examines the great period of filmmaking that paralleled Kael's years at The New Yorker. The book features a large supporting cast of filmmakers with whom Kael interacted--including Robert Altman, Warren Beatty, Paul Schrader, Paul Mazursky and James Toback.

"Pauline is very fortunate in her biographer. Kellow, an erudite movie lover, features editor at Opera News and author of a book about another formidable woman, Ethel Merman, writes beautifully and dexterously interweaves the story of a career long-thwarted with a sensitive reading of his subject's youthful enthusiasm and intellectual growth. . . . Kellow admirably brings Pauline's wit, insight and passion to life on the page and has made at least one critic nostalgic for the days when heavyweight critical battles raged and at least one of us lived a life worthy of a biography." -- Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

"In his fluent, immensely readable study, Kellow fairly represents Kael's tendency to hyperbole (writing of Barbra Streisand or Last Tango in Paris) as well as hurtful ad hominem (George Cukor's Rich and Famous; Shoah)." -- Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"For a biography to do justice to a complex personality and a great mind such as Kael's, extensive research must be matched by acute perception. That requirement is fully, even joyously, met here. . . a great revelatory portrait that will stand as the definitive one." -- Booklist (Starred Review)

"Kellow performs biographical magic . . . Like Kael's own books, this bio is a page-turner." -- Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

"A must-read for any devotee of film; compellingly written and recommended for all libraries." - Library Journal (Starred Review)

"[A] smart and incisive biography . . . . [Moviegoers] are in for a colossal eye-opening. [Kael's] love for film has no present-day counterpart . . . . [An] entertaining and insightful biography, as much a study of her criticism as a narrative of her life. . . . Mr. Kellow's clear, independent view of his subject is his book's most valuable surprise."
-- Janet Maslin, The New York Times

"To appreciate Kael's trailblazing, you have to see it in its broader context. Luckily, that backdrop is filled in with surefooted sophistication by Brian Kellow in Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark, a fair-minded and deeply reported biography."
-- Frank Rich, The New York Times Book Review

[Pauline] Kael emerges from [Kellow's] biography as a great cinematic character, a kind of Citizen Kane, with a life lived and shaped by the dark."
-- Elaine Showalter, The Times Literary Supplement

"Illuminating." -- Nathan Heller, The New Yorker

"[A] terrific new biography. . . [Kael's early life] was a revelation to me, thanks to Kellow's ace research." -- Camille Paglia,

"Mr. Kellow's even-handed treatment gives us [Kael] in all her maddening overconfidence." -- Scott Eyman, The Wall Street Journal

"I fell on Kellow's book like a teenage girl on a lost volume of the Twilight saga and found it quite as riveting as teens find anything to do with Bella."
-- Mary Pols, The San Francisco Chronicle

"Compelling . . . thrillingly written and exhaustively researched. . . . Genius."
-- The Playlist

"Exhaustively researched, beautifully written . . . Pauline was a galvanizing presence, and Kellow has brought her back with overwhelming intensity."
-- Howard Kissel, The Huffington Post

"Kellow has reconstructed Kael's 'life in the dark' . . . The result is a joy to read. . . . a fascinating book." -- Los Angeles Magazine (Critic's Picks, November 2011 issue)

"[Pauline Kael] got into my bloodstream more than any other critic. So I have been waiting most of my life for a smart, insightful biography like [Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark] to take me beyond and beneath the hypnotic thrill of her prose."
-- Ben Brantley, The New York Times (Critic's Pick)

Ethel Merman: A Life
Ethel Merman was the most influential and successful star in the history of the Broadway musical. She made her spectacular debut in 1930, singing "Sam and Delilah" and "I Got Rhythm" in George and Ira Gershwin's Girl Crazy. She went on to star in such classic hits as Cole Porter's Anything Goes, Red Hot and Blue!, DuBarry Was a Lady, Panama Hattie and Something for the Boys, and Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun and Call Me Madam. In 1959 she crowned her career with the role of Rose, the domineering stage mother, in Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim's Gypsy.
Ethel Merman: A Life takes an in-depth look at the life and career of this remarkable star, as well as the ways in which the musical changed during Merman's thirty-year conquest of Broadway. The book, which corrects many of the apocryphal stories that have clung to the star's legend, draws on more than 125 new interviews with Merman's friends and colleagues, as well as with her granddaughter, Barbara Geary. It also features never-before-published photos.

From the dust jacket:
"Thank you, Brian! I am so grateful to you for giving us the human Merman. She has been so often satirized, sent-up and imitated that it is wonderful to have a lucid portrait of her inimitable career. She lived and worked the whole history of Broadway. It's about time she rates this loving and truthful tribute."
-- Tyne Daly

"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

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

"Once you start reading you'll find it difficult to put down." -- Talkin' Broadway

The Bennetts: An Acting Family
“A page-turning saga of a fascinating family of American actors. From the stock theatres of the nineteenth century to the movie studios of Hollywood to network television, Kellow captures the drama and comedy of the Bennetts both on and off the stage.”
--Helen Sheehy, author of Eleanora Duse: A Biography

"A splendid bio" -- Harry Haun, Playbill

"Bliss for buffs" -- The Toronto Globe & Mail

[Kellow is] "a diligent researcher and a perceptive, graceful writer." -- Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times

"I highly recommend it; theater families don't get any more interesting, and it's a true tale well told." -- Robert Osborne, The Hollywood Reporter

Can’t Help Singing:
The Life of Eileen Farrell

“A crackling good story.”
--Associated Press

“An energetic review of a robust life which, at the end, you can’t help admiring.”

“Her racy language and disarming honesty about herself and the many famous musicians she worked with make an entertaining read.”
--New York Magazine

“Music buffs will love this spirited memoir.”
--Kirkus Reviews

“Mama’s Talkin’ Loud”
For decades, Ethel Merman was Broadway’s ideal brassy-voiced tough girl. In 1959, she found the most challenging role of her career: the monstrous stage-mother Rose in Gypsy (originally published in Opera News, November 2003).

Selected Works

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