Sunday, February 21, 2010

Reggie Recommends: Little Me

There are a number of books that appear with some frequency on the lifestyle blogs that I follow.  I Married Adventure was a sensation last year for its zebra-print cover; the inadvertently hilarious camp classic My Way of Life by Joan Crawford is quoted regularly; The House In My Head by Dorothy Rogers is often referred to; and Decorating Is Fun! by Dorothy Draper makes an appearance from time to time.

But there is one book I haven't seen on the blogs that I think merits consideration, and which I am recommending to my readers as deserving a place in the pantheon of amusing and clever books of interest to those in the lifestyle blogosphere.  It is Little Me: The Intimate Memoirs of that Great Star of Stage, Screen and Television Belle Poitrine, as told to Patrick Dennis.

As many readers of this blog well know, Patrick Dennis is best known as the author of Auntie Mame, the hilarious book turned into Broadway play, Hollywood motion picture, Broadway musical, and Hollywood musical.  Little Me may not be as well known, but is well worth adding to your library.  It is readily available through and other used-book websites.

Here's what the book jacket says:

"Now it can be told!  Here, at last, is the penetrating, soul-baring story which audiences the world over have waited for -- the revealing memoirs of that great star of stage, screen and television, lovely Belle Poitrine, as indiscretely confided to Patrick Dennis.
   "Pulling no punches, sparing no trivial detail, this gracious lady tells the dramatic story of her own turbulent life from its humble beginnings in sleepy little Venezuela, Illinois, to absolute stardom and sole ownership of mighty Metronome -- Hollywood's greatest studio.

Queen of the Metronome studio

"Then down, down, down to the very sewer main of depravity and finally, onward and upward to health, wealth, and peace of soul through her own beautiful philosophy of life.  (Skeptics please note Chapter XX, 'I Find God In Southhampton.')
   "In 21 thrilling chapters Miss Poitrine modestly relates her rise in the wonderful world of show business from ten-cent burlesque (America's commedia dell' arte) to the very pinnacle of stardom.

Down and out

"What reader does not tingle at the mere memory of such unforgettable celluloid epics as The Broadway Barcarole of 1930, Papaya's Paradise, Tarzan's Other Wife, Jesus Wept and Caw Girl?  Our beautiful Belle was in them all.
   "Who cannot remember such fabulous stars as Letch Feeley, Helen Highwater, Dudley du Pont, Magdalena Montezuma, Carstairs Bagley, Lyons Maine and Mae Retch?  All of these great names -- and a host of others -- people the Poitrine pages.

Entertaining "Yalies" at the Taft Hotel

"Here, too, are the men in Belle's life -- heroic, ill-starred Fred Poitrine; Cedric, Tenth Earl of Baughdie, who could give a woman anything but love; dashing Letch Feeley, the handsome star who had too much too soon; sinister George Musgrove; distinguished A. K. Frobisher; Morris Buchsbaum, the "starmaker," and an army of dashing beaux.
   "The glamorous settings -- historic Baughdie House, the Court of St. James's, Casa Torquemada in fabled Beverly Hills, New York, Southhampton, Paris, London, Rome, Venice -- all come vividly to life in this truly astonishing book.

Secure at last

"And, of course, it's all the sheerest nonsense ever put to paper -- a deadpan parody of the typical star's typical autobiography written with one part idiocy, one part euphemism, one part malarkey and ten parts sheer ego plus 150 (count 'em) photographs by Cris Alexander.
   "And it may even mark a milestone in publishing history as the book that discouraged all other actresses from writing their memoirs.  At any rate, we hope so."

I highly recommend this immensely entertaining, laugh-out-loud parody, which is a delight from beginning to end.  In addition to being amusingly written, it is chock-full of hilarious photographs of Miss Poitrine in all her glory that add to the pleasure of reading this very funny pseudo-autobiography.

All images taken from Little Me, The Intimate Memoirs of that Great Star of Stage, Screen and Television Belle Poitrine, as told to Patrick Dennis.  Published by E. B. Dutton and Company, Inc., in 1961.


  1. When I was about 11, 'Little Me' showed up on the shelves of our local library (with a label pasted inside indicating that it had been donated by Samuel Taylor, the author of Sabrina, who lived nearby) The staid librarian's usual sense of decorum and appropriateness was short circuited by the donor's fame, thank goodness, and needless to say, it was a revelatory experience and influence to my young eyes. When the library discarded said copy at a book sale 20 years later, I was right there to catch it.

  2. Oh my, I haven't read Little Me since I was much too young to catch most of the innuendo. Thanks for the reminder.


  3. Mr Darling, I ordered the book this evening on your recommendation. I'm looking forward to reading it. I suspect it was Auntie Mame, the movie, that turned me .... ahem, into a lifelong bachelor.

  4. Blue: You are in for a treat! I hope you enjoy LM, as I am sure you will. Please let me know what you think of it...

  5. I found an old copy several years ago, anything Patrick Dennis did is so funny and amazing. I love the photos of her daughter "baby dear" and the one of her "Luncheoning with Roz".

  6. Not sure I ought to admit this publicly but Little Me was the first
    Broadway show I ever saw (Music by Cy Coleman) and midway through the 1st act a wonderful dancer called Swen Swenson jumped on top of a table and undressed for the benefit of Belle Poitrine, whilst singing the
    song I've Got Your Number. My adolescent self was shaken to the core, and it had something to do with an inkling, the merest suspicion, of becominga lifelong bachelor, as Blue so nicely phrased it.

  7. Mr Darling,have you read E M Delafield's Diary of a Provincial Lady?

  8. Arabella: Thank you for your comment, "Luncheonig with Roz" is a favorite of mine, too.

    Blue: I haven't, but now that you mention it I must look in to it, I am sure...

  9. Arabella:
    That would be "luncheoning" -- drat these clumsy fingers

  10. Mr Worthington, Patrick Dennis has a lot to answer for.

    Also, Mr Darling, Lady Addle Remembers. Should give you a chortle or two!

  11. Reggie dear, I have "Diary of a Provincial Lady" and will post it to you this weekend. No need to return it.


  12. Sister Darling: How delightful! I look forward to reading it. Thank you for posting it.


    When I was a teenager in the 1970s Patrick Dennis was living clandestinely in the town where I grew up- Lake Forest Illinois. Apparently unbeknownst to all the grown-ups at the time the creator of Auntie Mame and Little Me was living in their midst as the majordomo for their friend Mrs. Clive Runnells. He had lost his fortune, fallen on very hard times and was then living in the Mary Runnells' coach house as a member of her staff. At that time I didn't know who Patrick Dennis was nor had I read Auntie Mame or Little Me. But now after being told the whole sad story I know exactly who he was and I met him!

    I think it was the summer of 1970--I was dreamily riding my new Schwinn brown Collegiate 10 speed bicycle "no hands" (as I always did) in the middle of Mayflower Road past the Runnells' coach house (where I know he was living) on my way to the beach and PD spoke to me. He was standing just outside the coach house by the entrance to the drive smoking a cigarette, and as I passed him he said something like "Well hello Mr. Acrobat!". I didn't stop, I was much too scared, but kept going all the while looking back and smiling at him. He gave me back a smiling knowing smirk, pitched his cigarette and disappeared down the drive.

    Oddly, a few summers later, much wiser and more tuned into the affected world of glamour, style and men (by then having seen the movie Auntie Mame) I spent some time with a friend at a swimming pool (now made famous in much published Slim Aaron's picture) directly next door to the Runnells house and I distinctly remember hoping that I might see that man again but I never did.

  14. So, it's unanimous: Any number of we 'confirmed bachelors' were influenced by Patrick Dennis, and "Little Me' in particular. Wait til the conservatives get hold of this and discover the real cause! A woman named Belle Poitine!

  15. i adore that book and used to read it as a bedtime story to my first husband. ((i know how that sounds but it's true.))

  16. Anon 3:28: I was aware of what became of Patrick Dennis, but to read about it in your comment made it quite vivid. Loved your story, redolent of "what might have happened" under different circumstances. Imagine having PD as one's major domo. Too bad he didn't write another book, as it would be interesting, to say the least. Thanks for your comment, please come back and visit from time to time.

    DED: Thank goodness it isn't possible to ban a book retroactively!

    Lynne Rutter: It is always a good idea to go to sleep laughing, I think.

  17. Patrick tried to repeat the success of "Little Me" with a identically constructed book a few years later entitled "First Lady: My Thirty Days Upstairs At The White House" wherein a similarly clueless and utterly self unaware "autobiographer" recounts her brief stint as America's First Lady before her husband is run out of office for having stolen the election. It's actually quite amusing, and only falls flat when compared to the truly gut splitting "Little Me". And, by the way, I think you will very much enjoy "Diary of a Provincial Lady". There were at least two follow ons, "Diary of a Provincial Lady In London" (not bad) and "Diary of a Provincial Lady In Russia" (skippable). While we're at it, try to get a copy of Molly Keane's "Time After Time". It's a hilariously told tale of a decaying upper class Anglo Irish family of eccentrics. Light a fire, curl up with Pompey and I dare you to try to put it down.

  18. I read the book in an italian translation and lost most of the fun, though the translator did an excellent work. The pictures that illustrate the book are a real visual journey. Does anybody know who played as Morris Buchsbaum, the Hollywood producer who, malgré lui, married Belle? He is portrayed reading a newspaper barechested. Needles to say, I like him a lot.

  19. I purchased this little gem at a bookshop in Chicago's Fine Arts Building. I didn't imagine that anyone had ever read it other than me. Loved it.


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