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Culture

Author Patricia Bosworth Discusses Memoir On Her Life As An Actor In The ‘50s

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Patricia Bosworth knows how to tell a story. Bosworth is a writer and an actress. She was featured in the film A Nun’s Story with Audrey Hepburn. She’s also written biographies of photographer Diane Arbus and actors Montgomery Clift, Jane Fonda and Marlon Brando.   

But she waited decades to tell the story of the men in her life. Those men are her brother, Bart Jr., and her father, lawyer Bartley Crum. Crum was famous for defending the Hollywood 10 during the McCarthy era.    

In her new memoir, The Men in Her Life, Bosworth writes about her relationship with them and how the loss of these family members shaped her life. Bosworth recently spoke with All Things Considered Host Bill Buchner about the book. Below is a transcript of their conversation.  

How did you come to get the name Bosworth. That’s not your real name?

Well, it’s my mother’s maiden name. And when I became an actress, my father, Bartley Crum, said that if I got bad reviews for a performance, they might sau “Crummy Performance by Patricia Crum,” so he decided I should change my name.  

This isn’t your first memoir. So why was it important for you to write this book?

I wanted to write about this time in particular because I take a decade, 1953 to ‘63 when everything seemed to be happening to me at once. I suffered the loss of my brother and father to suicide, but I also got married and divorced, I graduated from college, I became an actress and later a writer. But at the same time in this incredible tumultuous decade I also met every single one of the subjects of my future biographies. I met Fonda, I met Clift, Brando, Arbus. I just wanted to write about this incredibly rich, full, complicated decade, when I was also growing up. ‘Cause I was in my 20s, I really didn’t know what the hell I was doing half the time. It was just an amazingly energizing and also painful time too.  

You say one of your crowning achievements at this time was being accepted to the Actors Studio. How was it managing one of your biggest successes while going through one of the most profound losses in your life?

I was numb. I refused to think about what had happened to me in terms of the loss of my brother and ultimately the loss of my father. I just refused to think about either one of these losses. I escaped into my work. You know when you’re a suicide survivor you’re a workaholic. You are unbelievably, frenetically busy. You keep yourself busy, in order to assuage the guilt and the loss.   

You describe encounters in the book with some of the biggest names of the stage and screen of that era. Many of these people were deeply flawed. In particular I’m thinking of Marilyn Monroe. She was a tortured soul.

She was a tortured soul. I didn’t get to know her that well.  I actually had this one tiny encounter with her where I sat in a cab with her for about 20 minutes. I never forgot it. Because she was so luminescent. She was very much a star. She had this kind of mysterious quality that set her apart from everyone else. But underneath she was confused, and she was drugged half the time. But she did have this wild desire to be a great actress, and Lee Strasberg, the master teacher, at the Actors Studio was fueling this ambition in her. And so this kind of pushed her forward but confused her a lot and made her anxious. But she was sweet, she was dear, she was a gentle soul.