Margaret O’Brien recently gained one of my coveted Veronicas, becoming one of my go-to actresses in the process. It would only make sense that I’d seek out a biography of her life, and while author Allan R. Ellenberger’s book isn’t exactly what I wanted, it’s the best that’s out there. Margaret O’Brien: A Career Chronicle and Biography‘s title is accurate; it’s an exploration of O’Brien’s career with a biography included. Leaning towards the former more than the latter, the book is a decent crash course in O’Brien’s life and body of work that will tell you everything you can’t find on IMDB.
The majority of Margaret O’Brien’s career took place before she entered her teens. It’s almost shocking to hear of her well-adjusted upbringing and life in a world where the term child star has become synonymous with trouble and addiction. The half of the book devoted to O’Brien’s biography is well-researched because O’Brien provided a lot of necessary insight and quotes. With the star discussing her career, it’s apparent that Ellenberger isn’t able to delve too deeply in O’Brien’s personal life. The biography portion is fairly happy and chronological with little depth outside of O’Brien’s own thoughts. Despite a foreword by co-star Robert Young, there aren’t many interviews or voices of dissent included. The one-sided bias of the biography sadly fails to do much but expand on O’Brien’s IMDB profile.
The book may fail as a biography, but it hits the nail on the head with the career chronicle section. Every single movie, radio, and television appearance is detailed with a brief summary, a behind the scenes feature, comments from reviewers and O’Brien’s co-stars, as well as comments from O’Brien herself. The greatest hits of the woman’s career are included, such as Meet Me in St. Louis and Journey for Margaret (the film that gave O’Brien her name), but there’s also details on lesser known works including a series of Spanish-language films that aren’t available. It could be considered a glorified IMDB page extrapolated to book form, but it acts more like a DVD commentary with O’Brien touching on each film of her career. I would have enjoyed unique quotes for her section, as several of the quotes are reworked and inserted into the longer detail portions.
Margaret O’Brien: A Career Chronicle and Biography won’t please die-hard fans of O’Brien who are yearning for a detailed examination of her life in Hollywood. However, if you’re hoping to find out which films are worth your time, whilst getting a detailed overview of her career and significance within Hollywood, it fits the bill. McFarland Publishing continues to champion the actors who might not want a biography out there, so I’ll take what I can get.
You can order Margaret O’Brien: A Career Chronicle and Biography through McFarland’s website or by calling 800-253-2187
Interested in purchasing today’s book? If you use the handy link below a small portion will be donated to this site! Thanks!
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.