Luck and Circumstance
Luck and Circumstance
A Coming of Age in Hollywood, New York, and Points Beyond
Knopf Publishing Group, Hardcover, 9780307594686, 288pp.
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
From acclaimed director Michael Lindsay-Hogg (The Normal Heart, The Beatles’ Let It Be, Brideshead Revisited, The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, etc.), son of glamorous Warner’s movie star Geraldine Fitzgerald: a magical dreamscape memoir of his boyhood, coming-of-age, and making his way in the worlds of theater, film, and television.
Lindsay-Hogg’s father, an English baronet from a family whose money came from the China trade, lived in Ireland and was rarely seen by his son. The author’s stepfather was the scion of the Isidor Straus fortune, co-owner of R. H. Macy’s; Straus went down with the Titanic, and the author’s stepfather was, alas, fortune-less.
The author's mother, Geraldine Fitzgerald, the redheaded Irish seductress who won instant acclaim as Bette Davis’s best friend in Dark Victory and in William Wyler’s Wuthering Heights, spent time with Hollywood’s elite—Laurence Olivier, Charles Chaplin, and Orson Welles, with whom she worked in New York at the Mercury Theater and in other productions.
Lindsay-Hogg writes of how he wented his way into this exotic, mysterious, and seductive world, encountering as a small boy the likes of Marion Davies and William Randolph Hearst, playing hide-and-seek with Olivia de Havilland, serving drinks to Humphrey Bogart, discussing life with Henry Miller.
At the book’s center, an offhand comment made to Lindsay-Hogg by his mother, when he was sixteen, about talk circulating (false, she claimed) that she had had a romantic relationship with Orson Welles (Fitzgerald and Welles had lived together at his home in Beverly Hills) and that Welles, rumor had it, was Michael’s father (“It’s not true,” she said. “You know how people put two and two together and get three . . .”).
That was the end of the conversation. (“It’s time for bed . . . You have school in the morning . . .” she said.) For Lindsay-Hogg, it opened up a whole new realm of his life. He was forever changed by the knowing—of not knowing.
Interwoven throughout his narrative is the element of questioning who his father was. Was he the patron saint of American pictures, the legendary genius of the twentieth century, Orson Welles, a consistently inconsistent person in Michael’s life . . . or was he the man who considered himself Michael’s real father? What did his “father” know? What did Welles know? And what did his mother know to be true (she had brought the author up to believe that she always told the truth)? And when would she tell her son what the truth was . . .
As Lindsay-Hogg struggled to make sense of it all, questions of missed chances, conversations never had, questions of what is withheld and what is true took root, dogging him, shaping his life . . . questions still, that haunt and inform this moving, deft, and illuminating memoir.
“Beautifully written . . . a mysterious mix of memory and insight . . . the book’s charm is Lindsay-Hogg’s ability to convey the texture of his unusual life.”
—Deirdre Donahue, USA TODAY
“Irresistible….[Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s] incisive writing and ability to deftly transcribe every dramatic moment that shaped his life makes Luck and Circumstance stand out…[a] marvelous coming-of-age story.”
—Lizzie Crocker, The Daily Beast
“[Luck and Circumstance] is a candid, chatty and enlivened by wonderfully detailed mini-portraits of the famous supporting players in his life.”
—David Wiegand, San Francisco Chronicle
“Sad, funny and intelligent . . . Show-business memoirs are often long on gossip and short on introspection. This one has plenty of entertaining anecdotes about the famous characters who pass through Lindsay-Hogg’s life . . . But Lindsay-Hogg is at his most compelling when trying to make sense of his ambiguous feelings about his parents and his obsession with Welles.”
—Moira Hodgson, The Wall Street Journal
Number 3 on Entertainment Weekly’s Must List: The Top Ten Things We Love This Week: “Fascinating. . . Unconcealed flashes of pride mixed with resentment . . . imbue this memoir with its power.”
“Generous, funny, and often poignant. . .”
—Megan O’Grady, Vogue.com
“Lindsay-Hogg makes every effort to parse the practically Shakespearean drama that shaped his life. Epic love, mistaken identities, letters revealing secrets—they’re all here.”
—Alex Witchel, The New York Times Book Review
“An unusual story of a life lived among a galaxy of stars, told with enough insight and intelligence that even those who dismiss celebrity memoirs should enjoy this jaunt through the glitz.”
“A really good read. It’s interesting, and funny, with a poignancy to it also, and the mystery surrounding the elusive big bear, Orson Welles, is fascinating.”
“A perfect memoir. Filled with exquisite, fascinating portraits of legendary artists at work in the theatre and the movies and rock and roll. The mystery of Orson is a chorus reprised in various corner booths through the years. A sheer pleasure to get to know these people and their vanished worlds, and heartbreaking to lose them one by one.”
"This explains a lot."
“The ambiguity Michael Lindsay-Hogg has been dealing with all his life would have broken many a lesser man and artist. With truth shifting, and objects of love being uncertain, one feels the pain and sadness and confusion he must have felt. But he shows a touching generosity I don't think I could have shown to the culprits in his life.”
“Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s memoir, honest and witty, is also a mystery story with all the surprises of a detective story. Along with intimate and humorous stories of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, as well as Hollywood in the ‘40s, there is a courageous revelation of the deepest fears and desires of family life and individual identity.”
“When—if ever—should a secret be revealed? I’ve puzzled over this for years . . . In this brilliant, compelling memoir of haunting questions you will find the answer.”