Books: The Rebellious Prima Donna: Irene Manning, by Gene Arceri (2013)

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Primarily lauded for her stunning performance as Fay Templeton in the 1942 movie, “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” Irene Manning not only appeared in a series of other fine films, but was a lady of multiple talents as well.

Here in The Rebellious Prima Donna (Bear Manor Press), which marks the first ever book written about Irene, we’re treated to page after page of her thoughts, observations and accomplishments. Mainly a biography, which Irene began penning before her May 2004 passing, the book is augmented by personal remembrances and historical information supplied by author Gene Arceri, who was a dear friend and played a central role in the singer and actress’s return to the stage after being absent from the public eye for a couple of decades.

Born July 17, 1912 in Cincinnati, Ohio, Irene (whose birth name was Inez Harvout) developed an affinity for show biz as a child. A stroke of fate saw Irene’s family moving to Los Angeles, where she duly pursued acting and singing ambitions.

Delivered with honesty, humor and insight into how the film industry operated during what we now refer to as the golden age, The Rebellious Prima Donna makes the reader feel as though they are right there, experiencing such situations. Irene sincerely enjoyed what she doing, but her unwavering sense of integrity led her to stand apart from the crowd. Hence, the title of the book.

Along with “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” which starred James Cagney, other noted movies Irene acted in were “The Big Shot,” “Desert Song” and “Shine On Harvest Moon.” Humphrey Bogart, Dennis Morgan, Ronald Reagan and Gene Autry were some of the stars she shared the screen with. Irene also performed with big band icon Glenn Miller, acted on Broadway and had her own radio show, “An American In London,” which was indeed aired from England, where she lived and worked in the late 40s and early 50s.

Although Irene retired from acting, she proceeded to keep very busy with a variety of projects. Residing in San Carlos, California, a suburb located twenty-odd miles south of San Francisco, she taught acting and voice lessons. Irene further fired her creativity by painting and writing.

Easy to read and packed with compelling scenarios, The Rebellious Prima Donna is guaranteed to give classic film buffs plenty to smile about. Irene certainly lived a full life. Her story, compounded by Gene’s encyclopedic knowledge of movies, conveys a colorful and exciting snapshot of an era, which thanks to digital devices will exist for eternity and continually draw new fans.

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Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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