Genre: Hollywood Memoir/Alcoholism
Publisher: Frederick Fell Publishers, Inc.
Pub. Date: 1954
I am old enough to recall watching old black and white movies on television. There were no DVDs, cable, or streaming back then. I used to, and still do, enjoy classic black and white films. I remember watching the actress, Susan Hayword portray Lillian Roth in the 1955 film adaptation as her book with the same title of “I’ll Cry Tomorrow.” Roth’s memoir recounts her life in radio, vaudeville, and cinema in the 1920s and 1930s. Decades ago, much had been written about her time as a celebrity. But, the true narrative is about her battle with alcoholism and the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous with its twelve-step recovery concepts. Did you know that back then, AA would give someone in the throes of delirium tremens (DTs) a drink to ensure that they didn’t die?
Roth grew up with a typical stage mother and their grandiose demands. She recounts her sexual abuse as a child actress when she was six years old. As an adult, she, like her father, was an alcoholic. After her fiancé’s death, she rushed into marriage and drank, even more, to keep herself disracted. Roth married and divorced four different men in all. Sounds familiar to many film stars who became addicted to drink and/or drugs. She was in two physically violent relationships, one of which resulted in a broken jaw. Her wired jaw made headlines. The film suddenly looks tame after reading Roth’s memoir. What astonished me, but should not have, is regardless of the century, Hollywood rarely takes care of their child or adult stars. According to Ben Hecht who assisted Marilyn Monroe in her autobiography “My Story,” written at the height of her fame but not published until over a decade after her death, she supposedly said, “In Hollywood, a girl’s virtue is much less important than her hair-do. …Hollywood’s a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss, and fifty cents for your soul.” Whether Marilyn said this or not the statement remains true. Spoiler alert—I googled to learn that in reality there isn’t a happy ending for Roth as told in the book and film.
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