Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool

Budding actor Peter Turner met Oscar-winning actress Gloria Grahame in 1978. Having moved to England to star in a play, she was 55 and two decades beyond her Hollywood heyday (starring in The Big Heat, Oklahoma! and The Bad and the Beautiful). Grahame's friendship with Turner became romantic despite their 30-year age difference, and the two traveled to California and New York.

In 1980, Grahame was diagnosed with breast cancer, which she refused to treat. Instead of telling Turner, she broke up with him. Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, Turner's slim, sad and heartfelt memoir, begins in 1981 when Grahame reenters his life after a year apart. She now has stomach cancer and a week to live. Turner, still living at home, takes her into his family's overstuffed house and comes to grips with her impending death.

The memoir covers both the chaos in the Turner home caring for the dying actress (still refusing medical care) and flashbacks to Turner and Grahame's relationship. Turner is remarkably candid about his callow 29-year-old self (he leaves the dying woman in the care of his mother and siblings one night while he meets friends for drinks), but then surprisingly reticent on Grahame's earlier life. She divorced filmmaker Nicholas Ray and later married his 23-year-old son (her ex-stepson); Turner blithely notes, "It was a family of complicated relationships." Originally published in 1986, this reissue contains a new final chapter, in which Turner offers perspective three decades later on his touching tribute to the brave but complicated woman he loved. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

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