Fanny Herself

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Fanny Herself, by Edna Ferber – This intensely personal chronicle of a young girl growing up Jewish in a small midwestern town is the most autobiographical of Pulitzer Prize – winning Ferber’s novels, full of fine, full-blown, and fascinating characters.

About Author
Edna Ferber (15 August 1885 – 16 April 1968), was an American novelist, author and playwright. Ferber’s novels generally featured strong female protagonists, although she fleshed out multiple characters in each book. She usually highlighted at least one strong secondary character who faced discrimination ethnically or for other reasons; through this technique, Ferber demonstrated her belief that people are people and that the not-so-pretty persons have the best character.

Due to her imagination in scene, characterization and plot, several theatrical and film productions have been made based on her works, including Show Boat, Giant, Saratoga Trunk, Cimarron (which won an Oscar) and the 1960 remake. Two of these works – Show Boat and Saratoga Trunk – were developed into musicals. When composer Jerome Kern proposed turning the very serious Show Boat into a musical, Ferber was shocked, thinking it would be transformed into a typical light entertainment of the 1920s, and it was not until Kern explained that he and Oscar Hammerstein II wanted to create a different type of musical that Ferber granted him the rights.

Saratoga (musical) was written at a much later date, after serious plots had become acceptable in stage musicals. In 1925, she won the Pulitzer Prize for her book So Big, which was made into a silent film starring Colleen Moore that same year. An early talkie movie remake followed, in 1932, starring Barbara Stanwyck and George Brent, with Bette Davis in a supporting role. It was the only movie Stanwyck and Davis ever appeared in together, and Stanwyck played Davis’ mother-in-law, although only a year older in real life, which allegedly displeased her, as did the attitude of the hoydenish Davis. A 1953 remake of So Big starred Jane Wyman in the Stanwyck role, and is the version most often seen today.

Ferber was a member of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of wits who met for lunch every day at the Algonquin Hotel in New York. Ferber and another member of the Round Table, Alexander Woollcott, were long-time enemies, their antipathy lasting until Woollcott’s death in 1943, although Howard Teichmann states in his biography of Woollcott that this was due to a misunderstanding. According to Teichmann, Ferber once described Woollcott as “a New Jersey Nero who has mistaken his pinafore for a toga.

Ferber was portrayed by Lili Taylor in Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle.

In 2002 in her hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin, the U.S. Postal Service issued an 83-cent commemorative stamp as part of the “Distinguished Americans” series. Artist Mark Summers, well known for his scratchboard technique, created this portrait for the stamp referencing a black-and-white photograph of Ferber taken in 1927.

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Category: Books
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