Donald Spoto (born June 28, 1941) is an American biographer and theologian. He is best known for his best-selling biographies of film and theatre celebrities such as Alfred Hitchcock, Laurence Olivier, Tennessee Williams, Ingrid Bergman, James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Alan Bates. He has also written biographical accounts of the House of Windsor from the Victorian Era through to Diana, Princess of Wales and of religious figures such as Jesus, and Saint Francis of Assisi, which was made into a television program by Faith & Values Media.
A native of New Rochelle, New York, Spoto graduated from Iona Preparatory School in 1959 and received his B.A. summa cum laude from Iona College in 1963 and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Theology (New Testament studies) from Fordham University in 1966 and 1970, respectively. He taught (theology, Christian mysticism, and Biblical literature) at Fairfield University, at the College of New Rochelle and at the New School for Social Research from 1966 until 1986 and then at University of Southern California, beginning in 1987. In addition, he was a visiting lecturer at the British Film Institute and the National Film Theatre in London from 1980 until 1986.
In the middle-to-late 1970s, he began writing biographies of film directors and other film and stage celebrities. More recently, he has alternated between the celebrity biographies and accounts of such religious figures as Jesus and St. Francis of Assisi. The latter was made into a television program of the same title, Reluctant Saint: Francis of Assisi, "produced for Faith & Values Media by Lightworks Producing Group and West Egg Studios." Spoto's Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: A Life was adapted into a four-hour drama which aired in 2000 on the U.S. Broadcast Network CBS. Spoto was an executive producer of the project, along with George Stelzner of West Egg Studios.
Barry Forshaw, in The Times, describes Spoto as "one of the most perspicacious biographers, a man whose insights into his subjects are always razor-sharp." Michael Coveney, in The Guardian, describes Spoto as "an American quasi-academic gossipmonger who has produced zestful, authoritative books..." and Publishers Weekly calls his life of Laurence Olivier "a magnificent, moving biography worthy of its protean subject."
Spoto has written 27 books:
- The Art of Alfred Hitchcock (1976; rev. ed. 1999), Doubleday Anchor
- Stanley Kramer, Film Maker (1978), Putnam
- Camerado: Hollywood and the American Man (1978), Plume
- The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock (1983), Little, Brown & Co.
- The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams (1985), Little, Brown & Co.
- Falling in Love Again: Marlene Dietrich (1985), Little, Brown & Co.
- Lenya: A Life (1989), Little, Brown & Co.
- Madcap: The Life of Preston Sturges (1990) Little, Brown & Co.
- Laurence Olivier: A Biography (1992) HarperCollins
- Blue Angel: The Life of Marlene Dietrich (1992), Doubleday
- Marilyn Monroe: The Biography (1993), Harper Collins
- A Passion for Life: The Biography of Elizabeth Taylor (1995) HarperCollins
- The Decline and Fall of the House of Windsor (1995), Simon and Schuster
- Rebel: The Life and Legend of James Dean (1996), HarperCollins
- Diana: The Last Year (1997), Random House
- Notorious: The Life of Ingrid Bergman (1997), HarperCollins
- The Hidden Jesus: A New Life (1998), St. Martin's Press
- Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: A Life (2000), St. Martin's Press
- Reluctant Saint: The Life of Francis of Assisi (2002), Viking Press
- In Silence: Why We Pray (2004), Viking Press
- Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn (2006), Harmony
- Joan: The Mysterious Life of the Heretic Who Became a Saint (2007), HarperSanFrancisco
- Otherwise Engaged: The Life of Alan Bates (2007) Hutchinson
- Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies (2008) Hutchinson
- High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly (2009), Harmony
- Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford (2010), Morrow
- The Redgraves: A Family Epic (2012), Crown
- Biography of Donald Spoto.
- Reluctant Saint: Francis of Assisi Home page, accessed 17 September 2007.
- Biography at UCLA library.
- Spoto, Donald (2009). High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly. New York: Harmony Books. pp. xiii. ISBN 978-0-30739561-0.
- Michael Coveney, "Guilty Secrets", The Guardian, 16 June 2007. (Review of Otherwise Engaged: The Life of Alan Bates.)
- Barry Forshaw, in The Times (28 May 2009)
- Michael Coveny in The Guardian
- Publishers Weekly, 1992
- Biography of Donald Spoto at reluctantsaint.tv, Reluctant Saint: Francis of Assisi, FaithStreams.com ("a service of Faith & Values Media, a not-for-profit 501c(3) corporation"). Accessed 17 September 2007.
- Biography for Donald Spoto at UCLA library. Accessed 17 September 2007.
- "Finding Aid for the Donald Spoto Papers, ca. 1940–1988" at UCLA library. Accessed 17 September 2007.