Ann M. Sperber

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Ann M. Sperber (born Aenne Sperber; June 20, 1935 – February 11, 1994) was an American author known for her biographies of Edward R. Murrow and Humphrey Bogart. A native of Vienna, Sperber graduated from Barnard College and was a Fulbright Scholar in Germany. Her biography of Murrow was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography in 1987. The Ann M. Sperber Prize is an annual award given by Fordham University that recognizes outstanding biographies of journalists.

Early life[edit]

Sperber was born in Vienna to Manfred and Liselotte Sperber. Manfred Sperber, an Austrian citizen, met Liselotte in the German city of Mannheim. They had moved from Germany to Austria in 1933, shortly after Hitler's appointment as German chancellor.[1] Manfred Sperber was trained in law, and he worked as an auditor for the DeFaKa group of department stores until the Jewish Boycott. Thereafter, he served as an accountant for the Jewish community in Vienna.[2] Aenne Sperber was born there on June 20, 1935.[1]

Liselotte and Aenne Sperber attempted to sail to Cuba in May 1939, but they were held in France for several months when Cuba refused entry to their ship. They were granted American visas that October, and Aenne took the name Ann when she and her mother arrived in the United States. Manfred Sperber joined them in the U.S. in 1940.[1]

After graduating from Barnard College in 1956, Sperber was a Fulbright Scholar in Germany. While she was there, she conducted the beginnings of her research on Edward R. Murrow. She then worked as children's book editor for Putnam and McGraw-Hill.[3]


Thirty years after her stint in Germany, Sperber finished a biography of Murrow entitled Murrow: His Life and Times. "If an author's effort could produce a good biography, Murrow would be a masterpiece," wrote Walter Goodman in The New York Times. "A. M. Sperber seems to have read everything by and about the widely admired radio-television journalist Edward R. Murrow, who died in 1965, and to have talked with everybody who knew him. Unfortunately, her devotion overwhelms her discrimination... There is much interesting material here from an eventful life, but it is submerged in a welter of anecdotes, quotes and excerpts, many of them tangential or repetitious.[4] Despite the criticism, the book was one of four finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography in 1987.[5]

Sperber spent several years researching the life of Humphrey Bogart, conducting 150 interviews and examining the Warner Bros. archives at the University of Southern California. She died on February 11, 1994; she was thought to have suffered a heart attack.[3] After Sperber's death, Lax formed Sperber's research into a complete narrative, and Bogart was published in 1997. The two co-authors never met each other.[6] Writing for the Los Angeles Times, film critic David Thomson said that Sperber and Lax "have written a book that sets standards for research and evidence in the life of an actor."[7]

Sperber Prize[edit]

Liselotte Sperber, who lived to be 103 years old, established the Ann M. Sperber Prize at Fordham University in 1999. The award recognizes the best biographies of journalists.[8] The award winners, their books, and the subjects of their books, are shown below. (Information is not available for 2004 and 2008.)[9]

Year Author Title Subject
1999 Henry Mayer All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of American Slavery William Lloyd Garrison
2000 Susan E. Tifft and Alex S. Jones The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind the New York Times Adolph Ochs, Sulzberger family
2001 David Nasaw The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst William Randolph Hearst
2002 Dennis McDougal Privileged Son: Otis Chandler and the Rise and Fall of the L.A. Times Dynasty Otis Chandler
2003 John F. Stacks Scotty: James B. Reston and the Rise and Fall of American Journalism James B. Reston
2005 Arthur Gelb City Room Arthur Gelb
2006 Victor Navasky A Matter of Opinion Victor Navasky
2007 Myra MacPherson All Governments Lie! The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I.F. Stone I.F. Stone
2009 Todd DePastino Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front Bill Mauldin
2010 D.D. Guttenplan American Radical: The Life and Times of I.F. Stone I.F. Stone
2011 Alan Brinkley The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century Henry Luce
2012 John Matteson The Lives of Margaret Fuller: A Biography Margaret Fuller
2013 Douglas Brinkley Cronkite Walter Cronkite
2014 Robert Miraldi Seymour Hersh: Scoop Artist Seymour Hersh
2015 Charles M. Blow Fire Shut Up in My Bones: A Memoir Charles M. Blow
2016 Thomas Kunkel Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of The New Yorker Joseph Mitchell
2017 Robert Gottlieb Avid Reader: A Life Robert Gottlieb
2018 Mitchell Stephens The Voice of America: Lowell Thomas and the Invention of 20th-Century Journalism Lowell Thomas


  1. ^ a b c "Guide to the Papers of Liselotte Sperber (1912 – )1906-2011AR 10251 / MF 1104". Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  2. ^ "Letter from Rosa Süss to her daughter Liselotte and her son-in-law « 1933". Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Ann M. Sperber; author, 58". The New York Times. February 13, 1994.
  4. ^ Goodman, Walter (July 2, 1986). "Books of the Times". The New York Times.
  5. ^ "1987 Pulitzer Prizes". Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  6. ^ Carr, Jay (April 27, 1997). "Rounding up an unusual suspect". The Boston Globe.
  7. ^ Thomson, David (April 6, 1997). "Bogart. By A. M. Sperber and Eric Lax . William Morrow: 676 pp., $27.50 : Bogart: A Life in Hollywood. By Jeffrey Meyers . Houghton Mifflin: 369 pp., $30". Los Angeles Times.
  8. ^ "Fordham mourns communications award benefactor". Fordham University. August 10, 2015. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  9. ^ "Past Sperber Prize Recipients". Fordham University. Retrieved April 6, 2019.

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