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David Bret

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David Bret

David Bret (born 8 November 1954) is a French-born British author of showbiz biographies. He chiefly writes on the private life of film stars and singers.


Born in Paris, France in 1954, David Bret was adopted by an English couple and raised in Wath-on-Dearne, South Yorkshire. He worked for several years in the retail trade, then as an administrator with the NHS, and as a singer in working men's clubs. He then began writing the biographies for which he is best known. He married Jeanne Elliss in October 1972, and has a son, Marleau, born in October 1973. He lives in West Yorkshire, England.


Bret has written a number of biographies for several different publishers. Many of these have focused on the private or intimate lives of entertainment celebrities.[1] Lewis Jones, in the Telegraph wrote that Bret "...for decades has churned out sensationalist biographies of such figures as Diana Dors, Barbra Streisand and Tallulah Bankhead."[2]

Clark Gable

In Clark Gable: Tormented Star Bret deals at length with Gable's sex life and particularly his sex with other men. In the New York Times Sunday Book Review, Ada Calhoun wrote "How does Bret, the author of numerous celebrity biographies, know so much about Hollywood stars’ sex lives? Judging by this new book's convoluted wording, he really doesn't."[1] She also wrote: "For all its smut, the book is painfully unsexy. ... And yet Bret undermines his own arguments. ... 'Clark Gable' teems with innuendo and exclamation points, but still presents a thoroughly joyless view of old Hollywood."[1]

George Formby

In George Formby: A Troubled Genius Bret explores the " innocent innuendo"[3] of a once hugely popular music-hall performer. Jonathan Glancey writing for The Guardian described it as "David Bret's thoughtful book about the life and unhappiness of an entertainer who would surely never make it anywhere near the top now."[3]

Greta Garbo

Greta Garbo: Divine Star was criticized by Lewis Jones, who wrote: "There is little new to say about Garbo’s life, and the best one can expect of a retelling is insight, wit and a shapely narrative, none of which is provided by Divine Star."[2] Lewis complains that:

Bret makes many errors. Of Garbo’s visit to New York in 1925, for example, he notes that she met Humphrey Bogart, one of "the biggest stars of the day", when he made his name with The Petrified Forest in 1936. He thinks that the Académie française is a drama school. And so on. He also writes incredibly badly, ..."[2]

Christopher Fowler was more positive about Divine Star In The Independent he wrote:

Garbo biographies are virtually an industry in themselves. But David Bret is after something more. Digging into previously unsourced material and collating fresh stories from friends and fellow studio employees, he tries to close the two major gaps in his subject's life.[4]

Fowler concludes by saying: "Bret's biography is rightly partisan and fully prepared to name enemies, which makes it a bracingly pleasurable read in these anodyne times."[4]

Joan Crawford

Writing in the Washington Post Carolyn See has a very negative view of Brent's biography of Joan Crawford, calling it "... one of the ickiest film biographies I've ever read."[5]

See writes:

"But suppose you gorged on old movie magazines and ghostwritten gobbledygook and pieces of weird gossip you overheard and then decided to rewrite what has been written and rewritten again for 80 years or so, and you picked as your subject Joan Crawford, "gay icon par excellence"? You'd produce something like David Bret's new biography."[5]

Hollywood was not as it seemed -- sexually. That's the author's main theme here. (The "Hollywood Martyr" business of the subtitle is purely an afterthought.) Couples lived in "lavender" or "twilight-tandem" marriages.[5]

See accuses Brent of failing to cite sources for statements and quotes in the work, and of engaging in unfounded speculation.

Quotations abound in his book, but there are no footnotes, and the index indicates only on what page people are mentioned. I think it's fair to say that "Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr" is made up of cryptic, if breezy, assertions, like: "Aspects of Joan Crawford's extraordinary, complex psyche were incorporated into many of her films . . . but such was the naivety of America during the Depression, few made the connection. The same may be said for Crawford, gay icon par excellence. Few people realised, at the time these events were unfolding, of [sic] her fondness for gay and bisexual men -- on account of their fear of being exposed by the media. Three of her husbands slotted into this category, as did many of her lovers, including Clark Gable." This is cheesiness "par excellence," as the author himself might say, and apparently little more than speculation.[5]

See concludes that "Ultimately, it's an enormous insult to gays, assuming, as it does, that mindless cattiness and restroom innuendo are the accepted small talk of homosexuals everywhere."[5]

An unsigned reveiw in Publishers Weekly is more neutral, writing: "Bret chronicles her films, her feud with Bette Davis and dismisses her daughter's Mommie Dearest tirade, but he revels in Hollywood's sexual excesses, and fans who crave a lively insider view will most appreciate this bio."[6]

Maria Callas

An unsigned review in Publishers Weekly says of Maria Callas: The Tigress and the Lamb that

Bret, clearly a Callas aficionado, glosses over the controversial aspects of the voice and emphasizes her total commitment to her art, her brilliant resurrection of nearly forgotten bel canto roles and her extraordinary dramatic skills. He also recounts all the sensational details of Callas's life .... The emphasis is on scandal rather than music in this racy biography..."[7]

Errol Flynn

An unsigned, undated review in Publishers Weekly says of Errol Flynn: Satan's Angel that "Bret, however, takes on the Flynn mythology in this new biography."[8] The review goes on to say that:

With the same gusto and verve of his subject, Bret plows through Flynn's escapades and accomplishments. It may be difficult for some to reconcile Bret's assessment of Flynn as some sort of hard-living heroic figure, or an "essentially good man," after reading about the actor's deplorable treatment of women, his sexual voyeurism, his penchant for underage girls and his hatred of Jews.[8]

Edith Piaf

An unsigned, undated review in Publishers Weekly says of The Piaf Legend that "Bret presents little new information–and is no more successful than his predecessors in uncovering the reasons for Piaf's enormous appeal."[9]

Maurice Chevalier

An unsigned, undated review in Publishers Weekly says of Maurice Chevalier: Up on Top of a Rainbow "In this entertaining look at the life of Maurice Chevalier (l888-l972), Bret, author of The Piaf Legend and The Mistinquett Legend , again shows his prowess as a chronicler of French stars."[10] The review goes on to say: " Bret supports his biography with authoritative sources, although on occasion his facts are askew, as when he makes a reference to 'John F. Kennedy and his mother, Ethel.'"[10]


An unsigned, undated review in Publishers Weekly says of Morrissey: Scandal & Passion:

Thankfully, author Bret's profile is not the sensationalist expose one might expect given this volume's titillating subtitle. ... Bret's restraint is downright gentlemanly. In fact, this is an appropriately English take on a uniquely English personality, to the extent that at least half of the author's references require an intimate knowledge of British pop culture, circa 1960-80. ... the book is unfortunately light on biographical detail, but it's a compelling (if sometimes fawning) exploration of the cult of Morrissey nonetheless.[11]


An unsigned, undated review in Publishers Weekly says of The Mistinguett Legend:

Bret focuses on her many eccentricities, connections with Parisian low life and multitudinous love affairs.... He rounds out his account with examples of her ribald lyrics and descriptions of her flamboyant costumes, in a book that says more about Mistinguett's bizarre lifestyle than about her art.[12]

Other work

Bret has also written many newspaper and magazine articles, for instance, for The Stage, and he has lectured at the University of Chicago. He had adapted songs from the original French for his godmother, actress Jacqueline Danno, and for his friend the chanteuse Barbara. She commissioned him to adapt her theme song, Ma plus belle histoire d'amour, into English. Bret also appears in the Italian documentary, 'Rudy', which tells the story of Rudolph Valentino. He also made a trio of documentaries for the E! channel in the USA, discussing Freddie Mercury, Valentino and Tallulah Bankhead.


In the following partial bibliography, note that the publisher frequently changes the title for the same book from any hardcover version to paperback. Plus, the title and year of publication may vary depending on the country of issue.

  • Greta Garbo: Divine Star (2012:Robeson)
  • Elizabeth Taylor; The Lover, The Lady, The Legend (2011:Mainstream Books)
  • Diana Dors: Hurricane in Mink (2010:JR Books)
  • Mario Lanza: Sublime Serenade (2009:JR Books)
  • The Real Gracie Fields (2010:JR Books)
  • Jean Harlow: Tarnished Angel (2009:JR Books)[13]
  • Errol Flynn: Gentleman Hellraiser (2009:JR Books)
  • Trailblazers: Gram Parsons, Nick Drake & Jeff Buckley (2009:JR Books)
  • Doris Day: Reluctant Star (2008:JR Books)[14]
  • Clark Gable: Tormented Star (2007:JR Books; Carroll & Graf)[15]
  • Piaf: A Passionate Life II (2007:JR Books)
  • Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr (2006:JR Books; 2007:Carroll & Graf )[16]
  • Rock Hudson (2004:Robeson)
  • Morrissey: Scandal and Passion (2004:Robeson)[11]
  • Elvis: The Hollywood Years (2002:Robeson)
  • Barbra Streisand (2000:Anonymous Press)
  • Errol Flynn: Satan's Angel (2000:Robeson)
  • Piaf: A Passionate Life (1999:Robeson)
  • Valentino: A Dream of Desire (1998:Robeson)
  • George Formby: A Troubled Genius (1999:Robeson)[3]
  • Maria Callas: The Tigress and the Lamb (1997:Robeson)[17]
  • Freddie Mercury Story: Living on the Edge (1996:Robeson)
  • Tallulah Bankhead: A Scandalous Life (1996:Robeson)
  • Gracie Fields: The Authorized Biography (1995, reprinted 2010:Robeson)
  • Morrissey: Landscapes of the Mind (1994:Robeson)
  • Marlene My Friend: An Intimate Biography (1993:Robeson)[18]
  • Maurice Chevalier: Up on Top of a Rainbow (1992)[10]
  • The Mistinguett Legend (1990:Robeson)[19]
  • The Piaf Legend (1988:Robeson)[9]


As a biographer Bret is controversial,[20] accused by some of compromising factual integrity for camp appeal. In this respect he is occasionally compared to Charles Higham[20] and Kenneth Anger ("The effect is Hollywood Babylon lite.")[1] His fact-checking has been questioned at times, with reviewers noting inaccuracies with regards to dates and names.[21] His works have also attracted scrutiny for their often lurid sexual detail.[1][5]


  1. ^ a b c d e Calhoun, Ada (30 March 2008). "Frankly, My Dear ...". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c Jones, Lewis (6 August 2012). "Greta Garbo: Divine Star by David Bret: review". The Telegraph. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c Glancey, Jonathan (24 November 2001). "Book review: George Formby by David Bret". The Guardian. 
  4. ^ a b Fowler, Christopher (28 July 2012). "Greta Garbo: Divine Star, By David Bret: At last, she's ready for a close-up". The Independent. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f See, Carolyn (5 January 2007). "Hollywood Babble-On". Washington post. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  6. ^ "Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr: David Bret, Author". Publishers Weekly. 
  7. ^ "Maria Callas: David Bret, Author". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 1 November 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "Errol Flynn: Satan's Angel: David Bret, Author". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 1 November 2015. 
  9. ^ a b "The Piaf Legend: David Bret, Author". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 1 November 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c "Maurice Chevalier: David Bret, Author". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 1 November 2015. 
  11. ^ a b "Morrissey: Scandal & Passion: David Bret, Author". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 1 November 2015. 
  12. ^ "The Mistinguett Legend: David Bret, Author". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 3 November 2015. 
  13. ^ "Jean Harlow: Tarnished Angel". OCLC. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  14. ^ "Doris Day: Reluctant Star". OCLC. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  15. ^ "Clark Gable: Tormented Star". OCLC. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  16. ^ "Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr". OCLC. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  17. ^ "Maria Callas: The Tigress and the Lamb". OCLC. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  18. ^ "Marlene My Friend: An Intimate Biography". OCLC. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  19. ^ "The Mistinguett Legend By David Bret". Kirkus Reviews. 20 May 2010. Retrieved 1 November 2015. 
  20. ^ a b Summers, Claude J. (2005). The Queer Encyclopedia of Film & Television. Cleis Press. p. 150. ISBN 978-1573442091. Retrieved 22 November 2015. The controversial biographers Charles Higham and David Bret... 
  21. ^ Erickson, Hal. "Die Freudlose Gasse (The Joyless Street) (1925)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 22 November 2015. Incidentally, despite the claims of many film historians, Marlene Dietrich does not appear as an extra. 

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