The Siren has been devouring star autobiographies since she was knee-high to a prop table. Her first experience was with fellow Alabamian Tallulah Bankhead, as the Siren sought reassurance that being from Alabama need not preclude having a fascinating life. Tallulah gave that reassurance, and how. From there on out, star memoirs were the Siren's literary potato chips.
Blinded by the fun, the stories, the dish of it all, it took me years to discover that the hallmark of most Hollywood autobiographies is inaccuracy. (And ghostwriters, of course. Often I read memoirs imagining the ghostwriter saying soothingly, "But of COURSE I believe you. Everyone knows you're a teetotaler.")
Sometimes you get sins of omission, like Rosalind Russell's Life Is a Banquet, where she neglects to mention the celebrated contretemps over her failure to win an Oscar for Mourning Becomes Electra. You also run into the odd priorities of actresses like Ginger Rogers, who could remember every detail of her costumes for her Astaire pictures and almost nothing about trivia such as the choreography.
The great Lillian Gish gives fascinating details about filmmaking in The Movies, Mr. Griffith and Me. Alas, Lillian has certain blind spots, such as when she assures the reader that D.W. Griffith was "incapable of prejudice against any group" and if he had lived, he would done a film of "affirmation about the Negro." Suuuuuure he would have. Right after Leo McCarey made a film about the ghastly toll of the blacklist.
Other times you detect a certain tendency to elide personal foibles, as John Huston did in An Open Book. Read that one and you would think him the most reasonable of directors, which doesn't quite jibe with most actors' recollections. Gregory Peck once said he had the distinct impression that if getting a certain shot for Moby Dick had required his drowning on camera, that wouldn't have perturbed his director at all.
There are stars like Myrna Loy, whose admirable Being and Becoming shows loyalty to her friend Joan Crawford, but perhaps not that much ability to read between the lines of family disputes. Finally, there are the ones who just lie their little rear ends off, as Frank Capra apparently did in The Name Above the Title.
Despite all this I pounce on autobiographies year after year, including the latest, Tis Herself, by Maureen O'Hara. Ms. O'Hara deserves her own post, and the Siren plans to give her one in the next couple of days.