Picks and Pans Review: Oliver Messel

UPDATED 10/13/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 10/13/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Charles Castle

The subject of this suitably lavish biography is Oliver Messel, born in 1904 in London and best known as a theatrical designer. The Messel family was wealthy, made up of amateur artists and craftsmen, of a generation to whom art and beauty were reasons for living. Oliver's father and John Gielgud's father were business partners; actor Gielgud has supplied the foreword to this volume. The rest of the text is made up of long quotes from Oliver's letters, and from his sister Anne, household servants, friends, actors, Princess Margaret (Lord Snowdon, her ex-husband, is Messel's nephew). All are articulate, thoughtful and perceptive, and some are witty. They portray Messel as a sickly but brilliant child, a man whose career was marked by originality and ingenuity. No great painter, he had a taste for the stylish. He did plays, operas, films and ballets to great acclaim. During his last years, he moved to Barbados, where he died in 1978. This is the real stuff about a place and time in history that has inspired many wonderful novels: by the Waughs, by Iris Murdoch and others. Fans of the theater especially will find this book a treasure. (Thames and Hudson, $35)

THE NANCY DREW FILES:

Your Reaction

Follow Us

On Newsstands Now

Inside Kate's Life as a Princess Mom
  • Inside Kate's Life as a Princess Mom
  • A Duggar Engaged
  • Amanda Bynes: The Truth About Her Condition

Pick up your copy on newsstands

Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine

Advertisement

From Our Partners

Watch It

Editors' Picks

From Our Partners



Sign up for our daily newsletter and other special offers.
    Choose your newsletters
Thank you for signing up! Your request may take up to one week to be processed.
    see all newsletters