New Madeline Kahn Biography in the Works

Stage and film actress MADELINE KAHN is the subject of a new biography, MADELINE KAHN: Being the Music • A Life (University Press of Mississippi), by William V. Madison. The biography explores both the career & personal life of the award-winning actress.

Born in Boston in 1942, Madeline Kahn "was one of the most popular comedians of her time & one of the least understood," Madison writes, "as reserved & refined as her characters were bold & bawdy." She was often ambivalent about a performing career & she complained of typecasting, beginning when she was a college student. Trained as an opera singer, she made her New York debut in nightclub revues before going on to Broadway & Hollywood. Best known for her work with directors Mel Brooks & Peter Bogdanovich, she was nominated for Oscars for best supporting actress in 1973 & 1974 for Paper Moon & Blazing Saddles, won a Daytime Emmy in 1987 & received a Tony Award in 1993, for her performance as Gorgeous Teitelbaum in Wendy Wasserstein's The Sisters Rosensweig.

Almost a Method actor in her approach, Kahn took her work seriously. When crewmembers and audiences laughed, she asked why, as if they were laughing at her & all her life she remained unsure of her gifts. Madison examines Kahn's film career, including not only her triumphs with Mel Brooks & Peter Bogdanovich, but also her overlooked performances in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother & Judy Berlin (her final film) & her work in television. Madison explores the paramount importance of music in Kahn's life. A talented singer, she entertained offers for operatic engagements long after she was an established Hollywood star & treated each script as a score. As Kahn told a friend, her ambition was "to be the music." Kahn died of ovarian cancer in New York City, on December 3, 1999.

William V. Madison is a former producer at CBS News & a former Associate Editor of Opera News. He was also the lone production assistant on the Broadway musical Rags in 1986. A native Texan, Madison is a graduate of Brown University & the Creative Writing Program at Columbia University's School of the Arts. He resides in New York City.

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