Al Altman and Joan Crawford
Diana Altman grew up on Avon Road in New Rochelle, New York. Her father, the late Al Altman, was the famous MGM talent scout who discovered Joan Crawford, Ava Gardner, Jimmy Stewart, Celeste Holm, Bob Hope, Robert Walker, and dozens of other unknown actors who became movie stars. He directed their screen tests at the Fox Studio on 10th Avenue and 54th Street, a building rich in film history that has now been replaced by an ugly apartment building,
Also demolished, to make room for a hideous Marriott Hotel, was the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer headquarters at 1540 Broadway, a sixteen-story office building built by Marcus Loew, founder of Loew’s Theaters. The movie star, Celeste Holm was taken away in a paddy wagon when she tried to protest the razing of that historic building.
It was the gradual obliteration of the New York side of movie making that inspired Diana Altman to write her first book, Hollywood East: Louis B. Mayer and the Origins of the Studio System. She wanted to set the record straight. The great American film industry did not begin in Hollywood but on the east coast.
Her father brought movies home from his office in Times Square, threaded the sound projector, and their living room was transformed into a theater. Sitting cross-legged on the carpet as a little girl, she saw National Velvet starring young Elizabeth Taylor. It’s still one of her favorite movies. Her other favorites are The Lives of Others, Strangers in Good Company, Casablanca, Nunzio, and Made for Each Other starring Renee Taylor.
Diana’s new novel In Theda Bara’s Tent rests upon years of movie research. It’s a highly entertaining tale about a destitute orphan who rises to become a star of broadcast news. To find out more, click here.
Diana Altman holds degrees from Connecticut College and Harvard University. Her work has appeared in ForbesWoman, the New York Times, StoryQuarterly, Yankee, American Heritage and many other places.
She once was an equestrian reporter writing for such esoteric journals as Chronicle of the Horse, Northeast Horseman, and Saddlebred Report. She owned an American Saddlebred and competed in five-gaited classes in New England and New York, as well as at the big Devon, Pennsylvania show where she competed against Star Trek’s William Shatner. He got the blue, she came in eighth but because she received her ribbon last she got to ride out of the ring while Shatner’s victory music was playing. Everyone was applauding which was fun even though it wasn’t really for her. Now she lives in New York City and enjoys sniffing the carriage horses that stand by the curb near the Plaza Hotel.
Diana was the first married woman in Massachusetts to keep her maiden name after marriage without going to probate court. It’s a long story, how it used to be in 1971, but you can get a glimpse of it in her ForbesWoman article A Married Name Without the Hyphen. She was also instrumental in making it legal for midwives to practice in Massachusetts. Hard to believe there was a time, about thirty years ago, when an entire profession was barred from doing its work.
A world traveler, she is married, has two daughters, and lives in New York, her favorite city. She is working on a collection of short stories and can be contacted at Diana@DianaAltman.com.