(born June 28
), is an American celebrity biographer
, Catholic theologian and former monk. He is best known for his best-selling
biographies of film
and theatre celebrities
such as Alfred Hitchcock
, Laurence Olivier
, Tennessee Williams
, Ingrid Bergman
, James Dean
, Elizabeth Taylor
, Marlene Dietrich
, Marilyn Monroe
, Audrey Hepburn
, and Alan Bates
. He also wrote a biographical account of the House of Windsor
from the Victorian era through Diana, Princess of Wales
and of religious figures such as Jesus
, and Saint Francis of Assisi
, which was made into a television program by Faith & Values Media
A native of New Rochelle, New York
, Spoto graduated from Iona Preparatory School
in 1959 and received his B.A.
from Iona College
in 1963 and his M.A. and Ph.D. in theology
studies) from Fordham University
in 1966 and 1970, respectively. He taught theology, Christian mysticism
, and Biblical literature
at the New School for Social Research
from 1975 until 1986 and then at University of Southern California
, beginning in 1987. He was also a visiting lecturer at the British Film Institute
and the National Film Theatre
in London from 1980 until 1986.
In the mid- to late-seventies, he began writing biographies of film directors and other film and stage celebrities. More recently, he alternated between the celebrity biographies and accounts of such religious figures as Jesus and St. Francis of Assisi. The latter was made into a television program of the same title, Reluctant Saint: Francis of Assisi, "produced for Faith & Values Media by Lightworks Producing Group and West Egg Studios." Spoto's Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: A Life was adapted into a four-hour drama which aired in 2000 on the US broadcast network CBS. The production featured Joanne Whalley, Tim Matheson, Tom Skerritt, Francis Fisher, Andrew McCarthy, Phillip Baker Hall, Fred Ward and Diane Baker. Spoto was an executive producer of the project, along with George Stelzner of West Egg Studios.
Spoto serves (or has served) on the boards of directors of Human Rights Watch, Death Penalty Focus and the San Francisco-based Youth Law Center.
, in the Guardian
, describes Spoto as "an American quasi-academic gossipmonger who has produced zestful, authoritative books..."
Spoto has published 24 books:
- Stanley Kramer, Film Maker (1978), Putnam
- Camerado Hollywood (1978), Plume
- The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock (1983), Little, Brown & Co.
- The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams (1985), Little, Brown & Co.
- Falling in Love Again: Marlene Dietrich (1985), Little, Brown & Co.
- Lenya: A Life (1989), Little, Brown & Co.
- Madcap: The Life of Preston Sturges (1990) Little, Brown & Co.
- The Art of Alfred Hitchcock: Fifty Years of His Motion Pictures (1976), Brodart Co.; 2nd ed. (1991), Anchor
- Laurence Olivier: A Biography (1992) HarperCollins
- Blue Angel: The Life of Marlene Dietrich (1992), Doubleday
- Marilyn Monroe: The Biography (1993), Harper Collins
- A Passion for Life: The Biography of Elizabeth Taylor (1995) HarperCollins
- The Decline and Fall of the House of Windsor (also published as: Dynasty: The Turbulent Saga of the Royal Family from Victoria to Diana) (1995) Simon and Schuster
- Rebel: The Life and Legend of James Dean (1996), HarperCollins
- Diana: The Last Year (1997), Random House
- Notorious: The Life of Ingrid Bergman (1997), HarperCollins
- The Hidden Jesus: A New Life (1998), St. Martin's Press
- Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: A Life (2000), St. Martin's Press
- Reluctant Saint: The Life of Francis of Assisi (2002), Viking Press
- In Silence: Why We Pray (2004), Viking Press
- Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn (2006), Harmony
- Joan: The Mysterious Life of the Heretic Who Became a Saint (2007), HarperSanFrancisco
- Otherwise Engaged: The Life of Alan Bates (2007) Hutchinson
- Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies (2008) Hutchinson