Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Columnist and Author Joe Hymans Passes On

Joe Hyams, who covered Hollywood first for The New York Herald Tribune and later for Ladies' Home Journal, Saturday Evening Post, and Redbook, among other magazines, passed Saturday at the age of 85. The cause was coronary artery disease.

Joe Hyams was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts and grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts. He was a student at Harvard when he volunteered for the United States Army during World War II. He served in the South Pacific, earning a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, before becoming a field correspondent for Stars and Stripes. Following the war he received both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from New York University. Hyams then went to work for the The New York Herald Tribune, for whom he was later their West Coast bureau chief. While at the Herald Tribune, Hyams became one of the best known columnists to cover Hollywood, very much an insider who often had the scoop on others. Hyams continued to cover Hollywood after leaving the Herald Tribune, writing for several different magazines.

Hyams' first book My Life with Cleopatra, co-written with Walter Wanger, was published in 1963. He would go onto write the definitive biographies of Humphrey Bogart (Bogie The Biography of Humprey Bogart) and James Dean (James Dean: Little Boy Lost), as well as books on Western movies (The Life and Times of the Western Movie) and tennis (Secrets of Winning Tennis, co-written with Billie Jean King). Having studied martial arts for over fifty years, under such masters as Bruce Lee and Ed Parker, Hyams also wrote Zen in the Martial Arts andPlayboy's Book of Practical Self-Defence, and co-wrote Chuck Norris's biography, ,The Secret of Inner Strength: My Story, with Norris. He wrote two novels, The Pool and Murder at the Academy Awards, both centred on Hollywood.

A Hollywood insider, Hyams appeared in the films Teacher's Pet, The Lost Missile, The Wild and the Innocent, Pepe, and Love in a Goldfish Bowl.

Joe Hyams was not simply a noted Hollywood columnist, but a very fine writer. His biographies on both Bogart and Dean are remarkable. What set Hyams apart from other biographers was his insistence not only on detail, but on presenting the person as he really was--he never romanticised the individual, nor did he try to smear them either. The same sort of detail could be found in his other works, including his novels. Hyams was a superior writer not simply when it came to Hollywood, but any subject he covered.

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