Three new books and an art exhibit take a closer look at remarkable show-biz careers.

(Feingold’s article appeared on Theatermania, 8/28.)

Virtually every morning for the last several decades of his century-long life, the caricaturist Al Hirschfeld went to the office in his brownstone on East 95th Street, sat down in the old-fashioned barber's chair ("the last functional chair") he'd had installed at his drawing board, and went to work, sketching and drawing till lunchtime. Every artist in every field knows this to be the true story of art, though movie and TV biographies usually show it, if at all, only as a fleeting montage. Art is what you do every day, over and over again, concentrating on it till you get it exactly right, training yourself in it till the instinct becomes ingrained. The blank screen, blank page, or blank canvas; the bare rehearsal room, dance studio, music room; the stretches, the vocal warmup, the line run. Work is the artist's raison d'être. You go at it, gruelingly, until it looks easy. Then the innocents out front will think it is easy.

We don't do it just to impress the innocents. There must be something else, some impulse, some dedication, some drive, that makes this the most important thing in the world. People have described it as a vocation — a "calling" in the religious sense. Others prefer to call it love. I remember an incident, decades ago, when I was a student at the Yale School of Drama. Herman Krawitz, who taught theater management in the School and was Rudolf Bing's second in command at the Metropolitan Opera, had

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