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Tom Dardis, 78; Wrote About Greats of Film, Literature

November 16, 2001|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Tom Dardis, 78, a biographer who documented the lives of literary and film greats, died Nov. 2 of respiratory failure at a hospital in New York City.

Dardis wrote biographies of silent-movie comedians Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. His book "Firebrand: The Life of Horace Liveright" (1995), about a publisher who pioneered the modern style of aggressive book promotion, was named a Notable Book of 1995 by the New York Times Book Review.

Born in New York, Dardis earned bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from Columbia University, all in English. He began working as a movie theater usher, and gradually developed an interest in screenwriters.

He was the author of "Some Time in the Sun: The Hollywood Years of F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Nathanael West, Aldous Huxley and James Agee" (1976), which was a Literary Guild selection.

He served as editor in chief of Berkley Books from 1952 to 1971.

A recovering alcoholic who had stayed sober for more than 30 years, Dardis also wrote "The Thirsty Muse: Alcohol and the American Writer" (1989), in which he argued that Fitzgerald, Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway had been harmed by alcohol.

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