Sandford Dody, Ghostwriter

Sandford Dody, author of multiple best-sellers, died July 4 at 90 years old. If his name is unfamiliar, it may be because it did not appear on the covers of his books.

Dody was, in the late '50s and '60s, a ghostwriter, primarily to aging but still fiery female stars. He authored Bette Davis' The Lonely Life as well as books "by" silent film star Dagmar Godowsky, Helen Hayes, and John Barrymore's ex-wife Elaine Barrymore.

The intimate act of writing a strong personality's life story did not endear his subjects to him: "'The most suitable way to view stars is from a long way off,' he wrote in his own memoir, published in 1980." And: "'Let the next star,' he glowered, 'write her own damned autobiography.'"

After a brief trip to Hollywood, made with the intention of becoming a film star, Dody became a writer instead. In need of money, he wrote Godowsky's memoir. He never seems to have enjoyed the experience much, but he made his subjects sound good:

As a ghostwriter, Mr. Dody was expected to suppress his personality and channel the voice of the credited author. Yet often his own writing style crept in. In "First Person Plural," Ms. Godowsky's 1958 memoir of her life on the silver screen, the opening sentences, supposedly straight from Ms. Godowsky's pen, read: "It is my tragedy that the years have deprived me of my bad reputation. At one time my notoriety assured me of a marvelous evening. Now, Euclid would be fascinated to know, my circle has been squared."

He got along famously with Bette Davis, until she took a hatchet to "his" book (she was, he claimed, embarrassed that she hadn't written it herself). After penning Helen Hayes' memoir, he got out of the business. He spent a good part of his later years walking from his Greenwich Village apartment to the Met, and back.