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Feb 2015 by PCI College

Bite-Sized Book Review: Living with 'The Gloria Films': A Daughter's Memory by Pamela J Burry

PCI College Lecturer Cóilín Ó Braonáin reviews 'Living with The Gloria Films' by Pamela J Burry which looks at the life of the famous Gloria, through the eyes of her daughter.

Living with ‘The Gloria Films:’ A Daughter’s Memory

Like many other psychology enthusiasts, I have often wondered about Gloria.  Who was she?  What were her life circumstances? What happened to her after the films? Did the therapy sessions help? And, perhaps of most interest, which therapist did she prefer?  ‘Pammy’ gives an account of the above and much more in this slim and highly readable autobiography. 

As we heard in the film, Gloria was newly separated at the time of the movie. However, given her fashionable appearance, it may be surprising to know that she had three young children, and was unemployed with no career path in sight.  She worked any job she could get (including one for no pay in order to prove herself) and moved often in order to remain employed.  Happily, she ultimately trained and worked successfully as a nurse.

Although she wrote only one academic paper, Gloria was a voracious writer of letters and diaries.  Consequently, Pamela, in writing her book, had a veritable archive of material to draw from, including 50 letters to and from Carl Rogers.  Did Gloria ever regret making the films?  Not per se, but she did object to their being shown publically in cinemas and attempted to sue to prevent this commercialisation of the films.  However, she had signed permissions for public viewings and could not proceed with action in court.  Interestingly, in an eleven page letter to Rogers in her last year of life, she mentions that the films were no longer being shown publically.  No doubt, had she lived, she would have been upset to see them appear on YouTube many years later.

Concerning her favoured therapist, Gloria’s session with Perls may have been the most resonant with her personality.  She fought with Fritz, and likewise Gloria in daily life was positive, feisty and a go-getter who never gave up.  Last wishes written to her children were; ‘Stay away from negativeness. If it’s bad here at home – leave, if you get bad feelings from anyone, stay away from them. Do your thing, whatever it is.’ (Burry, 2008: p.71). 

Nonetheless, Gloria had her share of tragedy.  Her young son died of leukaemia after a long illness, and she herself died of cancer at the age of 45.  However, Gloria was true to the spirit she demonstrated in the movies: she lived life to the full, never relenting from her quest for personal development and growth.  An inspiring read.

Cóilín Ó Braonáin, MIACP (January 2015)
PCI College Lecturer

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