|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Length: 445 pages
Start date: Summer 2009
Finished date: Summer 2009
Where From: Chapters-Indigo
Why Read: I love biographies, heard good things about it, and happened to see it in the Biography section during a memoir kick I was on.
Summary: Actress Ellen Burstyn recounts her early life growing up in Detroit, her start in modeling, training under Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio, and memorable experiences filming movies, such as The Last Picture Show, The Exorcist, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, and Requiem For a Dream, but also dealing with a bullying mother, trying to care for her schizophrenic husband, and finding a spiritual centre in Sufism.
Ellen Burstyn is the kind of actress you would love to sit down and chat with over a hot cup of tea as she has a warm, personable quality that translates from screen to page beautifully. She addresses many challenges in her life with dignity and develops a sense of self through a respectable spiritualism that took nearly half her life to realize.
Burstyn recounts nearly every film she has made, including her favourite performances in the lesser-seen The King of Marvin Gardens and Resurrection with fond memories of costars such as Cloris Leachman, Alan Alda, and Diane Ladd. The most striking events, however, are off-screen, including a tumultuous relationship with her unimpressed mother, violent interactions with her mentally ill husband, and her devoted use of Stanislavski sense memory techniques that connects an emotional life to her most revered characters, such as Lois Farrow in The Last Picture Show, Alice Hyatt in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, and Sara Goldfarb in Requiem For a Dream.
Autobiographies have an easy tendency to be self-serving and often depict one-sided conflicts with a bitter defensiveness, but Burstyn, for the most part, avoids this with a calm, meaningful candor that allows herself to be heard without shouting over the voices of others. Her ability to offer rich storytelling with a simple chronological structure, a strong memory, and generous attention to detail makes the story not independent to herself, but shared with the subjects of her dedication: “To all my teachers.”
Rank: (A)- Highly recommend