|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Length: 288 pages
Start Date: Jan. 23, 2011
Finished Date: Jan. 24, 2011 (>1 day)
Where Found: Chapters-Indigo
Why Read: I love Cloris's characters in the Mel Brooks movies Young Frankenstein and High Anxiety, and also her Oscar-winning part in The Last Picture Show. I thought her memoir would be a fun story.
Summary: Actress Cloris Leachman recounts her early life in Des Moines, Iowa, her marriage to writer/producer George Englund, and her roles, most famously on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Phyllis, The Last Picture Show, and Young Frankenstein.
"I wanted to like it more than I actually did." This is paraphrased from a Goodreads review, and matches my sentiments exactly. Cloris Leachman is a wonderful actor: funny, charming, and full of exuberance on the screen. Her book unfortunately doesn't reflect this presence enough. She writes fleetingly, often nonchalantly, and has an (admittedly) disorganized frame of reflection. Oftentimes, I became annoyed by her diversions ("I want to talk about ___, but first..."), which are often disjointed from her original point, and could have simply been avoided by reorganizing the material into a different chapter. In Bill Clinton's My Life, for example, when a point of diversion comes up (which is still related to his initial point), he creates a small separate paragraph to make that point than immediately returns to the original topic. That's what a good editor does.
Of course, the book isn't without positives: she is a good storyteller, providing anecdotes about costars & celebrity friends, such as Marlon Brando, the cast of MTM (but, surprisingly, Betty White isn't mentioned), Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, and Corky Ballas from Dancing With the Stars without being too dishy (though a small chapter on romantic flings made me arch an eyebrow and the suggestion that a costar on TLPS smoked too much pot was a bit unnecessary, delving into Kathleen Turner-Nicolas Cage spat territory). She has fond memories of her on-off marriage to George Englund, her children, and continually growing family, with a sad memorial to her son, Bryan. One of the funniest stories was about getting costumed & made up for Mel Brooks's hilarious Hitchcock spoof High Anxiety.
I was a bit reluctant in ranking this book a C as I did enjoy it, but it wasn't quite what I thought it would be, and doesn't align with the B-rated books I've read, such as Carol Burnett's This Time Together. What made me feel better about giving it a C is the Goodreads scale (2/5), which describes the 2-star ranking as "It was okay." That pretty much sums it up for me. I encourage you to read it if you are a fan, but for the average reader, it's a take it or leave it kind of book.
Rank: (C)- Okay, Maybe Try It