In the past six months publishers have stacked library shelves with memoirs by anyone who is or ever was notable in movies – for example Diane Keaton and Rita Moreno. Both wrote engaging memoirs of their acting, though I recall few details.
Of Keaton’s story I remember only she adopted two children and wears a hat most of the time to hide her thin hair.
Great actors don’t necessarily have the education to be great writers. Some do. And then there are comedians such as Martin Short, Amy Poehler or Tina Fey who have written comic material for their TV appearances for years.
From them I expect writing worth reading. They don’t always deliver.
I’ve just finished reading Martin Short’s memoir, “I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend.” The book is entertaining until roughly three-quarters of the way through when he seems to think, “Aw, let ‘er rip.” and he proceeds to liberally lard his paragraphs with vulgar language.
This is disconcerting for two reasons. First, after so many chapters of proper language, this barrage of blue humour jolts. And second, in a TV interview Short once said, “I won’t hang with a jerk even if he’s funny.”
However he defines a jerk, anyone who uses blue language is not company I want to keep in person or in print.
Another reason Short’s memoir unsettled me, he told stories of friends and their bad language during private parties at Short’s home. I had to wonder how his friends might feel being portrayed so crassly in his tell-all book.
While I may be stuffy for drawing the line at blue humour, I’m not alone.
Carol Burnett and Tim Conway both refuse to use that type of language and both won the Mark Twain Award for Humour. As Jay Leno said, “If I can’t say it in front of my grandmother, I won’t say it at all.”
Gene Wilder, a comic actor, said in an interview he quit acting in movies because he couldn’t find a script with clean language. That’s unfortunate. Wilder’s body language alone could be hilarious as proven by such movies as “Blazing Saddles” and “The Producers.”
I had to put a hold on Poehler’s memoir, it was so in demand by library patrons. When I got a copy in my hand, the format put me off. The book is printed on glazed paper which makes it extremely heavy, and the print is miniscule. It’s not the size of book I can enjoy reading last thing before lights out when I like to lie on my back and hold the book over my face.
Add to that the suggestive chapter headings and I didn’t read a word more. I put the book aside to return to the library on my earliest visit.
Lately the New York Times has published op-ed contributions written by movie stars. One op-ed was a personal story by Tom Hanks of the importance of the community college he attended, free, near his home in moulding the successful actor he has become.
Today’s issue carried an op-ed by Angelina Jolie of the plight she’s witnessed among the Syrian refugees.
Both write well and movingly of their topic — Hanks is funny, yet shows his educated background and acquaintance with well known authors’ works. Jolie is heartfelt, serious, aiming to get us off our complacent perches to do more to rescue the Syrian children, especially, who have suffered through one military onslaught after another.
These op-ed articles have a purpose far beyond lauding the authors’ accomplishments.
In addition, stringent editing by the New York Times weeds out any hint of inappropriate language of the kind that too often is needlessly sprinkled throughout a Hollywood celebrity’s memoir.