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May 16, 2013

Memoir reflects on 'roller-coaster life and career'

(Continued)

The failure of her marriages, especially the third one, provides the backdrop for her memoir. The first half of the book discusses her life since her 1988 autobiography. The second half describes each movie she appeared in and what she thought of the actors who performed with her. Her insights into other actors are quite illuminating.

For instance, it took Leslie Nielsen 40 years to find his true calling as a comic actor in the “Airplane” and “Police Squad” movies. Tony Randall was not the straight-laced character that appeared on “The Odd Couple” or as a guest on the “Hollywood Squares” or “Tonight Show.” And Don Rickles at one time actually tried to play serious roles on screen.

And that’s just the start. Reynolds lets us know who were the truly good-hearted souls and who only cared about themselves. We find out how the studio system worked, for better or worse, in the old days. We discover how Reynolds dealt with Carrie’s bi-polar disorder and how her son Todd has acted as a rock in her life. And how many of us were aware that there was a Debbie Reynolds Hotel in Las Vegas for several years?

A recurring theme throughout the book is the huge Hollywood memorabilia collection that Reynolds has maintained and the museum that she hoped to build to house those artifacts. It’s a concept that had wide-ranging support, but kept finding roadblocks. Red-tape or indifference kept getting in the way.  

The bottom line is that “Unsinkable” is a very entertaining memoir. Reynolds lets you know a lot about the workings of Hollywood and the stars that make it what it is. She’s also a down-to-earth personality who comes across as someone who would be a pleasure to meet. Maybe it’s not surprising that she stands out in my mind for a film she made 50 years ago.

David Kent is the director of the Village Library of Cooperstown. He can be reached at co.david@4cls.org.

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