Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

UNDER THE RAINBOW: AN INTIMATE MEMOIR OF JUDY GARLAND, ROCK HUDSON AND MY LIFE IN OLD HOLLYWOOD John Carlyle

UNDER THE RAINBOW: AN INTIMATE MEMOIR OF JUDY GARLAND, ROCK HUDSON AND MY LIFE IN OLD HOLLYWOOD. John Carlyle. Carroll and Graf; 2006. Foreword by Robert Osborne.

Watching an episode of the old TV show Mike Hammer, I was struck by the performance of a young actor I'd never heard of: John Carlyle. He was good-looking, but better than that, he was talented. I looked him up and discovered that he had written a posthumously-published -- Carlyle died in 2003 at age 72 -- book about his life and his relationship with Judy Garland. Actors who don't quite make it big in Hollywood, rarely write memoirs [or at least have them published] unless they are somehow linked to a famous name, so we have to take all the Judy Garland business with a grain of salt. That Carlyle was a fan of the singer and that he became one of her late-in-life friends (or hangers-on) is not in doubt, but his "affair" with Garland is a little more problematic as Carlyle is openly gay. The "romance" comes off more like Garland and a gay fan fooling around and playing house, talking of marriage the way two little kids would. [Although Carlyle never applies the term to himself, his attempts to come off as bisexual are unconvincing, almost a throwback to the skittishness of the homophobic period he grew up in.] There is much, much less in the book about Rock Hudson, but some interesting observations about agent Henry Willson. Carlyle writes quite well, even if he can't quite shed that air of affectedness that he did not betray in his performance on Mike Hammer. Carlyle's failure to become a big name or even well-known could be attributed to many factors -- his sexual orientation, his distractions with drugs and alcohol, the vagaries of fate and Hollywood, the lack of big breaks or the ability to seize upon them when they arrived -- but, if nothing else, he did have talent. Like many actors, Carlyle often comes off as superficial and self-absorbed, and frankly it's kind of pathetic that he never found his soul mate in another man but in  -- Judy Garland!? -- making the poor guy an incredibly dated gay stereotype! [He refers to the man he lived with in his later years more as a companion than partner or lover.] His passages on foreign travel are facile if glib.

Verdict: A fairly interesting and well-written look at a Hollywood insider and also-ran, but not essential reading. **1/2.


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