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

Thursday, August 22, 2013


DEEPLY SUPERFICIAL: NOEL COWARD, MARLENE DIETRICH, AND ME. Michael Menzies. Magnus/Riverdale Avenue; 2012.

Michael Menzies, born in New Zealand, wanted a more fabulous life and convinced himself that he was the [highly unlikely] figurative and literal love child of two celebrities he admired, Noel Coward and Marlene Dietrich. Coming out and moving to London, then New York and Hollywood, he recognized he had no performing talent [although he has had some success as a writer] and took jobs on the fringes of show biz, such as working for film's DeLaurentiis family. Menzies did manage to meet Coward in the early days, but never did catch up with Dietrich, although he tried to model himself on their style and behavior. Frankly, Deeply Superficial, while a quick and basically well-written read, has a somewhat dated quality, as in these days of gay bears and increased knowledge of the diversity of the large gay male community, self-described "queens" who model themselves on divas are just a little passe, however amusing and likable. Most of the biographical notes on the two legends seem cobbled together from many, many bios on Coward and Dietrich, and Menzies admits that if the facts are dull he just elaborates a bit, therefore you have to take what he says about these celebrities with a grain of salt. The best chapter has to do with Menzies' friend who loves the same music as he does and dies of AIDS -- the book is temporarily transformed from a, yes, superficial tome to a trenchant and moving one -- but alas that is only one chapter. Still the book can be read in under an hour and has its fair share of entertaining moments, and his notes on his real parents can be poignant. This is similar to other books that link unknown show biz types to the much more famous, such as Under the Rainbow by John Carlyle.

Verdict: Superficial look at two major stars by an appealing supporting player. **1/2.

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