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

Thursday, May 22, 2014


MARY WICKES: I KNOW I'VE SEEN THAT FACE BEFORE. Steve Taravella. University Press of Mississippi; 2013.

 "Your posture is atrocious!" -- Wickes as the ballet instructor on I Love Lucy.

Now that most of the major figures in Hollywood have had their lives exhaustively catalogued,  it's time for authors to turn their sights to less stellar but often beloved character actors, such as Mary Wickes. You might think there might not be a whole book in Wickes' life and career, but guess again -- this is a scrupulously researched tome bolstered by many interviews with those who knew Mary best -- such as Lucie Arnaz, whose mother was Mary's best friend  [but who paid her much less for her appearances on Here's Lucy than she did other guest stars] -- and with penetrating analysis of Wickes' approach to comedy and her roles, as well as her not always charming personality quirks. Basically this is an admiring, respectful bio but it presents Wickes in all of her aspects, a full-realized human being with admirable traits as well as flaws. Wickes, of course, will always be famous for The Man Who Came to Dinner, where she brilliantly traded barbs with Monty Woolley, but she also did a lot of theater and television work, appearing on Father Dowling Mysteries and in Oklahoma in the last years of her life, when she could hardly see and had numerous ailments. She lived for her work, which sustained her nearly until the very end. While there may be a bit too much of the sad, lonely spinster  -- with so many friends and such a busy schedule you have to wonder how lonely she really was -- and for some people this might be Way Too Much of Mary, but if you're a Wickes fan, this is an absorbing read, extremely well done and highly recommended.

Verdict: Exhaustive look at the life and work of Wickes. ***1/2.


Anonymous said...

You are certainly not the first review to mention the so much more incredibly detailed research conducted by Taravella than the average bio. My curiosity is peaked beyond being a spectator any longer. I must give it a read now.

William said...

Please do -- it's a fine work and very readable!