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

Thursday, June 30, 2016


FROM MOTHER AND DAUGHTER TO FRIENDS. Nancy Aniston. Prometheus; 1999.

As I have little interest in the TV show Friends and its star, Jennifer Aniston, it may seem odd that I chose this tome to read. I think I have always been curious about how it really feels for someone in show biz to essentially have a non-career while their child goes on to great success and fame. From Mother to Daughter does not really explore that, as Nancy Aniston -- if we're to believe her -- seemed more interested in her actor husband's success than her own, and encouraged her daughter in her acting pursuits. She doesn't come off like a stereotypical "stage mom," either. Nancy did her best to get husband John Aniston on his feet and make a living when his acting career stalled for years. He later became a successful soap opera actor and, typically, discarded the wife who'd been there for him, although Nancy is charitable and suggests that what she saw as encouragement he only interpreted as nagging. All Nancy could get her husband to say was "I am not committed to this marriage" -- she subsequently learned he had a girlfriend (one of his co-stars). After daughter Jennifer's success on Friends, Nancy made the innocent mistake of talking to a tabloid show (ostensibly about a special school she felt was doing good work) and an over-reacting Jennifer stopped speaking to her mother. (This book did little to close the gap but after a few years -- when Jennifer broke up with Brad Pitt -- she reached out to her mother once again.) But forget about Jennifer, Friends, and Brat Pitt, From Mother and Daughter works because it is a very well-written memoir that frankly explores painful moments such as the death of Nancy's baby sister; her mother walking out on the family (and the mother's subsequent death); the rejection from her husband and their divorce, and watching as her children grew up to lead their own lives in which she may not necessarily have played as large a part. Some of this must be taken with a grain of salt, as the book presents only one side of the story, and there are hints that Nancy could be a mite priggish, but her writing about how women -- especially cast-off wives -- need to empower themselves is admirable. If her account is accurate, however, Jennifer should probably have stopped talking to her father, not her mother. In any case, Nancy Aniston passed away a few weeks ago, and one hopes that she and her daughter reconciled long before then.

Verdict: Affecting and often moving memoir. ***1/2.


Neil A Russell said...

I'd have to agree about a lack of interest in the subjects, but it sounds like you found an interesting story under an otherwise uninteresting rock!
A little off the topic but it got me to thinking about Joan Benny's excellent look into the lives of her parents in "Sunday Nights at Seven".
While it's a look at the world of Hollywood from a not-a-star family member, at least you get the feel that Jack Benny was very much a nice guy that could be anyone's neighbor and Mary Livingstone was quite a fish out of water in LA.
One of these days I'm going to chase down a copy of "Jack Benny: A Biography" by Mary and her brother Hilliard Marks (and probably a ghost writer) to get another view of Jack's life.

Boy, can I go off on a tangent or what?

William said...

These definitely sound like books up my alley as I am a big fan of Jack Benny. Thanks for mentioning them -- I'll look into finding copies myself.