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

Thursday, September 1, 2016


THEN AND NOW: A Memoir. Barbara Cook with Tom Santopietro. HarperCollins; 2016.                                                                                                                                                             Barbara Cook made her Broadway debut in the now-forgotten Flahooley, but she went on to great success in Plain and Fancy, and even greater success as Marian Paroo in The Music Man. And there were other triumphs to come. To say Cook had a weird childhood is an understatement. Her father walked out at six because he could no longer live with her mother, who lived vicariously through her daughter and did not seem to see her as a separate entity. Cook and her mother shared the same bed (non-sexually) until she was twenty! Cook's one and only marriage ended in divorce -- she had a long-time affair with the married actor, Arthur Hill [The Andromeda Strain] -- but gave her a beloved son, and she also developed a taste for food and, much worse, a continuous desire for alcohol. Her weight ballooning and alcohol taking over her life, Cook was even more depressed when in desperation her son moved in with his father. Hitting rock bottom, Cook, with the aid of friends and co-workers, was able to get off the bottle and began much concert work, including a night at Carnegie Hall, and was finally back on Broadway in Sondheim by Sondheim. Cook did some "straight" dramatic work on Broadway in Little Murders and other shows, and also wound up in the British production of the ill-fated Stephen King musical Carrie. As the memoir's title suggests, this book gives a backstage, insider's look at the differences between the theater in its golden age and today, when shows are no longer written for stars, and someone can graduate into a leading role without having had much experience, as in the past. Along the way Cook offers interesting sketches of such people as the difficult and self-absorbed Elaine Stritch [Monster-in-Law] and Music Man co-star Robert Preston [The Lady Gambles], whom she inexplicably seemed to find super-sexy. Despite working with many gay men over the years, she temporarily freaked out when her son came out of the closet. Cook was honored with a Kennedy Center award in 2011. Cooks' other notable musicals include Bernstein's Candide, The Gay Life, and She Loves Me. Cook was as good an actress as she was a a singer, as she proved in the "A Little Sleep" episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. In this she played a "bad," wealthy party girl who finds her destiny at an isolated cabin. Her co-star was Vic Morrow and Paul Henreid was the director.    

Verdict: Good, quick read of an interesting life and career. ***.


angelman66 said...

I look forward to reading this! Have always loved Cook, and got to see her perform live in an intimate venue back in the 1990s, what a powerful performer! Her tremulous voice breaks your heart! I still play her of my favorites was called As of Today....

William said...

I've got that album on order. I have a number of her solo albums, as well as original cast recordings of now-forgotten but worthwhile musicals. It's a good read. I especially love her singing "Dear Friend" from "She loves Me."