Thursday, February 8, 2018
SOME ENCHANTED EVENINGS
Mary Martin went to Hollywood early in her career, but although she appeared and even starred in a few movies, she was dissatisfied with her film work and had much greater success on Broadway. Like many artists, this very talented woman lived for her work, and had a problematic, but ultimately loving, relationship with at least one child, her son Larry Hagman, famous as "J. R" on Dallas. Martin's marriage to her son's father did not last long, but she had a much longer union to her second husband, the mostly gay Richard Halliday, who guided her career when he wasn't alienating people with his temper and his alcoholism. Her shows included One Touch of Venus, South Pacific, Peter Pan, The Sound of Music, and for my money made the best Annie Oakley when she did Annie Get Your Gun on the road and for television. Some Enchanted Evenings also looks at Martin's work in less successful shows, such as the musical Jennie, and the play Legends, in which Martin was teamed with Carol Channing. The book hints at a "special relationship" between Martin and Janet Gaynor (Gaynor's husband, interestingly enough, is the only person quoted in the book who knocks Martin), as well as Jean Arthur, without ever really elaborating.When a reporter spoke to Martin about Larry Hagman, and asked what it's like having an icon for a son, she responded, "My dear, my son is a star. I am an icon." Although the author mentions his husband in the acknowledgments, the book does on occasion betray a kind of amusingly old-fashioned take on LGBT issues.
Verdict: Exhaustive, well-researched, imperfect, but very readable bio of the venerable entertainer. ***1/2.