Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston Writing Autobiography

Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston Writing Autobiography

Breaking Bad actor Bryan Cranston will be writing his autobiography. This book, or memoir, has come about because of his award winning performance as Walter White, chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin. There was, of course, much more to White than just using his knowledge of chemistry to develop a very pure version of methamphetamine.

If Chins Could Kill! By Bruce Campbell

Unknown

First published in 2001 and later in 2009 in the United Kingdom, If Chin’s Could Kill is Bruce’s story of his early life and his involvement with wunderkind Sam Raimi and co.

Written an awful lot like his acting style (not sure if that is actually a good thing or not) the book is entertaining and features a lot of memories from Bruce about: Growing up in Michigan, going to school in Michigan, discovering girls in Michigan, et al.

Yet amazingly the book is not about Michigan. Who’d have thunk it? The book is very entertaining as he relates his relationship with the Raimi family, which includes mom and pop Raimi plus Ted and Owen as well as Sam.

He also talks about filming all those Super 8 films in high school and their timorous expedition into “real” film making; or filming in 16mm and getting it blown up to the requisite 35mm.

Mr Campbell takes us on a ride on the ‘B’ side of the street and explains as humorously as possible about what it takes to be a ‘B’ movie actor and find your self a star as a result. This is a man who has made more independent movies than Carter’s got little pills and he’s only just able to make a living at it.

*At least, that’s his story and I don’t know, call me a sucker; but damn it, I believe him.*

 

The book has been “shot-gunned” with pictures throughout (not stuck in the middle like all those “other” phoney-baloney “star” books) and there are a lot of the young folks who started out on the entertainment road with Bruce.

Who knew?
Who knew?

I enjoyed reading the book that took me literally years to finally purchase. It was only after watching the pilot episode of Burn Notice that I remembered that he had “written” a couple of books on his career.

Since I’ve been a fan ever since watching Evil Dead in an Arkansas drive-in on dollar night, I could not wait to read it. I couldn’t find it anywhere to buy and my local library kept refusing my suggestion that they buy the book just so I could read it.

*A quick note to the author Bruce Campbell.*

Sorry Bruce, but the whole world’s a critic and my arguing that this was an obviously important story that needed to be read by all Bruce Campbell fans everywhere, seemed to fall on deaf ears. To my chagrin they still do not stock your first or even second book, Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way. So I had to stumble upon it completely by accident in my local Waterstones bookstore. I am still hoping to stumble upon your second book the same way.

Right, groveling done, I can go onto the rest of my review, Bruce takes us through his marriages and the birth of his children. He also takes us behind the scenes with Kevin Sorbo (aka Hercules) and what it was like working in New Zealand on the show (and on Xena Warrior Princess).

If you are a Bruce Campbell fan, you’ll love this book. I’ll give it a 5 out of 5 stars because if I concentrate I can hear Bruce reading the book in my head. That’s pretty damned entertaining, I can tell you.

Even Ash thinks it's funny...
Even Ash thinks it’s funny…

Ernest Borgnine: Keeping his Nuts Warm

013013_1502_ErnestBorgn1.jpg

The full title of this autobiography by Ernest Borgnine is: Ernest Borgnine: I Don’t Want To Set the World on Fire, I Just Want to Keep My Nuts Warm. The title came from a sign that Mr Borgnine had seen in his younger days that was advertising hot chestnuts, the sign stuck with him and became the title of his autobiography.

This 2009 book helped his fans learn so much about him. It was a brilliant look at a man who seemingly did not have a bad word to say about anyone. I stumbled across this hardcover copy of his book last year. Sadly, I had barely finished reading it when the news of his death was broadcast; a truly sad day for fans over the world and a loss to his friends and family.

Like most folks my age, I grew up watching episodes of McHale’s Navy (which also had the brilliant Tim Conway among the cast) and chuckled along with everyone else at his and his men’s antics. I saw his award-winning performance as the lovelorn and lonely butcher Marty and watched him die a slow motion death in The Wild Bunch.

Borgnine was one of the few actors who worked constantly. He bounced from television to film and back again. He played every type roll imaginable and towards the end of his career he even voiced a popular character on the SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon enabling him to reach an entire new generation of fans.

If you are looking for a “kiss and tell” type of book that dredges up all the old skeleton’s from the closet, don’t bother picking this book up. If you want to read a book that leaves you with a warm glow and an overall feeling of Bonhomme then this is the book for you.

Borgnine recounts his early years from when he joined the Navy right out of high school, his time as a “mature” student of 28 and his start in the theatre world doing repertory theatre. All of his memories of working in the entertainment business have an aura of excitement and joy in doing something he was good at and loved doing.

He writes about his experience in Marty and From Here to Eternity; He also tells about his experiences with some of the most powerful actors in the business.

He also talks about his marriages and he recounts his horrible lapse in judgement that caused him to marry Ethel Merman only to have the marriage dissolved 32 days later.

Mr Borgnine was among the few actors formally recognised as being the oldest in their profession who had not retired. He was proud of that and he was just as excited doing the voice of Mermaid Man and working with his old pal Tim Conway (who voiced Mermaid Man’s sidekick Barnacle Boy) and being heard by a new young generation of fans.

Ernest Borgnine was an actor who filled his roles. He did the same with his life. Nothing was too hard or too difficult to attempt and he was game for everything. There are not too many left like Mr Borgnine. Luckily for us he told us a lot about himself before he exited from the wings of life.

A great sentimental and feel good book about a great actor in his words; what could be wrong with that.

And just for fun: did you know that Ernest Borgnine was the only actor to be in all the Dirty Dozen films?

If you haven’t read this, do so immediately; it’s worth the time and effort and it is not too long at 245 pages with a bunch of great pictures to divert yourself with.

5 stars.

Sidney Sheldon: the other side of me

If you didn’t grow up through the 60’s and 70’s you can be excused for not knowing who Sidney Sheldon is. I mention those two decades because it was through that time period when he had not one, not two, but three hit television programs that he wrote and in some cases produced. In case you’re interested the programs were: The Patty Duke Show, I Dream of Jeannie, and Hart to Hart. He also wrote and produced Nancy but the network cancelled it before it really got a chance to get started.

Before he died aged 89 on 30 January 2007 he wrote 7 Broadway plays, 25 feature films, 4 television shows, 18 novels, and 9 children’s books. 11 of his novels have been adapted into films and television shows (including mini-series’) and he was the producer for 6 projects and directed 2 feature films. Yet this over productive over achiever suffered from manic depression (later changed to the much nicer bipolar disorder) that was only diagnosed after he’d suffered from it for years.

At age 17 he saved up a collection of sleeping pills and “borrowing” a bottle of bourbon from his father, he decided to kill himself. He father Otto, came back into the family apartment just as Sidney was about to start taking the pills. His father talked him into taking a walk and during their stroll; Otto talked him out of killing himself.

Sheldon was a real “Jack-of-all-trades” he moved to New York to become a song writer; he joined the Army Air Corp in the newly formed Training Corp learned to fly. He got his wings and waited for his call-up for advanced flight training. While he waited he started writing Broadway plays with Ben Roberts who he’d worked with in Hollywood. When he finally got his call for advanced training his herniated disc got him kicked out of the Army Air Corp and the Army declared him 4-F (unfit for duty) and he continued on his sometimes rocky rise to fame.

This autobiography was first published in 2005 and it is a very entertaining read and it provides a  brilliant insight on how the entertainment business really works. Sheldon worked with a lot of the greats; Irving Berlin, Dore Schary, Cary Grant, Fred Astaire and Judy Garland to name just a few.

This modest unassuming gentleman made a lot of life-long friends in both Hollywood and New York. He gives the reader an insight to all his personality. His faults and foibles are included as well as a straight forward look at the Bipolar disorder that plagued him his entire life. He never, at any point in the book, attempts to gild the lily or to portray himself as anything other than a hard-working Joe who has managed to land the best job in the world and as an added bonus gets to meet and work with the rich and famous.

At the ripe old age of 53 he published his first novel and began a whole new career as a writer of novels and children’s books. This multi-talented hard worker managed to amass a resume that would impress even the harshest of critics.

The book is a fast read. It flows quickly from page to page and I “power read” the book in one setting. With 360 pages of information and a few photo’s stuck in the middle; the achievement of reading the book from front to back in one go is diminished somewhat by the fact that it is written well and ultimately makes the actual task of reading it very easy.

It’s been out a while (like I said, originally published in 2005) but if you haven’t read it, pick it up and give it a go. It is entertaining, insightful and interesting. I know as much as I knew the name of Sidney Sheldon, I had no idea of all the things he’d accomplished in his life, not least of which was dealing with his own personal Bipolar demon.

A definite 5 star read.

The late Sidney Sheldon (February 11, 1917 – January 30, 2007)

Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger: Sales Manual…

I only bought this book because it was on sale at Tesco’s for eight pounds. To be honest, I was going to buy it at nine pounds, I only found out about the additional savings at the till. Co-written with author Peter Petre Total Recall is, at 624 pages (I do not include the index in the page count), a longish read, but not too difficult to plough through if you concentrate. I read the book in roughly eight hours and I wasn’t wearing my glasses.

I have to say right off, that I did find the book interesting, but, not overly entertaining. The main reason for this was the inclusion of Arnie‘s terms in office as the Governor of California. I cannot and will not go on record as to whether he was a good or bad Governor, mainly because I do not know. I did live in the state while he served and therefore I do not feel qualified to have an opinion.

Of course the other reason behind the lack of opinion is quite simple, I don’t care. Politics is not my speciality and never will be. I will say that, as a rule, I do not support the Republican party and never have; the only Republican I ever supported whole heartedly was, like Arnie, a Hollywood product by the name of Ronald Reagan and that was because he helped to raise the pay of poorly paid military for two years straight. For that act alone, he will always be ranked by me as one of the greats.

But back to Arnie; most people are aware that he started as a body builder. They also know that he dreamed of coming to America so he could be a World Champion body builder and become a movie star. Everyone also knows that he was the Governor of California for a while.

What a lot of people may not have realized is that Arnold Schwarzenegger (I know I was not aware of it) is a top salesman. If he had not decided at an early age that he was somehow special, he could have wound up as a top sales rep at any big company.

But he seemed to figure out pretty early on that the product he wanted to sell was himself, Schwarzenegger on the hoof as it were. The fact that the only avenue available him was the, then, relatively unknown and unrecognised sport of body building did not stop him from going all out to reach his goal.

As his successes grew and word spread about this young giant of a man he started on the road that would ultimately result in him conquering the body building world, the box office and the citizens of California.

But this book is not about that; not really. It is another sales tool; nothing more, nothing less. It another way for him to sell product Schwarzenegger, a publicity lever to make sure that his name is “out there” before his next two films are released.

For a book titled Total Recall Arnold recalls, in the grand scheme of things, very little. He offers little tit-bits of information about some films he worked on, but not a lot. About Conan the Barbarian, his break-out film, he mentions Mako (who appeared 153 films and television shows by the time he died in 2006) not once.

What he prefers to discuss at great length are his humble beginnings, his business acumen, his marriage to Maria Shriver, and his time in the gubernatorial office in Sacramento California. Add in a few statements here and there about his competition in the world of body building and one tiny section dealing with his illegitimate son and there you have it.

Most autobiographies contain a huge amount of humility. Most, actors especially, spend an almost inordinate amount of time thanking all those folks who helped them to get where they are. Arnold does this, but not a lot and not too profusely.

The message that Arnie wants to convey is the he is responsible for his success. Not an agent or a manager or the director who took a chance on him or even his wife. Arnold Schwarzenegger stands “a man above other men,” one who should have a plaque on his chest stating, “How great I art.”

I am sure that there are other people in the entertainment business, or just in the public eye, who have egos that match Arnold’s but not many. And I’m sure that most would have hired a ghost writer to help them tone that massive ego down. Unfortunately that did not happen in this particular recounting of the “great one’s” life.

Has the reading of this ego massaging trip down memory lane put me off Arnold? No, it did not. It did lift the veil a little as to who the man actually is and what he deems important. Two very telling incidents in the book show just exactly how the man thinks.

One deals with the issue of the “first” predator in the 1987 film of the same name. Action man Jean-Claude Van Damme who was just starting in his career has stated publicly in the past that the first costume for the creature was unsafe. It had no manoeuvrability; it was cumbersome, heavy and unwieldy. Van Damme, quite rightfully, brought this up to the director repeatedly. When the director refused to get the problem sorted, Van Damme walked and his replacement was badly injured.

Not one word of this was recounted in Arnold’s telling of the filming except to state that Van Damme was a complainer. Complainer he might have been, but considering what eventually happened to his replacement and the “re-design” of the predator outfit, not without cause. Yet the episode is handled in one sentence; a sentence that implies that Van Damme was a whiner who did not want to do the job.

During the chapters dealing with his marriage to Maria, he comes right out and complains about things she did or believed. It’s obvious that this section was written while his powers of recall were in negative mode.

As in the episode of the predator costume, Arnold has no time for anything that does not glorify Arnold. He is the product on sale here, not anyone else. His goal is to show why he is so great and why he will continue to be great.

The book may please the odd rabid fan, but only just. This is not an anecdotal recital of interesting facts and fascinating stories. If it’s a gossipy, fun romp down memory lane you wanted; you’ll be disappointed. If it’s a chance to hear how highly Arnie thinks of himself, you’ve come to the right place.

I would not want to be on the other side of the look…