Books by Sheldon Leonard

Released: Feb. 1, 1995

All-around entertainment veteran Leonard—onetime radio and movie performer, then TV director and producer—recalls his emblematic career in a tough business. It may be hard to believe that the prototypical comic gangster is now in his ninth decade. Maybe even more astounding: Seven of those decades have been spent with just one spouse, Frankie. After a few pages touching his youth and abortive start on Wall Street on the day of the Crash, Leonard attains his voice describing his early work on Broadway with such luminaries as Thomas Mitchell, Albert Dekker, and a juvenile Montgomery Clift, while competing with Sam Levine. The anecdotes mount as Leonard abandons a languishing White Way for Hollywood. He's still remembered as the very model of a modern movie menace, or, as he would put it, ``suave...goniff.'' More appearances by performers like Julie Garfield and Errol Flynn (``a pain in the ass'') and directors like Woody Van Dyke and Raoul Walsh enliven the story. On to the easy radio work with the likes of Jack Benny and a raft of zanies who then did the best writing and now provide the best stories. Finally Leonard jumps into TV, where his credits include Make Room For Daddy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and The Andy Griffith Show. At one time he had four shows in the top ten, but he lets the record speak for itself. He would rather tell amusing stories about filming I Spy around the world or teach the fundamentals of industry economics. ``Directing,'' he concludes, ``yields great creative satisfaction, producing-packaging pays the most money, but acting provides the most ego gratification.'' No histrionics, no self-serving braggadocio, just a show-biz story told with verve by an old pro. (16 pages illustrations, not seen). Read full book review >