Merrill does almost nothing right in his gregarious, airheaded autobiography, shortchanging nearly every event he...

READ REVIEW

BETTE, RITA, AND THE REST OF MY LIFE

Merrill does almost nothing right in his gregarious, airheaded autobiography, shortchanging nearly every event he records--the big moments shrink, while the fine hand at characterization that might grip and satisfy the reader is not there. Instead, we are introduced to a kid who gives everyone trouble, earns straight F's in prep school, and later rises to a D in life and C in acting, perhaps higher for voice-overs on TV commercials. Born in Hartford, Conn., Merrill got into acting at 16, joined a group of aspiring radio actors in Hartford, later landed small roles on Broadway. In the Army he played in the service stage-shows This Is the Army and Winged Victory. After the war, he got back into radio, on Broadway landed the romantic lead in Born Yesterday (playing against Judy Holliday), was later called out to Hollywood for small roles that led to a stronger role in Twelve O'Clock High, then to being Bette Davis' love interest in All About Eve. The next decade was spent realizing this role in embattled and booze-flowing real life as Bette's husband. After their divorce, he squired Rita Hayworth around for four years. Neither woman registers on the page as more than two-dimensional; Rita's earlier marriage to Orson Welles is not even mentioned. Merrill comes through at his best as Davis' suitor, as a caring stepfather, as a booster for the State of Maine, and in his political and ecological commitments. Anyone interested in moviemaking or the deep scoop on All About Eve should look elsewhere. Merrill's acting motto is to get by on the least amount of work. He will probably do better chatting this book up on talk shows than he's done in the writing.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 1988

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Lance Tapley

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988