Acclaimed actress Leachman reflects on a distinguished career and unconventional life.
Equally adept at drama and comedy, Leachman has been a fixture in the pop-culture firmament for five decades, winning nine Emmy Awards (a record for an actor) and an Oscar for her downbeat performance in the 1971 film The Last Picture Show. Her memoir takes a frank stroll down a particularly verdant memory lane, recounting her life and times in no particular chronological or thematic order, veering into endless digressions and asides. The result is charming and frequently engrossing. Assisted by co-author and husband Englund (The Way It’s Never Been Done Before: My Friendship with Marlon Brando (2004), Leachman discusses many topics in salty, don’t-give-a-damn language. Even when discussing the addiction and death of her son Bryan, she is grimly sardonic about her own “drug”: “it’s got higher lethality than all of his combined. Your drug is hope, and you won’t, you can’t, you don’t know how to give it up.” Leachman remembers Robert F. Kennedy as “cold” and laments the Kennedy brothers’ shabby treatment of Marilyn Monroe. Her memories of Marlon Brando include dismay at his selfishness and chaotic family life as well as admiration for his humor and talent. She provides a fascinating look at the Actors Studio in its heyday, startling revelations about romantic trysts (Bobby Darin! Gene Hackman!), an honest depiction of her marriage (temporarily broken up at one point by Joan Collins), an account of a terrifying early-stage experience with an imperious Katharine Hepburn and a bracing description of her tenure on Dancing with the Stars, which she joined as an octogenarian. Self-characterized as mouthy and irreverent, Leachman delights with her candor in a host of delicious anecdotes. Her MTM co-star Ed Asner might not agree, however; her account of a sexual wager between them, its outcome and his subsequent reaction, is priceless and embarrassing.
Funny, gimlet-eyed and unpretentious—someone get this woman a talk show.