Warm, ingratiating memoir of an acting career spanning 60 years.
Born in 1915 in Brooklyn, Wallach resisted his family’s insistence that he become a teacher. When he failed a qualifying exam (deliberately?), the classroom’s loss became theater and film’s great gain. In the early ’40s, he auditioned for the Neighborhood Playhouse’s feared guru, Sanford Meisner, who told Wallach it would take 20 years for him to learn how to act. After Army service interrupted his assault on Broadway, Wallach returned to Times Square, making the rounds with such fellow hopefuls as Tony Randall, Marlon Brando and a feisty, attractive redhead who later became his wife and frequent acting partner, Anne Jackson. A genial raconteur, Wallach comes up with a good story for every play or film he recalls. One night after making his entrance in The Rose Tattoo, he caught costar Maureen Stapleton turning upstage to yawn. About to begin a performance of The Teahouse of the August Moon, he got a thumbs up from a stagehand who raised the curtain, then fell over dead. The show went on. Film offers came Wallach’s way in the mid-’50s, bringing hard-to-resist opportunities to travel and make good money. His portrait of John Huston directing The Misfits is far less negative than other accounts of that production, and the actor’s vivid sketch of Sergio Leone also bolsters a directorial reputation. Whatever demons may have haunted Wallach’s life are mostly kept offstage. Onstage fights with Jackson in plays like The Madwoman of Chaillot, he writes, became pressure valves that have kept their marriage going for 56 years.
Selective but not sketchy, with vivid, valuable recollections of Broadway during its golden age.