Actress, producer, and director Douglas celebrates her love of movies in a cheerful debut memoir.
The granddaughter of actor Melvyn Douglas, the author grew up in a hippie commune started by her father, who rejected a suburban, middle-class version of the American dream after he saw Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider. His daughter yearned to escape from her parents’ self-imposed poverty and become a movie star. “We look up to movie stars,” she writes. “We believe in them, because they are larger than life, and it makes us believe in ourselves when no one else does.” Channeling Liza Minnelli, Douglas was accepted into the Hartford Stage Youth Theatre, which set her on a path to acting schools in New York. Her career was marked by “dreams and magic signs that foretell where you’re going” and helped smooth the inevitable rough spots. On the way to success, the author recounts meetings with many movie idols who encouraged her: Lee Marvin (“my childhood sweetheart,” she confesses), who kissed her and wished her luck; Peter Sellers, who told her to learn to ride a unicycle “because it’s hard and not everyone can do it”; and Richard Dreyfuss, with whom she was obsessed. “He was the first actor I studied,” she writes, “and tried to be like, like a painter copying a master until he has a technique of his own.” Other luminaries who make appearances include the generous and understanding Roddy McDowall; Robert De Niro, with whom Douglas acted in Cape Fear; “kind and adorable” Gene Wilder; and Martin Scorsese, who was her boyfriend for a while. She also describes an emotional meeting with Marlon Brando and recalls her success at producing Easy to Assemble, a satirical series made with IKEA’s cooperation.
The author’s warm portraits and disarming honesty infuse the memoir with an endearing sweetness and charm.