WYNNER by Mel TormÉ


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A large, uncomfortable, and sluggish mix of fictionalized show-biz autobio and family psycho-history--as renowned jazz singer-musician TormÉ tells the intractably undramatic story of Marty Wynner (nÉ Wynocki), born in Chicago (like TormÉ), a vocal prodigy and star of kiddie music pix (like Torme) whose career peaks with the Big Band Era--time out for WW II heroics--and then declines though he's singing better and better (ditto, ditto). Though the authentic jam session and bandstand atmosphere provides the only textured and convincing moments, Torme clearly wants us to concentrate on Marty's mother/father chronicle: ambitious, beautiful mother Mary Frances Maguire dumps immigrant laborer Papa Wynocki--turning high-class hooker for money, then sleeping with anybody with pull (Marty witnesses one such coupling on a train) to get herself and her singing kid to Hollywood. Once there, she does sort of make it as a second-level actress and famous sleep-around, but her career ends (as Marty's soars) when she's drugged, photographed in unnatural acts, and blackmailed (she has one blackmailer bumped off but another surfaces). Marty can never forgive Mary Frances, even when she goes pure and straight, but he's a ""lousy lay"" till he meets a woman who looks just like Ma. (HIS wife is a lesbian, which doesn't help.) And all along he's desolate with guilt about never finding Pa, who shows up on the last page (""Is long story, Martin"") to make all OK. This psycho-scenario is simplistic and blurry, certainly no spine for a formless 40-year narrative. Which leaves a sequence of scenes--some corny, some lurid, some pleasant, some dull, and a few musicmaking ones that swing. Just sing, Mel. Just sing.

Pub Date: June 5th, 1978
Publisher: Stein & Day