THE WILDING WAY: The Story of My Life by Michael with Pamela Wilcox Wilding

THE WILDING WAY: The Story of My Life

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KIRKUS REVIEW

American readers will probably feel a little at sea through the first half of this sketchy, pleasant, modest memoir by the late Michael Wilding: he tells of his near-accidental rise to move stardom in 1940s Britain, under the mentorship of director Herbert Wilcox (co-author Pamela's father), co-starring with the legendary Anna Neagle (Mrs. Wilcox) in such light romances as Spring in Park Lane--all household names in Britain, all little-known here. (""I had always regarded myself as a nonsense actor with a bit of a flair for comedy, who had been lucky enough to become Anna Neagle's leading man."") Then, however, after a brief first marriage, Wilding gained wider attention (and his book gains wider movie-fan appeal) through affairs of the heart: he and maternal Marlene Dietrich were ""inseparable"" (""How could such a goddess find the ideal companion in me?"") . . . till the determined, very young Elizabeth Taylor proposed marriage. And so off went 40-ish Wading to Hollywood, breaking his longtime contract with amiable Wilcox, for two blissful years of California domesticity. But; after only one major role (with rude, aloof Joan Crawford), Wilding--unsuited to Hollywood's style and system--was ""box office poison,"" fired, ""blacklisted."" Elizabeth, ""volcanic"" and ""hard to live with,"" was soon saying: ""I'll always love you. But it isn't ring-a-ding-ding any more. Do you understand?"" (On the other hand, she is generous, loyal, a good mother, and ""one of the most maligned women of the twentieth century."") And, after a try at being an agent, urged on by fellow-art-lover Edward G. Robinson, Wading went home--to a brief third marriage and ten happy years as devoted husband/manager to Margaret Leighton, who maintained her career despite multiple sclerosis. (Wilding himself suffered from increasingly severe epilepsy.) Slender glimpses of a minor career, then, with little news for Elizabeth-watchers--but the Leighton years are touching, the Hollywood years include a few choice anecdotes (including a surprising one about the first Mrs. Bing Crosby), and even those Film fans unfamiliar with Wilding's early British stardom may find this quietly, sadly engaging.

Pub Date: Dec. 14th, 1982
Publisher: St. Martin's