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 Like the celluloid career of the author, this tale about the search for the truth about a deceased star's past reels out yards of energetic banality with some happy surprises--here, bits of Hollywood authentica and a few real funnies. Middle-age hack journalist Jay Richards, just getting by as a stringer for a British tabloid, finds a scrap of old audition tape on which a then-eight-year-old Sonny Skies (nÇ Homer Brownlee) warbles something about a bluebird. Elle McBrien, a minor producer at a media giant, tracks down Jay and the tape. Both have a documentary in mind about the former child star and leading man who was reported to have died in 1944 at Normandy. Finding a common cause and common flaw (both are recovering alcoholics), the pair scour Hollywood, sniffing out Sonny's old circle: a 90-year-old PR man glad to talk (with his eye on a gift of grass); Sonny's pal and stand-in, Billy Dwyre, who tells lies in vain; and of course the deceased Howard Kenelly, the Howard Hughes figure whose organization is shelling out mysterious pensions to a batch of Sonny-related people; but they can't contact Sonny's wife, Frances Farnsworth, who seemed to have split right after the marriage. Rooney tosses in an exhumation in Normandy; some virtuoso computer crime; a calamitous confrontation with Frances Farnsworth; the solving of a murder; and a visit with, uh huh, ``a round little man with wisps of white hair... and the voice of Jeannette MacDonald.'' Finally, an orgy flick brings the real Sonny into view. Between the labored creaks of plot and humor, there are moments to cherish, such as the titles of Sonny's movies (Young Bert Einstein; Spring Time in the Minarets). However, X-out the X- rated and it's one for Judge Hardy. Try Rooney's dribble-and-bounce autobiography, Life Is Too Short (1991), for sturdier stuff.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 1-55972-231-2
Page count: 252pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1994