NO BELLS ON SUNDAY: The Journals of Rachel Roberts by Rachel Roberts

NO BELLS ON SUNDAY: The Journals of Rachel Roberts

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Only about a third of this biographical collage consists of the late Rachel Roberts' memoir/journal fragments from 1979-80; the rest, assembled by movie-bio veteran Walker, is testimony from dozens of friends and colleagues, along with Walker's connective narration. And the result is a densely depressing but unilluminating chronicle of Roberts' inner miseries and public humiliations--culminating in her 1980 suicide. Daughter of a Welsh Baptist clergyman, Rachel grew up feeling ugly, unloved, inferior, hated, and--as a result--determined to please: ""You soon learn to efface yourself. You soon learn to bottle up your anger. You then start to die, or try to."" She suffered from asthma and masochistic masturbation fantasies. After college and RADA, she was ""personally adrift and promiscuous and unstable and getting to be 26""--so she jumped into a soon-crumbled first marriage. (""I demanded of him more, it seems, than anyone can demand--to give ME, ME, ME contentment."") Then, after her own career got a boost from Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Rachel co-starred with Rex Harrison, recent widower of beautiful Kay Kendall; a ""splendid and rompy"" affair ensued; with marriage Rachel took a deliberate, fatal back-seat to Rex's fame and talent. But Rex was irascible, still in love with dead Kay; Rachel remained childless; ""empty days got emptier and pussy-cats and fires and booze and sex began to pall."" Worse yet, once Rex left her, Rachel's life--despite regular, often-acclaimed employment--became a downward spiral: alcoholism, pills, suicide attempts, exhibitionism, degrading promiscuity, creative blocks, unsatisfactory affairs with younger men. (""I did the play Habeas Corpus and tried to make Richard Gere by the simple expedient of, drunk, taking off my clothes and lying on his bed. But I was good on stage in the play."") And in the 1970s, failing to attain enough celebrity to compensate for loneliness, Rachel hit bottom--lost in pathetic fantasies of Rex's return, terminally depressed. ""I wish I could have lived a proper life. But I was the fourth wife of a difficult and egocentric actor and I drink too much. I never had children and I never grew up. . . I've tried psychiatrists. I've tried Alcoholics Anonymous. I've tried Indian religion. I've been in and out of homes and clinics and health farms. . . I've tried prayer."" Disjointed as narrative, droningly repetitious, but--with Albert Finney, Lindsay Anderson, Tony Randall, Hal Prince, Edna O'Brien, Athol Fugard, and others supplying grim/funny anecdotes--there's lots of theater/film texture here to balance the unrelievedly bleak soul-journey.

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 1984
Publisher: Harper & Row