WHEN I WAS YOUNG by Raymond Massey


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The octogenarian character actor (Abraham Lincoln in Illinois) shows off his photographic memory in placid, unremarkable recollections of infancy, schooldays (preps and Balliol), and artillery service--with horseback duty--in World War I. Grandson of a Canadian robber baron, Massey shared adolescence with luminaries-to-be (Lester Pearson, John Marshall Harlan, Katharine Cornell), taught trench gunnery to future Secretary of War Henry Stimson, and rounded out his military career--after shellshock in Belgium--with an anti-Bolshevik wild-goose chase in aromatic Vladivostok. Cheery primness (no puberty rites or Freudian hindsight) is the hallmark; strong on bric-a-brac, theatergoing, and camaraderie but weak on emotional attachments. A wife surfaces twenty pages before the postscript, unheralded and faceless. Brother Vincent (future Governor-General of Canada) wanders by occasionally and, like Massey's puritanical father, becomes an unexplored but strangely oppressive presence. Later installments of this autobiography--already in the making--will no doubt toss out sufficient stardust to eliminate the need for psychological truthtelling. Recollective powers and a folksy, modest narrative knack will be enough when Massey covers Broadway; here they're not.

Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 1976
Publisher: Little, Brown