An actor’s autobiography that emphasizes the hard work more than the lush life.
Not that the life Keach has led—including romances with some famous and talented women, most notably singer Judy Collins; a high-profile drug bust, trial and jail term in London in 1984; and quality time hanging with celebrities like John Huston, Orson Welles, Paul Newman and others—isn’t worthy of higher billing. But Keach, while sharing plenty of amusing anecdotes and interesting insights about his peers, doesn’t linger on those details. Instead, he takes us into the fertile mind of an intelligent, envelope-pushing artist of stage, screen and any other format where actors ply their trade, and he methodically (and with charming immodesty) lays down the outline of his amazing career, examining the thoughts behind the choices that shaped it. That may sound dull to the average nonactor, but the career in question belongs to one of America’s most talented classically trained actors who has played the most significant roles of Shakespeare—Hamlet, Richard III, Lear and Falstaff (once as a young actor in a fat suit and again 40 years later under the weight of life fully lived)—almost always to great acclaim. While pursuing his first love of theater (from classical to experimental), he also pushed himself to take risky roles in film (memorably in End of the Road, The New Centurions, Fat City, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean and American History X, to name a very few) and developed indelible, often hard-boiled characters for TV (including Mike Hammer for CBS and Ken Titus on the short-lived Fox sitcom Titus).
Nonactors should find this relatively short, fast-moving memoir a pleasure to read, but drama, media and film students will find Keach’s insights invaluable, particularly his coda (“Curtain Call”), which shares the fundamentals learned over a lifetime of honing his craft.