Cannonball Read IV: Kiss Me Like A Stranger: My Search For Love And Art by Gene Wilder
In this memoir about his rise to fame juxtaposed with his love life, Gene Wilder gives us a frank account of his successes and failures in both and, most importantly, what he learned from each experience.
Born and raised in the mid-west, he took to stage acting as a teen and used it as a launching pad to his lucrative film career. He recounts his training with all of the top teachers of the day (Stanislavski, Uta Hagen, etc.), which was a personal joy for me as someone who learned all of these methods in college acting courses. He also speaks openly of his marriages; primarily the downs of each, but he acknowledges his own shortcomings.
The most important relationship he features is of that with his therapist, Margie. The memoir is peppered with discussions they have on the couch and her part in his navigation of his career and love life. He also discusses quite thoroughly wife Gilda Radner's struggle with both bulimia and cervical cancer, taking us through the treatments and periods of heavy sickness and fleeting relief up until her death.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the book is the behind-the-scenes accounts of some of the most notable movies of his career, including the process of getting The Producers off the ground and the issues surrounding the filming of Stir Crazy. He gives honest assessments of dealing with big names like Mel Brooks, Zero Mostel and Richard Pryor, but he mostly leaves the reader with a positive outlook on everyone discussed. I came away with the sense that he wanted to highlight the humanity in everyone; we're all capable of doing things that don't always paint us in a positive light, but that's part of being human, and he knew that.
This is a quick and engrossing read, and Wilder manages to make normally heavy material easily digestible. It is beautifully written and of course has quite a bit of humor. I picked this book up a few years ago because it was on clearance at Barns & Noble and I was on one of my book binges, and it was wonderful reading experience.
This review is part of Cannonball Read IV. Read all about it.