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Book Review: My Mother Was Nuts

My Mother Was Nuts by Penny Marshall

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Penny Marshall is a better comedian, actress and director than writer. I imagine that many of these stories were funny, and a heck of a lot more interesting when they happened, but, even hearing most of them told in her uniquely gravelly voice (I listened to the audio book), did not bring them to life. This is too bad, since she’s lived quite a life.

Most folks my age remember Penny Marshall primarily as Laverne DeFazio on the sitcom “Laverne & Shirley,” but these days, she’s better known as a director and producer. although she’s made some of the best known and well-loved (as well as biggest grossing!) films of our time, she’s never been nominated for major awards for her work, even though her films have won. Let me clarify: Marshall was nominated as an actress for the Golden Globe 3 times for Laverne & Shirley, and has won awards from several other places for her films & her work in general, including receiving a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.  But while several of her films (Big, Awakenings, Cinderella Man, A League of Their Own) were nominated and in several cases won Golden Globes or Oscars for actors, music, or various other things, Penny herself has been neglected. This isn’t something that seems to bother her; as long as she’s working, having fun, and getting to season tickets to sporting events, she’s happy.

“I’m not someone who has had to deal with much personal drama outside of the usual: growing up with parents who hated each other, two marriages and divorces of my own. There was the cancer thing, too.” This is how she opens her book. Having seen her work in Hollywood, I know she can tell a story, and there are places in her memoir where that shines through. Unfortunately, her natural low-key style keeps things from ever really taking off. I’m betting if someone presented this to her as a screenplay, she’d turn it down. As a matter of fact, while discussing making the film ‘Riding In Cars With Boys,’ she mentions that the action in the screenplay seems to jump from one time period to another, without any sort of transition, “”there were no in-betweens,” and that it drove her crazy. I felt the same way about most of this book. I craved details, not just name-dropping. Don’t just give me a list of all the famous people who were at the birthday parties she & Carrie Fisher co-hosted every year; tell me what they did! She mentions once that David Bowie & Iman crashed one of these parties, and that’s it. She mentions it. Tell us about it! Great stories are in the details, and unfortunately, Penny Marshall leaves out too many of the details. She’s had an amazing, interesting life, but if you want to know about it, this isn’t the book to read.

 

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