Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lessons From a 50-Something Actress: A Book Review

I've generally avoided reading and reviewing celebrity memoirs. I've dismissed them as mostly ghost-written "puff pieces." However, the fates seemed to conspire to send me a publisher's review copy of Kathleen Turner's Send Yourself Roses (Springboard, 2007) just after I happened to see the movie Serial Mom (1994), starring Kathleen Turner and Sam Waterston, on the Lifetime TV channel.

It's a bizarre film, but I appreciated its satire on "celebrity-ness" and warped values. I was impressed by Turner's skill in handling a strangely comic role. I turned to her book, noting that rather than an unknown ghost writer, it had an openly acknowledged and appreciated collaborator, Turner's friend Gloria Feldt. I read the book, and I'm glad I did.

Kathleen Turner's fame began with the role of Matty Walker in the then-shocking film Body Heat (1981) and has continued through the role of Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on stage in New York and London and on tour, beginning in 2005. In between came many film and stage roles, including the daring Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate in London, Toronto, and New York.

What makes this book most interesting to me is its apparent honesty and outspokenness: the good and the bad (as in reviews, co-stars, habits, etc.) are included.

We see the beautiful Kathleen Turner berated for getting fat when she was unwilling to admit to taking prescribed steroids for her rheumatoid arthritis. We see her temporarily made helpless by that disease and finally partially overcoming it. We see her fighting her alcoholism; we see her as wife and mother, her eventual separation from her husband after a long marriage.

In short, this book shows an intelligent, courageous woman, now in her fifties, who, despite her fame and success, faces many of the same challenges as the rest of us aging women.

Like most of us, Turner has faced knee replacement surgery and other medical treatments, figure changes, the inability to wear high heels. Unlike us, for her, almost every move has been of interest to the press. At the Cannes Film Festival in 2004, "Kathleen Turner in her designer evening dress, Harry Winston jewels, and clogs" was apparently big news. Like us, Turner volunteers: for Meals-on-Wheels, People for the American Way, and Planned Parenthood, among other organizations.

This book is filled with lessons that extend beyond the acting profession: chapter titles include "Speak in Your Own Voice," "Stake Your Claim and Make Your Stand," "Let Your Passion Embrace Your Talent," and perhaps most important for Kathleen Turner, "Send Yourself Roses": "Why should I wait and hope that someone else will send me roses? . . . If no one does, I won't have to be blue. . . . I will provide for my emotional needs just as I provide for my material needs. . . . You have to celebrate yourself."

We can all admire Kathleen Turner's spirit. As she says, "There will always be more to learn as long as you are alive."

Postscript, 3/20: I received a kind thank you from Gloria Feldt for my review. It feels good to be noticed!


Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne


Magnolia said...


I didn't know Kathleen Turner had a book out. Is this new or are you just now reading it? Either way, it looks interesting.

I don't often read celebrity type books, but because she has often been, in my mind anyway, an anti-celebrity. You gotta love that!

Not to mention, I love to read about us over 50 gals triumphing in life. Thanks for the recommendation.

seniorwriter said...

I'm glad you're interested, Magnolia. Yes, it's a new book; Turner seems to be doing the talk shows. I got a thank-you from Gloria Feldt (collaborator) for my review; that made me feel good.