Double-act : the remarkable lives and careers of Googie Withers and John McCallum by Brian McFarlane
Australian “theatre royalty”, Googie Withers and John McCallum spent 62 years of their lives together as man and wife, supporting each other through film, television and stage careers both here in Australia and overseas, as well as McCallum’s high-wire act as co-managing director of the J.C.Williamson organisation. In an industry famous for volatile relationships and blunderbuss egos, these two managed to maintain an equilibrium and creative drive throughout their lives that one can only marvel at today, and this dual biography charts their astonishing careers with terrific insight and warmth.
How do you solve a problem like Maria? Well, to start with you hire the screenwriter (Ernest Lehman) and director (Robert Wise) of West Side Story fame to tackle this most popular but intransigently saccharine musical, in order to ensure that it survives the perilous voyage from stage to screen. Caryl Flinn clearly loves the film without trying to position it as a piece of “high art”, and her examination of what makes it work (or occasionally not work) is centred on the songs, which she rightly views as the core of both the stage show and the film. Lots of interesting behind-the-scenes facts and observations here, and I know that next time it’s on the telly I’ll be watching slightly differently to the the previous 2000 viewings.
This is a remarkable memoir from a remarkable actor, Alan Cumming, but a showbiz autobiography it most definitely is not. Toggling between the past and the present, Cumming re-lives and examines the nightmare of his childhood years growing up with a violent and abusive father, his journey of discovery sparked by an invitation to appear on the BBC family history show, Who Do You Think You Are. Family history can, of course, be a Pandora’s box and the rollercoaster ride the author finds himself on as he struggles with his past, his present and the wild revelations of a dying father are beautifully and at times humourously laid out in this rather special book.
Here’s a fun title for the morbidly inclined. Commemorating many rock music greats who have met untimely ends, this lavishly illustrated volume doesn’t neglect a celebration of their lifetime achievements, but does also go behind the scenes to examine both the reality and the myths that have developed around the early deaths of some of the music world’s greatest performers. They’re all here, from Buddy Holly to Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston, and what elevates this litany of catastrophes above the level of prurient crash-site voyeurism is the author’s clear love and admiration for these careers cut short.
If you’re one of our Victorian registered members you can dip into this ebook collection of essays at home. Focused on a period of resurgence in the Australian film industry, it covers topics such as the increasingly fraught portrayal of heterosexual relationships, the changing nature of cinematic masculinity, the rise of the suburban backdrop over the more iconic bush landscape, and the presence and/or absence of ethnicity in recent films. All good grist for the academic mill.
And in case you were in any doubt about the fame of Googie Withers and John McCallum, here’s a delightful Movietone clip of their marriage in London, complete with adoring fans.