Apr 21, 2014

Read the Movie - Robert Evans' THE FAT LADY SANG (Review)

Robert Evans
Published: November, 2013
It Books / 240 Pages
Available in Paperback and Kindle Editions (Paperback edition Reviewed)

* * * (out of 4)

I am one of the massive group of people who loves Robert Evan's Hollywood Memoir The Kid Stays in the Picture.  It ranks as one of the best of all time because of it's bold telling of the ups and downs of a fabulous Hollywood career, starting as a struggling actor and ending up to be the Production chief at Paramount Pictures shepherding monumental classics such as The Godfather, Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby into being.  It also introduced a unique voice in Mr. Evans which we also got to hear on the audiobook version of Kid, and that version also went on to be a best seller (I believe it was Premiere magazine that declared it a fixture in all of Hollywood Power Player's car listening selections). Needless to say I was very excited to learn that Mr. Evans had a follow-up in the works.

The Fat Lady Sang jumps right into the dramatic action with a very serious chapter - and I'm not counting this as a spoiler since it happens in the first 10-15 pages - as Mr. Evans, about to entertain director Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street) at his home, suffers from multiple strokes hospitalizing him and paralyzing the right side of his body including his tongue.  Mr. Evans presents this and his time spent in the hospital as if indeed the Fat Lady is standing beside him singing her (meaning his) final notes.  This sets the tone of the book on a much more personal and emotional note as he struggles with his rehabilitation, and eventually embarks on the greatest acting role of his life - appearing healthy when he is actually on the verge of death.  He goes from intense highs of feeling like he could conquer the world like when he embarks on an attempted marriage against the advice of his doctor who tells him it will do him in, to lows where he barely has the energy to leave his bed and home.  These are all interspersed with stories from his career, including an in-depth telling of how he came to be stuck in the middle of Frank Sinatra's marital conflict with Mia Farrow when he was producing both Frank's The Detective and Rosemary's Baby (with Mia).

What I found the most intriguing is Mr. Evans' honesty in taking full credit for mistakes.  There is no whining in the "if I had it all to do again" way,  but he just accepts his mistakes as learning curves and handles them like a true pro.

Also intriguing is Mr. Evans take on how men often do strange things to impress women, even making completely foolhardy (and unnecessary) mistakes because they feel they can't help themselves.  There is the aforementioned marriage scenario (which I don't want to go into any detail with and spoil - it's a great story) as well as a moment where he drops everything for the promise of some personal time with actress Beverly D'Angelo (National Lampoon's Vacation).

At 240 pages, the book is a quick and entertaining read.  I got through it in one 2-hour sitting because it's the type of book where you don't really want to put it down.  While perhaps not as strong or as iconic as The Kid Stays in the Picture, it acts as a great companion piece and it's worth reading both books close together (I re-read Kid in anticipation of this), especially when The Fat Lady Sang details the resurrection of Mr. Evans following the success of Kid the book, the audiobook and later the movie.  On a personal note, I was caught up in the chapter outlining the first public screening of the film version of The Kid Stays in the Picture at the Sundance film festival because I was in attendance at that screening (with Roger Ebert sitting right behind me at that) and remember it clearly.

One thing is for certain, if indeed the Fat Lady Sang for Robert Evans, she's going to have to do an encore because from the sounds of it he's far from finished.

You can follow Robert Evans on Twitter - @The_RobertEvans