Saturday, February 15, 2014

First Read: Dr. McCoy - From Sawdust to Stardust

Like last year, my first read of this year too is a book that would make me feel guilty: Terry Lee Rioux' biography of actor DeForest Kelley: From Sawdust to Stardust. Dr. Leonard McCoy, the iconic character, portrayed by Kelley was my favourite amongst all Star Trek characters when I first saw the series around 25 years back and yet subsequently when I saw this book at a book fair around a decade back, Bones had become a distant memory and I did not buy it. Last year when the Star Trek bug bit me again I went round cursing myself for not having purchased the book and feeling mightly guilty about abandoning one of my favourite characters. Thankfully, the book was still available on some online stores and I ordered a copy though it did burn a sizable hole in my pocket.



The book is a chronicle of Kelley's life right from the time when he was a youngster growing up in impoverished circumstances under the watchful eyes of his Baptist preacher father who felt that even going to dances, movies, smoking and drinking were sinful activities with grave consequences. Stifled in such an atmosphere (though he never lost the values that his father inculcated in him and his elder brother) Kelly rebelled by going off to California, becoming involved in theatre, and finally getting a toe-hold in Hollywood. But just as things were looking up came the disruption as US entered the second world war and all the young men were drafted. It was a pattern that would follow Kelley all his life. Just when success seemed to be within reach some disruption would occur which would throw him back to square one: once more to struggle and prove himself. Thus even during the early seventies as Star Trek was becoming a huge success in its syndication avatar and the channels were reaping in the profits, Kelley was reduced to doing dinner-theatre, a situation which made him declare famously: "I am the star of a ghost."

Kelley was the only one among the Star Trek super seven who did not write an autobiography/ memoir etc and so this book does actually cover a lacuna but somehow I wasn't too satisfied after reading it. It might be because somewhere the author doesn't seem to give us what really transpired. For instance, the author writes that George Takei who played Sulu wasn't too happy with the "Don't call me tiny" scene in the third Star Trek movie. It was finally Kelley who convinced him to do it though Takei remained unconvinced about it. It would have been nice over here to have Takei recall that discussion but there is nothing. In fact, among the original Star Trek actors only Nimoy and Nichols seem to have anything to say. What about Doohan, Koeing, Takei, Shatner, Barret? Did they have nothing to say about this man who otherwise seems to have been loved and respected by all? Perhaps it is time for another biography to be written.

Overall an okay read that could have been better.
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First Line: Reverend Ernest David Kelley began his ministry to the congregation of Convyers, Georgia, on January 12, 1930.

Title: From Sawdust to Stardust: The Biography of Deforest Kelley, Star Trek's Dr. McCoy.

Author: Terry Lee Rioux

Publication Details: NY: Pocket Books, 2005.

First Published: 2005

Pages: 362

Other books read of the same author: None

*

Submitted for various challenges.

8 comments:

  1. Neeru - I'm glad you were able to find the book again even though you didn't think it was one of the finest books you've read. It sounds as though Kelley didn't reap the huge financial benefits that some of the other Star Trek folks did. One wonders why that happens to some people, while others seem (at least superficially) much more successful.

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    1. Yes, it could have been a much better book.

      Kelley did face some acute financial hardships, in part, because he was simply not manipulative enough in the dog-eat-dog world of T.V and films. But it warms your heart to read that he never let go of certain basic values despite the strain and distress.

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  2. Thank you for your review! I love the Original series too, so I've been wondering about this read too. It seems that many fans who read this book felt the same as you did. I hope that there will be indeed more books about this great character and man.

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    1. Thanks for hosting the challenge, Topcho.

      I really hope there are more books too.

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  3. I have always enjoyed Star Trek too and we re-watch the movies from time to time. And DeForest Kelley was a favorite. The book sounds interesting, if not fully satisfying. Thanks for the review.

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  4. Thanks for that Neeru as I hadn't come across it - shame it's not a better book but it is nice to get a bit more detail about the man at least.

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    1. Yes Sergio, Kelley was a very private man and so anything written about him is good in its own way.

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  5. Thanks Tracy for having a look. The book is interesting in so far as it brings alive the age of the great studios in Hollywood but is a bit of a let down as regards interviews and details.

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