Saturday, September 5, 2009
Dead and Canadian
I'm going to a convention at the end of the month, and the guest of honor is Peter David, whom I'd never heard of. So I went to the library and checked out some of his books, and the first one I read was Beam Me Up, Scotty, James's Doohan's autobiography, which David helped write. He also wrote some Wolverine stories, but my son stole those.
I mainly knew James Doohan as Scotty, the engineer on the original Star Trek. I never noticed him in anything else, and it turns out that he found it hard to get work afterwards because of the typecasting. I find this a bit ironic, as I could barely pick him out in the photo section of the book and he says that he could do many accents -- as a kid it was one of his hobbies. I also had never noticed that he only had nine fingers, although in my defense Doohan mentions using a hand double in a couple of close-ups. I liked the discussion of the ambivalence Doohan had for his Scotty role -- he appreciates the fandom and the legacy, but realizes how severely it curtailed his career.
The book reminded me of other Hollywood biographies, such as David Niven's and Errol Flynn. The sense of camaraderie and masculine pranksters and women-chasing and drinking felt similar. Doohan concentrated on his career; detailing his military service and acting training in Canada and New York, then his work in radio and television. His personal life is described at a bit of a remove -- his regrets over his first marriage, his Catholicism, his shorter second marriage, and his last marriage to a much younger woman, which lasted until his death. His love for is children comes through, but his family is not the focus of the book. I felt a moment of grumpiness at his description of leaving his first wife; one of the problems was her refusal to take care of the kids, and it so disgusted him that he left, which meant the kids were stuck with her. I guess she rose to the challenge.
Anyway, it was a fun read, if a bit dry, and gives me a new urge to watch some old Star Trek episodes. Now I'll be looking for the missing finger. B+