Kramer and Heeley convey their experience with Hollywood celebrities in simple but vivid color.
The beautiful pool with the playing-card theme. The dog named Harry. The refrigerator full of Budweiser. The hand-drawn sketches of Harvey the rabbit, personally signed. Joan Kramer and David Heeley can tell you about all of them—and they do, as they take you In the Company of Legends.
Kramer and Heeley established themselves through the ’80s and ’90s with their television documentaries of Hollywood legends airing on PBS and other networks. As they produced these personal portraits of Fred Astaire, Katharine Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Paul Newman, James Stewart, Henry Fonda, and more, they stepped into their worlds, an intimate view achieved before there ever was this notion of social media or even the Internet. The book is arranged in rough chronological order, each chapter telling the story of connecting with and interviewing one of those legendary performers, .
In an engaging, unapologetic style, the authors and production partners maintain their edge of professionalism as they hunt down the biggest of the big, managing to keep themselves only minimally awestruck (Kramer swiped paper towels from Sinatra’s bathroom). The thrill of the hunt alone is worth the read. Sometimes they had to pit celeb against agent or publicist. Sometimes they had to ask people to dig through closets for reels of some rare film or TV footage to air. Their determination is more than admirable (as well as their tolerance for rudeness and brushoffs), and it more often than not got them the prize.
In the midst of it all, Kramer and Heeley often formed lasting relationships with their subjects. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward remained their friends, and Katharine Hepburn, after being profiled early on, kept returning for more, suggesting ideas for other profiles and often clearing the way for them. Like a little guardian angel, she keeps popping up through this book, moving mountains with her shrewd yet sweet style.
Any journalist will love and learn from these tales of tenacity, and the awestruck fans of Hollywood greats will eat this up. These are tales of the true stars of another era. What a fascinating glimpse.
Billie Rae Bates
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