Top positive review
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A Minor Masterpiece
on 15 August 2011
I must admit, I was a bit reluctant to buy Robert Sellers' latest book. A superficial glance suggested that after Hellraisers, Bad Boy Drive and The A-Z of Hellraisers we were re-treading old ground. Happily, I was completely wrong. Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down is a well-researched, thorough book charting the rise of a group of working-class actors in the nineteen-fifties who went on to successful careers, nationally and internationally. Finney, O'Toole, Connery, Caine, Harris, Robert Shaw and Alan Bates receive generous coverage, as does the slightly later Tom Courtenay. Whilst one might question whether these people "changed the world", they certainly brought a new style to British acting, and Sellers has spoken to as many of their contemporaries as he could (some of whom, like Trevor Bannister, have since died, but that's inevitable when you're dealing with people of this age). Where the book triumphs is in the sheer amount of ground it covers. No career move is ignored, and one really leaves the book thinking one has learnt something. For instance, Sian Phillips is a saint, and so is Elizabeth Harris (who has gone on to wed both Rex Harrison and Jonathan Aitken!); Robert Shaw was a nasty piece of work (who'd have thought it); Richard Harris and Peter O'Toole were headed for oblivion before they even started...the list goes on. Of all the actors covered, I think it's Finney who emerges as the real star. The book ends with him hearing that he hasn't won an Oscar for Tom Jones, beaten by Sidney Poitier. He raises a glass to Poitier, turns to his girlfriend, and says "Let's Dance."
I eagerly await the sequel. I may be slightly warped but I always find stories of decline more interesting than stories of success. And there's plenty of decline to come in the lives of these actors. Not all of them come out of the other side.
Robert Seller's best book to date. Well researched, carefully written (only one major typo gaffe - Alec McCowen is mis-spelled, but no genuine mistakes that I could spot). Highly recommended (as if you couldn't guess).