The late great Charles Nelson Reilly had a tough start to life: a lobotomized aunt, an institutionalized father, a loud-mouth racist mother and he was the only gay kid on the block in the Bronx back in the 1940’s. Who would have guessed then that he would have ended up as Tony Winning Actor, acclaimed Broadway Director, one of the earliest big stars on TV, extraordinary acting teacher, and an Icon for a whole generation? What his upbringing did give Mr. Reilly was the start of wonderful rich vein of stories that he hilarious re-conveys in his one-man show ‘Keep It for the Stage’. He had an amazing life and career, which was constantly filled with encounters which really enhanced his very existence. Such as going to drama school with a group of other very young actors and future Academy Award, Tony Award and Emmy Award major actors (‘who couldn’t act for shit’) such as Steve McQueen, Jason Robards, Gene Hackman, Hal Holbrook etc, and his stories about Mr. Holbrook alone, which are viscously funny, are worth the price of the movie .
I sit through more movies than I care to mention in the course of my year, and by carefully considering my selection I see a great many excellent and very good films. THEN ONCE IN AWHILE A MOVIE SUCH AS THIS COMES ALONG AND IS IS AN UNQUIVOCAL SHEER JOY; the Director had the sense to have his cameras just follow Mr. Reilly around the stage in this his very last two appearances ever, as he told his stories and bared his soul for all of us to see. And what stories: and what a man. We won’t see the likes of him again: so DON’T MISS THE MOVIE. Made in 2006, it has just been released on DVD: so check out Netflix/Love Film
One final word. Every time Mr. Reilly introduces someone else from his life in a story, he has already cast which Star will play them when his life story is filmed. (Sort of thing I do in my sleep!) He tells us in the beginning that his mother would be played by Shirley Booth (3 Time Emmy Winner and star of TV sitcom ‘Hazel’). Flash forward many years when he is Hollywood with his mother who is being her usual nasty self at a party where they meet Ms Booth who tells Charles ‘what an absolutely dreadful women you mother is’, and without a moments hesitation he agrees and adds ‘BUT what a great part for you!’ And what a even greater part to for someone to play Mr. Reilly.
Labels: 2006, biography, gay, icon, live performance