Fans of Golden Age television will remember Paul Picerni as one of the stars of the greatest of all crimebusting series, THE UNTOUCHABLES with Robert Stack. Movie fans might instantly associate him with the horror hit, HOUSE OF WAX, in which he played the romantic lead - and in 3-D!
These credits are just the tip of the iceberg in Picerni's stage-screen-TV career, which took him from small East Coast theater groups to Hollywood studios where he acted alongside stars on the level of John Wayne, Errol Flynn, Audie Murphy, Burt Lancaster, Vincent Price, Charles Bronson and his best friend Telly Savalas. In this book, master storyteller Picerni vividly describes working with these legends (and scores of others) and recalls in detail all the phases of his astounding 60 years in the acting profession--all of his many "Steps to Stardom."
Best Book of the Year!
Classic Images/Laura Wagner – December 2007
“Steps to Stardom is the autobiography of Golden Age of Television star Paul Picerni, best known for his starring role in the crimebusting series The Untouchables with Robert Stack, as well as the romantic lead in the 3-D horror movie House of Wax. Picerni applies his folksy, conversational style to bring to life what it was truly like to work with Hollywood legends from John Wayne and Errol Flynn to Burt Lancaster, Vincent Price, Charles Bronson and more. Steps to Stardom celebrates Picerni’s sixty dedicated years in the acting profession, and includes a copious amount of vintage black-and-white photographs of Picerni’s life and career. An index rounds out this behind-the-scenes ‘must read’ for fans of Picerni’s work.”
- Able Greenspan for The Midwest Book Review
Classic Images/Laura Wagner – December 2007
Steps to Stardom: My Story by Paul Picerni, with Tom Weaver ($24.95, BearManor Media softcover). The tall, dark and handsome Picerni boasts a 60-year movie/TV career, which includes co-starring in the 3-D horror classic House of Wax (1954) with Vincent Price and TV’s The Untouchables.
Picerni has led a very interesting life. It’s almost 80 pages into the book before his movie career really begins, but even this early section is interesting with stories of PP’s WWII Air Force days, including being the bombardier on the plane that bombed and destroyed the Bridge on the River Kwai, and tales of sharing little theater stages with the likes of Pat O’Brien, Ward Bond, Albert Dekker, Sara Allgood et al.
The publicity says that Picerni is a “master storyteller,” and while he proves that quite convincingly, Tom Weaver’s contribution is very important in relating these stories. Weaver’s sure hand is vital to the readability of the text. Be that as it may, Picerni shows here why he’s on the Most Wanted lists of the various nostalgia cons and autograph shows—he makes you feel like “you are there” as he tells of his days as a Warner Bros. contract actor in the first half of the 1950s, then a TV-movie freelancer and then, in the early ‘60s, co-star of the hit series The Untouchables. (Paul was second banana to Robert Stack’s Eliot Ness for three seasons.) There are about 80 pages on The Untouchables. (Paul’s episodes will start debuting on DVD soon from Paramount.)
CI and FGA readers have gotten an advance look at his chapters on the movies Breakthrough (1950), Mara Maru (1952, Errol Flynn) and To Hell and Back (1955, Audie Murphy), published in those magazines’ pages; they’re just three of the thirty chapters in this page turner. I don’t have room to mention, no matter how briefly, all the highlights, which include John Wayne’s toupee (Operation Pacific), Steve Cochran’s piano-playing dog (The Tanks Are Coming), Burt Lancaster’s temper (Jim Thorpe, All American and The Scalphunters), Michael Curtiz’s malapropos (multiple movies!), a hair-raising visit to a Folsom Prison barber shop (Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison), a similar close call under a working guillotine (House of Wax), his role in the “discovery” of Chuck Connors, a Paul’s-eye view of the discovery of Kim Novak, Timothy Carey’s rampage (Dragnet), live-TV bloopers (The Red Skelton Show and Goodyear Playhouse), a runaway lion (Fury), Ernest Borgnine’s pout (Torpedo Run), his brushes with real-life gangsters Johnny Roselli and Johnny Stompanato, his 1960s stint as a soap opera star, resisting the advances of Katy Jurado (The Fearmakers), riotous tales of carousing with his best friend Telly Savalas, background on Paul’s stuntman brother Charles Picerni, and how the two brothers worked together stunt-coordinating action hits like the Lethal Weapon movies and True Romance, and much more.
There seems to be a laugh-out-loud or jaw-dropping tale on nearly every page, right up to the very end, as Paul writes about his most recent movie Retirement, and how star Ossie Davis dropped dead on the Florida location, the next-to-last photo in the book being a shot of Paul and Davis snapped just a few hours before Davis turned up his toes!
He also writes about each of his eight kids and of his wife Marie Mason, a dancer on stage and bit player in movies prior to their 1947 marriage (they just celebrated their 60th anniversary). Steps to Stardom gives you real insights on most of the stars, directors, etc., of whom he writes, always with humor and the next funny punchline never more than a paragraph away.
There are a large number of illustrations, many of them behind-the-scenes shots from his various movies and TV shows, showing off the many people he knew—and just how gorgeous this man really is!