SPOTLIGHTS AND SHADOWS: THE ALBERT SALMI STORY (SECOND EDITION) (hardback) by Sandra Grabman
Voted "Book of the Year 2004" by Classic Images magazine!
This 2nd edition has 2 extra chapters and much more information.
Classic Images/Laura Wagner July 2004:
"You know the face. You know the credit list: Lost in Space, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Kung Fu, The Twilight Zone and hundreds more...But who was Albert Salmi?"
That's the question Spotlights & Shadows: The Albert Salmi Story by Sandra Grabman, with a foreword by actor Barry Newman ($19.95, BearManor Media softcover) endeavors to solve. With the help of Salmi's own words, taken from his unfinished autobiography, Grabman gets right to the core of the man, uncovering his complex personality. And it isn't an easy task that she has on her hands, considering the sensational manner of Salmi's death - in 1990 Albert shot and killed his wife, then killed himself, an act that shocked both his fans and his family. Grabman succeeds in humanizing Albert Salmi throughout the whole book, but it is during the murder aspect where she really excels - her sympathetic writing and her clear understanding of the forces that led him to suicide and murder is handled brilliantly. A lesser writer would have gone for the lurid details, but Grabman's to-the-point approach, laced with discernment, is much appreciated by this reader.
For those of you who don't know Albert Salmi by name (you would, as the author states, know his face), he was a member of the Actor's Studio in New York, workedo n the stage (Bus Stop with Kim Stanley, being his biggest success), TV, and movies (The Brothers Karamozov, The Unforgiven, The Flim-Flam Man, Wild River, The Bravados, Hour of the Gun, Empire of the Ants, Brubaker, and many others). Albert was also actress Peggy Ann Garner's second husband, appearing with her in Bus Stop. He was/is highly regarded for his dedication and skill in his craft.
The book is expertly arranged. We have Albert's personal comments (in bold), then Grabman comes in to explain the actions, quoting her family or colleagues, and to just comment in general. The narrative, despite the two styles together, flows very smoothly and is extremely readable. Albert shows a bit of an attitude here and there (especially during his brief on-set encounter with Clark Gable), but he seems to mellow as the years go by.
Grabman obviously has a strong attachment to her subject, but only occasionally slips into dripping prose about how wonderful he is. Believe me, I've read enough authors who are totally mad about their subjects, and it tends to get out of hand, but Grabman never lets it - the few instances of gushing come across as sweet, adding nicely to the tone of the book. She gets her points across, has excellent research, and loves her subject - not a bad combination at all. The book's one fault lies in her not going more deeply into his movie work; a healthy analysis would have been a welcome part of this study. As it is, however, Albert's personal side is so involving, that the book is still fascinating.
Another great thing about the book is Albert's own words, which is a real insider's look at Broadway, early TV, and post-fifties films. He speaks about his emergence as an actor, his feelings toward the artistic world around him, and the people he worked with. His sense of humor is also evident. It is terrific that his memoirs were saved by a person who obviously cherishes his legacy. The sensitivity and insightfulness found in Sandra Grabman's text are a fine tribute to a fine actor. Terrific photos, many unpublished.
Shock Cinema, Fall 2004:
I got a big kick out of this fascinating (and often grim) biography of character actor extraordinaire Albert Salmi. He was beloved by fellow actors, appeared in well over 100 movies and TV shows and, in 1990, killed himself and his ex-wife in a murder-suicide fueled by depression and a gutted bank account. It's a tragic story, no doubt, but the book focuses more on his fascinating early years - his childhood in a Finnish section of Brooklyn, the Actors' Studio, a Broadway lead role in Bus Stop, TV and movie fame, and the occasional career misstep. Grabman doesn't offer much info on individual film projects, skipping over many big titles in order to focus more on the man and his often-tumultuous family life, while the book's hightlights are the lengthy passages from Salmi's unfinished memoirs, which gives us important insight into his youth and mindset. Along the way, there are recollections from colleagues like R.G. Armstrong and Bill Shatner, who all speak of Salmi's good-natured personality, plus a foreword by longtime friend and Petrocelli co-star Barry Newman. It's a terrific tribute to a talented and ingratiating actor.