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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


Books by Debra Hamel:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


paperback | Kindle | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


paperback | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)

ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)





Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


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Van Dyke, Dick: My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business

  Amazon  

4 stars

Dick Van Dyke's memoir, written now that he's "circling the drain," as he puts it, but still in possession of all his faculties, is a smoothly-written account of his life and sixty-plus-year career in show business: a happy childhood in Danville, Illinois, with his younger brother Jerry, his stint in Special Services during World War II, his marriage and family life, and the innumerable show business jobs he had across the country before finally hitting it big with the musical Bye Bye Birdie and The Dick Van Dyke Show. Other shows and movies followed: Mary Poppins, The New Dick Van Dyke Show, Van Dyke and Company, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and of course Diagnosis Murder (which my husband and I have always called Diagnosis Van Dyke). At 85 Van Dyke is still busy--with volunteer work, his singing group, a nascent one-man play, and with children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Early in his career, Van Dyke decided he wanted to specialize in family entertainment. Defining himself clearly would help his career in the long run, he thought, and he wanted to make movies that he could comfortably take his children to see. The book is comparable in tone to the on-screen entertainment that Van Dyke built his career on. He touches on the dark episodes of his life--alcoholism and his addiction to smoking, a mid-life crisis, the end of his marriage, deaths of friends and family--but it is by no means a negative read. Nor is it at all salacious or mean.

Scattered throughout the book are interesting bits of behind-the-scenes information: that Carl Reiner, the genius behind The Dick Van Dyke Show, kept political references and slang out of his scripts with a view to making the show timeless; that Van Dyke had to donate $4000 to an art school Walt Disney had founded before he was allowed to play the ancient banker in Mary Poppins (a role for which he wasn't compensated!); that P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins, wanted Disney to remove all the animation from the movie. (Happily, Walt Disney overruled her, and created a masterpiece from what I think was a mediocre book.) Van Dyke also mentions his dissatisfaction with some aspects of the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, in particular the movie's director:

"Soon after I heard him swear in front of the children one too many times, and I finally had words with him. Above all else, it showed that he had no feel for the family-oriented material. As for the material in general, let’s just say that enough scenes were done on the fly or redone at the last minute that I lost faith that the version that finally showed up in theaters would match anyone’s expectations, and I think I was right."

Van Dyke writes that he and Rob Petrie (his character on The Dick Van Dyke Show) are basically the same person: they're both affable, slightly clumsy family guys. He certainly comes off as a nice guy in the book, someone who has lived a joy-filled life for the most part, and who is happiest when he's making people laugh.

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