Picks and Pans Review: It Would Be So Nice If You Weren't Here: My Journey Through Show Business

updated 10/30/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/30/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Charles Grodin

For close to 20 years now, Charles Grodin has been giving devastatingly funny, though deceptively low-key, comic performances in such films as The Heart-break Kid, Heaven Can Wait, Midnight Run and yes, even Ishtar. His book, an anecdotal account of his career to date, demonstrates the same quirky originality. Grodin, now 54, suffered for almost 15 years before he was offered the lead in The Graduate (1967). He blew that chance by asking for too much money. He finally made it with The Heartbreak Kid in 1972, but then suffered a relapse when his second big movie, 11 Harrow-house, bombed. He had to wait two years before being offered another movie job, as the villain in King Kong. "I've always I measured the quality of my show-business experiences not on whether they were successful, but by what the actual experience of doing them was like," he writes. For example, although the socially conscious TV special he produced with Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel in 1969 had trouble finding a sponsor and had low ratings, Grodin calls it the finest achievement of his professional career and says the musicians remain two of his closest friends. There are strange lapses in Grodin's tale (he doesn't mention Ishtar, even though he was that turkey's only saving grace). What you do get are some gently funny scenes, such as Grodin directing his first off-Broadway musical, only to have the costume chief steal all the costumes on opening night, and shooting 11 Harrowhouse in a British castle. That scene supplies his book's title. Grodin and co-star Candice Bergen were sitting in a room off' the main hall when an English woman, possibly the owner of the place, appeared and asked, "Did someone ask you to wait in here?" Grodin and Bergen meekly said no. "Well, it would be so nice if you weren't here," she said. Wrongo, dearie. Grodin—in the castle, on the screen or on the page—grows on you. (Morrow, $18.95)

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