Saturday, December 14, 2013
The Entertainer by Margaret Talbot
Lyle Talbot is not a household word, but he was the stock in trade of the entertainment business. While they might not be able to name him, many viewers would recognize him as a character actor in the 1930's on. Lyle studied his craft and participated in all the entertainment venues of the times. In The Entertainer, his daughter, Margaret Talbot, reviews his life and the entertainment industry in its many facets.
Lyle grew up in the Midwest. He got his start in entertainment as a teenager, when he started touring with carnivals and repertory troupes. In these years before movies became popular, there were many of these groups touring town to town, bringing entertainment to those whose lives didn't offer much otherwise. From this experience, he learned to be a professional; to always come with lines learned and on time, to make sure the show would always go on.
In the 1930's, Lyle got the call to Hollywood. With his clean-cut looks and tailored elegance, he was touted as the next leading man. That didn't happen, but he worked for decades in the movies and rubbed shoulders with such names as Clark Gable, Pat O'Brien, Loretta Young, and Mae West. Lyle was a man about town, known for his romantic life as well as for his acting. He was also one of the original twenty-four actors who started the Screen Actors Guild, as a protest against the grueling work schedule expected of actors at the time.
Like many actors, Lyle found it hard to resist the lure of Broadway. He left Hollywood and worked in one of the longest running plays around the time of World War II. He also spent his summers throughout his life doing summer stock to keep up with the world of live theatre.
When television grew up, Lyle transitioned to it. He became a regular on the Ozzie and Harriett show, one of the most popular early shows. He played the next door neighbor. One of his sons, Stephen, played another familiar character. He was one of Jerry Mathis's friends on Leave It To Beaver.
Margaret Talbot has written a fascinating, well-researched book about her father's life and about the various forms of the entertainment world. She tells the good as well as the bad about her father, but there is no doubt she loved this kind man who spent his life bringing joy to others. This book is recommended to those interested in the early days of Hollywood and television, as well as those interested in the life of an actor.