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Nonfiction in Brief

WHICH REMINDS ME by Tony Randall and Michael Mindlin (Delacorte Press: $ 17 .95; 176 pp.)

December 24, 1989|SONJA BOLLE

Any true-blue fan of Tony Randall who is hoping for a tell-all autobiography filled with the actor's most intimate secrets will be sadly disappointed by this book. "Which Reminds Me" is like nothing so much as a long evening with a theater nut "cursed with almost total recall." "I remember not only those (stories) in which I was personally involved, but every one I have ever heard," the author writes (or dictates, as the case may be).

This modesty is most becoming for a man of the theater, and a boon to readers. Here are classic stories on such actors' nightmares as blanking out on lines. Ethel Barrymore, in the middle of confiding a secret on stage, whispered to the other actor: "Don't move." Then she furtively slunk to the wings, got her line, and crept back, assuring her interlocutor: "It's all right, she's not around." Then there was the young method actor who refused to whisper Sir Laurence Olivier his line. "I don't work that way," he explained.

In a chapter on Hollywood, Randall reports a memo from Jack Warner to his top staff: "It's time I started thinking about the possibility of someone replacing me as the studio's head of production. I need your help. If there is any such qualified person presently working at the studio, I want him fired."

The final chapter ("The End," of course) contains classics in another favorite form of theater story: the epitaph. "Here Lies Luciano Pavarotti--The Fat Lady Sang." "Here Lies David Lean--'I've been on much better locations.' " "Here Lies Mike Mindlin--'I'd like to see Joe Mankiewicz write me out of this.' " And finally: "Here Stands Tony Randall--'I'm not going to take this lying down.' "

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