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The Ottawa Citizen (12/Sep/1991) - Cronyn gives evocative look at the past



Cronyn gives evocative look at the past

Canadian actor Hume Cronyn, reflecting on 60 years in show business, allows that as a boy growing up in a grandly Victorian home in London, Ont., he was something of a spoiled brat.

The subject came up at an afternoon tea party to launch A Terrible Liar, his just-published memoir and an evocative flashback to days of youthful riches, gritty struggles for fame and sometimes comical interludes of a sexual nature.

The book, of course, is studded with names of the famous - Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in their torrid, wildly public romance during the filming of Cleopatra, a surprisingly grouchy Spencer Tracy, director Alfred Hitchcock, who launched Cronyn's movie career in the 1940s, and the outrageous Tallulah Bankhead.

The diminutive Cronyn, 80, begins his book with another tea, this one long ago and held on a lawn when he was 19. But it was no party - more a council of war to decide what to do about Junior.

He finally convinced the family to let him try acting.

Cronyn writes with great charm and often self-deprecating humor about a busy, far-flung career as actor, writer, director and producer. He won an Oscar nomination and a Tony Award, was named to the Order of Canada and in the United States was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

But his greatest achievement, he says, was the wooing and winning of British actress Jessica Tandy, 1989 Oscar winner for Driving Miss Daisy.

They've been married almost 50 years, raising three children, including a daughter by Tandy's earlier marriage to actor Jack Hawkins. Some of their greatest stage triumphs have been together - notably in the long-touring The Fourposter and Broadway's The Gin Game.

Cronyn, still a Canadian citizen, writes most effectively about his early home life and most hilariously about such youthful exploits as the loss of his virginity in a Montreal whorehouse, a business which was completed in perhaps 60 seconds. Later, another hotel room act of adultery to satisfy the divorce laws and end a tragic early marriage was less humorous.