..Rick Skye..

Three Stages
A review of Ben Bryant's first book

There are several qualities of life that would seem to have all but disappeared in these United States of late, but I couldn't quite put my finger on them until I spent a lovely couple of days living through the first few stages of Ben Bryant's colorful life. What at first appears to be a straightforward show biz autobiography is transformed by these qualities - charm, a poetic way with a turn of phrase and simple honesty - into a non-fiction novel about a way of life in an America that no longer exists. He brings it back to life like Brigadoon, with humor and sentiment, recalled through the beautiful mist of memory.

Part of this can be attributed to the fact that while Mr. Bryant may never have become a household name, he casts himself in the lead as an everyman. A fallible, sometimes na´ve character who, often confused by his circumstances, vividly leads us on a journey from segregated Bristol, Tennessee to success in Hollywood and on Broadway. More importantly, we identify with him as he strives to embrace each new challenge he faces with tenacity and grace.

Born of deeply religious Baptist parents into a small town, he remains amazingly open minded, even as the bigotry that surrounds him and the strictures of his church life venture to slam it shut. The quality of simple faith that is instilled into him early on by his doting mother serves him very well. He adapts to each new circumstance he finds himself in with a lack of ego and acceptance that helps him overcome all obstacles. Judged too small to play football, he dedicates himself to building himself up and hounding the coach until he makes the team. Having only sung religious music, when faced with the opportunity to sing jazz or opera, he surrounds himself with experts on the subject and works until he raises his own professional caliber.

It is difficult to fathom that, with his rugged good looks (he is a dead ringer for a young Gordon MacRae), brilliant voice and colorful storytelling ability, Hollywood didn't snap him up for one of those iron clad seven year contracts. Maybe that is all to the good, for instead of the usual tales of Hollywood intrigue he spins yarns of touring in summer stock in the big, lush post WWII days when America spent its summers picnicking by day and attending outdoor musical performances in the evening. A red blooded man's man, he intertwines intimate tales of getting to know the opposite sex and the ingenuity he uses to break into show business like a cowboy telling tall tales around a roaring fire.

As he grows in self-knowledge, he easily transforms from sports figure to musical and stage star to magazine publisher to film producer. It is this spiritual quality that makes his story so uplifting and the same quality that leads him to find his soul mate and ultimately take her as his wife. The final chapter in this, the first of three promised volumes, leaves them on the brink of a wonderful, new life together and us with a renewed respect for the country we live in and the values that made it, and our hero, great.

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Available on Amazon.com

Or as a PDF on PayHip.com.

Ben's website: Entertainment Books by Ben.

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