Dancing on the Edge: A Journey of Living, Loving, and Tumbling Through Hollywood

Before he was actor and writer Amber Tamblyn's dad, Russ Tamblyn was just like her: a child actor turned in-demand movie star. His endearing memoir, the joyful-rueful Dancing on the Edge: A Journey of Living, Loving, and Tumbling Through Hollywood, tells of how he went from Oscar nominee to actor who couldn't get a guest spot on The Love Boat. The most interesting part: it wasn't Hollywood that turned its back on him.

Born in 1934 and raised in Inglewood, Calif., by former vaudevillian parents, Tamblyn got a contract with MGM at 16. His career as a dancing, acrobatic actor culminated in his defining film role: Riff in 1961's West Side Story. But by the time his MGM contract ended in 1963, Tamblyn had lost his enthusiasm for acting. He stopped chasing movie roles, ditched his Pacific Palisades pile, and moved to free-spirited Topanga Canyon to make visual art. "[T]hat emptiness I had experienced for so many years had been filled up with a profound creative urge," he explains. Unfortunately, before long there was a new emptiness in Tamblyn's life: empty pockets. Readers should find themselves invested equally in Tamblyn's quests for meaning and financial solvency.

Dancing on the Edge is a valuable account of both Old Hollywood and the West Coast beat scene. Tamblyn doesn't come right out and say that he wishes he hadn't "dropped out of Hollywood," but the latter half of his book is infused with a low-grade melancholy suggesting something rare in a Tinseltown memoir: ingenuousness. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

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