News Articles

FIRST-PERSON: Got problems?

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–Due to my trade, I read a lot of biographies on the stars. Like many others, I’m fascinated by Hollywood’s constellation. People like Bogey and Sinatra and John Wayne have captured the imagination of many a film watcher for many a decade. Including me.

These people seem bigger than life. Some, like Errol Flynn or Marilyn Monroe, were exquisite. Others were gifted with almost everything –- from looks to talent to long-lasting fame. Remember Dean Martin? At his height of coolness, the handsome crooner had conquered nightclubs, radio, TV and movies. And though much of his screen time was wasted on dreadful D-movies such as the Matt Helm series, he occasionally wowed critics with performances in films such as “The Young Lions,” “Rio Bravo” and “Some Came Running.” (Oh, and as bad as those Matt Helm movies were, they made Dean a fortune.) A great singer, considered the best straight man in the business, he also had a quick, hilarious wit. He even had great hair. Dean simply had it all.

Dean Martin’s easygoing manner made it difficult to associate him with everyday problems the rest of us mere mortals must endure. The truth, however, is that even Dean Martin had his trials and tribulations. And because his career always took precedence, his family (seven kids and three ex-wives) suffered added ordeals.

In latter years, poor health took its toll on the once great-looking guy. He became frail, emaciated, like a skeleton of his former self. He suffered from pain and also from heartbreak. His son Dino, a pilot for the California Air National Guard, died in a jet crash. It is reported that Dean never recovered from that loss.

Countless movie stars lost fortunes through bad business ventures or crooked money managers. Dean lost tons of money. So did John Wayne. So did Errol Flynn. So did Jerry Lewis. These were lucky; their fame endured long enough for them to make new fortunes. Others weren’t so lucky. Comedians Abbot and Costello and bandleader Woody Herman (showbiz giants in their day) got in trouble with the IRS and spent their remaining years struggling with finances.

MGM leading lady Lana Turner married seven times and had countless lovers. She searched her whole life for the right man, only to find the right man for the moment. Marlon Brando, considered by many as the greatest actor ever, lost one child to suicide, while another went to prison for shooting his sister’s abusive boyfriend. There was even question of Brando’s sanity through much of his life. Debonair David Niven, perhaps the wittiest actor of his generation, was abandoned by an unfeeling second wife during his final years.

I have yet to read a bio of an actor who didn’t suffer from turmoil and mental distress at some point in his lifetime –- usually at the end, finding little if any satisfaction from worldly success.

Even the rich, good-looking and famous are unable to escape problems. And no matter how much they obtain, there’s just a little more outside their reach. Conclusion: Life is about more than gaining the whole world –- or even the little cottage with the white picket fence. Life is a fleeting moment in time, an obstacle course filled with mountains and valleys. And each obstacle we face has to do with character development and faith.

Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my bothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

There are those, even in the Christian community, who associate success with fame or financial abundance. The last line in the film “Patton” refutes that theory, “All glory is fleeting.”

Just ask a 16-year-old, “Who’s Dean Martin?”
Phil Boatwright is the editor and film reviewer for previewonline.org.

    About the Author

  • Phil Boatwright