CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 6 . . . . November 10, 2005
One of Canada's greatest exports is talent, and Famous Canadian Actors highlights not only those who have achieved stardom but also those whose career is still in development. The 10 actors profiled in this book are famous for comedy (Jim Carrey, Mike Meyers, and Dan Ackroyd), for action-movie heroics (Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss, of The Matrix movies), and some, after middling success in various movie ventures, have now settled into respected work in well-known television series (Kim Cattrall, Kiefer Sutherland, and Michael J. Fox). As well, there are those whose work defies categorization: Brendan Fraser, who gravitates to “oddball movie roles,” and Pamela Anderson, the Baywatch babe whose “great acting ability [is] eclipsed by her physical attributes.” All of these famous Canadian-born actors make their principal residence in the United States where their work in American television and cinema has brought them their current fame.
In the introduction, Stone Wallace writes, “These mini-biographies are intended to give the reader insights into the lives of these home-grown celebrities who literally “broke through the border” into international prominence . . . and did their country proud.”
Regrettably, making it big in Canada is usually not enough, and however proud these actors may be of their home and native land, opportunity called all of them to move south of the 49th parallel. Wallace provides the usual biographical details (home life, schooling, early forays into the world of entertainment, detailed listings of projects), as well as interesting notes on other show biz personalities with whom each has worked. Nor does he shy away from reporting on personal difficulties each actor has faced: personal tragedies, tabloid coverage, and serious illness, to name but three. Nevertheless, everyone is presented in an overwhelmingly positive light: those whose careers have plateaued, will, like Brendan Fraser, “put trust in the trails as they open” or can be “guaranteed work while still pursuing [their] own direction in the industry” (117), as is stated to be the case with Kiefer Sutherland.
Famous Canadian Actors certainly achieves its intended purpose of being a collection of mini-biographies. It's an easy read for students in early high school who have to write reports on famous Canadians, and the black and white portraits of most of the actors add visual interest. However, I wondered about the accuracy of some of Wallace's sources – for example, in his profile of Mike Myers, he states that Myers became a member of the famed “Saturday Night Live” comedy group in the year that Gilda Radner died of breast cancer. In fact, it is well-known that Radner died of ovarian cancer. Equally hard to discern was how much of the analysis and insight comes from Wallace and how much from the sources on which he drew. Still, the book is reasonably priced and, as an accessible, one-stop source of biographical information, it's an acceptable acquisition for biography collections in senior high school libraries.
Recommended with reservations.
Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.