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I have always enjoyed watching actor Sir David Jason in his various successful television drama's and comedies. Probably most famous for playing Derek Trotter in Only Fools and Houses this versatile man has had an interesting career. So when I discovered Stafford Hildred and Tim Ewbank had written a biography on the man I knew I had to read it.
Especially as these two writers have produced a number of highly rated biographies on celebrities Rod Stewart, Russell Crowe, Cliff Richard, Jamie Oliver, John Thaw and Martin Clunes.
==A little about Sir David Jason:==
David White was born on 2 February 1940 in Finchley into a working class family. He was not particularly successful at school but it was acting that he always excelled in. At 14 he discovered that he was a twin and his brother Jason died after just five days. His parents where very keen for him have a profession and so after school he became an Electrician but always acted in local productions.
His enthusiasm, professionalism and ability meant that he soon was able to make acting his career and because there was already an actor David White and decided to become David Jason instead. Most of his early roles where in Theatre productions but in 1967 he got his big break in a Children's programme 'Don't Adjust your Sets' this was followed by another comedy role 'Hark at Barker' and 'The Top-Secret Life of Edgar Briggs'. It was 'Open All Hours' with Ronnie Barker that really put him in the English public's homes, which was followed by his most successful and longest playing Del Trotter in 'Only Fools and Horses'. He has also played more serious parts such as 'Frost' and 'All the Kings Men'. He has had an incredibly successful life and is considered by many as one of the finest actors in Britain, which his string of acting awards testifies.
==My thoughts on the book:==
I thought this was a very good, well thought out and always fascinating insight into this fabulous actor. I really enjoyed getting a very good insight not only into his life about also into his character. The authors had clearly done their homework and there where so many appropriate quotes from David himself, friends, family and other actors. So often I find when reading biographies that authors put quotes in because they are a decent quote but in this book every quote fitted superbly into the context of what was happening.
Having always been a fan of this actor it was only recently I released there was a book written about his life so far. I feel it is entirely justified for a biography as this man has had a long and successful acting career, not like many biographies I see these days of 'celebrities' sharing their life stories and they are only in their 20's!! My only disappointment was when I looked to learn more about the writers I discovered this is not their first work on this famous actor in all they have written three books about him. Which I think is excessive.
Even the summary of the book in the back cover sounded interesting as I very quickly realised I knew nothing about Sir David's private life despite him being such a successful actor for the past 30 years. I found this summary to be a really good introduction and encouraged me to want to know more about what sounded like a very interesting life.
The book began appropriately with a three-page prologue that told the story of Sir David Jason's visit to Buckingham Palace to be knighted and how proud he was to receive this honour. This seemed a good and way to start the book as it put everything that followed it into context.
From her the book started in a logical way talking about his early years and how he came from a poor but very happy working class family. I always find learning about people's childhood fascinating and the fact that David had a twin that died and he only was told about this when he was 14 interesting. It showed that while he was only average in achievement as school he was always one who enjoyed fun and playing the clown. I found the author's style to be very informative and I really felt I was getting a good understanding about what makes David Jason the man he is today.
The story then moved on to my favourite part of the book the ups and downs of his early career as an actor. I enjoyed learning about his skill in playing various roles but the problems they had in casting him for many parts because of his height. As a result of this he generally played comedy roles and it was something is excelled at. Yet despite this you learnt that he could perform in front of hundreds of people but he maintained his shy persona and always found relationships with women difficult.
I found when his life's story moved onto his successful roles on television. That I was a little disappointed there was not more detail about his feelings and thoughts on his success. Yes there was a few quotes but the majority where from friends, family or fellow actors. Added to the fact the author would re-in act certain famous scenes from the shows, which I already knew the background about through other programmes. As a result I found this a bit dull, as I was not learning anything new it merely reinforced what I already knew.
The main thing I did enjoy was the detail behind him getting these wonderful roles. And learning from other actors that he worked with what he was like and their opinion on him as a person. You could see from this how he is a real professional and someone who cares not only about what he does but the people he works with. That said you through the authors words you could also see he was very single minded in his approach to his career and this at times had upset fellow actors but not allowing early productions to be repeated because he did not now want to be seen in that light.
The other chapter I really enjoyed was the one entitled 'Fame' and it told us how difficult it can be for very successful actors to remain a private life. As members of the Public always want to talk to them, buy them a drink or even ask him/her about working with other actors. This helped me understand a little more about his private interests and how tough it can be being in the Public eye. And how someone like David Jason who has worked very long days needs his escapism.
I thought the authors where very honest in their approach as it would be all to easy to just say lovely things about a national treasure such as David Jason. But they balanced it with a few not so good reviews of productions he was involved in and even one or two of his former friends stating he was not the same warm and caring man he was when they knew him years before. As after all people change in time as relationships do and I think it is only natural for some to feel sad as old acquaintances are not as good as they once where. Plus also something I considered but was never mentioned in the book is many actors must feel jealous of the success he has achieved either wittingly or unwittingly.
This book for me put everything that has happened to David Jason into perspective. It in many ways filled in the gaps and allowed me to see that his success was well earnt and that becoming a good and successful actor took him years of hard work and dedication. That the road was always tough but with his ability, his desire to succeed and some luck along the way he has been able to be at the very top of the acting profession for so long. But not only that it demonstrated how important a private life away from the public is and how he values his family and the time he spends with his daughter.
I thought this was a first class biography of a very interesting and accomplished actor. It really gave me a lot of fascinating detail about Sir David and his unusual life. I would certainly recommend it because it was written in as style that was appealing and shared lots of different perspectives on his success including the man himself. With many relevant quotes, my only disappointment was a few of the famous scenes the authors decided to give you the background on I already knew so it was it bit dull hearing them again.
==Other information about the book:==
Publisher: John Blake Publishing Ltd
Year of Publication: 2007
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.
© CPT DANIELS November 2011