June 28, 1999 12:00 PM

Paul Mazursky

Like many of the movies Paul Mazursky has directed during his 30-year career, his Hollywood memoir is sporadically amusing but also burdened by pretension. The 69-year-old director of Harry and Tonto and Down and Out in Beverly Hills takes us from his Jewish boyhood in Brooklyn to his work with Hollywood’s high and mighty.

Many of the latter take a beating in these pages. In Mazursky’s eyes, the late actor Peter Sellers was an egomaniacal lout who strenuously overworked his star prerogatives (at one point he throws a fit because actress Jo Van Fleet is insufficiently enthusiastic in saying, “Good morning, Peter”), and George Segal and Susan Anspach come off as temperamental, silly actors who feud bitterly over a bottle of French eyedrops. Among the few characters who are favorably cast: actor Sidney Poitier (“There is a warmth and beauty to this man”) and Natalie Wood, one of the stars of his 1969 film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. “Her radiant beauty could only enhance the film,” he recalls of meeting the late actress.

There is grist here for movie buffs—including detailed, often tortured accounts of the frustration and machinations involved in getting films made, but Mazursky only briefly mentions his best film, 1978’s An Unmarried Woman. And many of the pages devoted to his upbringing and immigrant grandparents, a not-that-remarkable couple of Polish and Russian extraction, should have hit the cutting room floor. (Simon & Schuster, $25)

Bottom Line: Movie bio needs more direction at times

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