by Macdonald Carey
Back in 1933, the head of the drama department at the University of Iowa told a student, “You’ll have to give up the beer if you want bigger parts.” For actor Macdonald Carey, that warning turned out to be prophetic. His love affair with the bottle deepened over the next four decades, and he never did make it to leading-man stardom.
He rarely stopped working though. Carey is perhaps best known as Dr. Tom Horton on the NBC soap opera Days of Our Lives. He has played that role for 25 years—though at one point, his drinking got so bad that the show’s writers visited a debilitating stroke upon his character so Carey couldn’t maul any more dialogue.
Sober now for nine years, Carey, 77, reflects on his life in this engaging autobiography. For a guy who admits he was often in a stupor, he recalls a lot, about his drinking, about the breakup of his 26-year marriage to ex-acting student Betty Hecksher, and many anecdotes about his career.
There was, for instance, a dressing-room party on the Universal lot the day of Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy’s wedding in 1943, which saw Broderick Crawford pin Edmond O’Brien to the floor while Lon Chaney Jr. poured a drink down his throat. O’Brien never did make it to the ceremony. Not all the stories are about carousing. Many concern acting’s lighter side. Carey, for instance, recalls ’40s hunk Victor Mature, who was the best man at Carey’s wedding, was denied membership at the hoity-toity Los Angeles Country Club because he was an actor. “I am no actor,” protested Mature, “and I’ve got 30 movies to prove it.” (St. Martin’s, $19.95)