Luck and Circumstance Review
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His name may not be instantly recognizable, but writer/director Michael Lindsay-Hogg has a fascinating story to tell—a true story that travels from Hollywood to Broadway and across the pond, spiced up with a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll and filled with mystery. But his autobiography, Luck and Circumstance: A Coming of Age in Hollywood, New York, and Points Beyond, is more than just another showbiz tell-all. It’s a story about family, dreams, and a search for identity.

Born in 1940 to actress Geraldine Fitzgerald, Lindsay-Hogg spent his life surrounded by some of the biggest names in Hollywood. From a very young age, he interacted with icons like his mother’s close friend, Bette Davis, and his Santa Monica neighbors, William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies. As he grew older and began a career of his own, he worked with other big names—first as the director of pop music TV show Ready, Steady, Go!, then on his own, directing music videos and documentaries (like The Beatles’ Let It Be) before branching out to stage and screen.

The book is filled with stories—some just snippets of memories, some surprisingly detailed descriptions—of his experiences. Of course, it’s impossible to cover everything in fewer than 300 pages (and Lindsay-Hogg himself admits that certain projects could fill an entire book on their own), but he offers plenty of interesting anecdotes and observations along the way. Music fans will especially love reading about the creation of The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (which wasn’t released until decades later, in 1996) and his experiences with The Beatles at various points throughout their career—especially as the group approached its break-up.

Still, though his behind-the-scenes stories are definitely entertaining (and often even eye-opening), the most fascinating part of the book is its mystery—and Lindsay-Hogg’s lifelong quest for answers about his own identity. His name suggests that his father was Edward Lindsay-Hogg, the long-distance father whom Geraldine divorced when Michael was still young. Geraldine later remarried, and “Boy” Scheftel became his stepfather. But after Geraldine off-handedly admitted that everyone assumed that Orson Welles was Michael’s real father (an assumption that she merely half-heartedly denied), he began a lifelong search for the truth.

For that reason, the ongoing quest for answers is woven throughout the rest of the story. As he looks back on each encounter with the talented but temperamental man who may or may not be his father, he tends to analyze the situation, still wondering whether Welles knew the truth—or whether their similar looks or their struggles with their weight might give him the answers he’s seeking. Now that he’s in his 70s, Lindsay-Hogg finally finds his answer—but it isn’t until the very last pages of the book that he comes to his conclusion.

Like most memoirs, Luck and Circumstance has its high points and its low points. When he’s recalling the old Hollywood encounters of his childhood or the excitement of his early career—and when he’s contemplating his relationship with Welles—he’s at his best. When he’s reflecting on his relationship with his mother, his father, and his stepfather, the story tends to drag a bit. But, as a whole, it’s an intriguing treatise on both family and life in The Biz.

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