Bud: A life
Macmillan, $30 pb, 356 pp
After a few years ago, I had occasion to interview Bud Tingwell, and I remember telling an actress friend afterwards: ‘He talked for two hours without saying anything unkind about anyone.’ ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘he’s famous for it.’ This testimony came back to me while reading this autobiography: clearly not everyone he has had dealings with in his busy life has been sweetness and light, but it goes against the Tingwell grain to say so. What you see with Tingwell is what you get – a craftsmanlike actor and a tolerant, kindly man. The tolerance seems real, the cornerstone of a philosophy that makes him want to think the best of the people who have populated his life. So, if you’re after the kind of theatrical/film memoir that thrives on bitchy gossip, or if you want more bite, even if it means taking in a good dose of malice, look elsewhere.
As well as being the quintessential nice guy, on-screen as well as in life, Tingwell also offers a highly readable account of a pretty amazing career that spans sixty years. Given his first taste of performing at school, he then became radio’s youngest announcer and lurked round the edges of Ken Hall’s Cinesound Studios in the 1930s. Like so many of his age, Tingwell had to call a halt to attractive possibilities when war broke out. He gives an evocative account of his experiences in photographic reconnaissance work, and is astute enough to realise how they ‘shaped the sort of person I became’. He recalls the dangers, without boastfulness or too-casual laconicism, understanding the demands of the time for ‘psychological survival’.