My One and Only: The Childhood of a Very Tan Man

one-and-onlyYour familiarity with the creature known as George Hamilton -- or your lack thereof -- won't have too much of an effect on your appreciation of My One and Only. Yet for the curious, here's a little background.

Mr. Hamilton, before he became best known as the King of Tanning, had hit the tabloids for dating one of President Lyndon Johnson's daughters, a Byrd of moderate plumage. Before that, Mr. Hamilton had been an actor, never one of much note, more of one note, but he had been extremely attractive.

His brief era of thespian promise was during the early 1960s, when he appeared in Vincente Minnelli's four-hanky epic Home from the Hill (1960) with Robert Mitchum; the classic bitch fest All the Fine Young Cannibals (1960) with Natalie Wood and the sadly forgotten Susan Kohner; the silly but popular teener Where the Boys Are (1960) with Connie Francis trilling away; and a film that seemed as protracted as its subject matter -- World War II -- the all-star The Victors (1963), which boasted the talents of Vince Edwards (TV's Ben Casey), Romy Schneider, and Jeanne Moreau. From thereon, in a convertible with the top down, without the benefit of any sunscreen, Mr. Hamilton drove down the turnpike towards camp with brief stopovers to star as country singer Hank Williams, Evel Knievel, and Count Dracula in the surprisingly popular vampire comedy Love at First Bite.

Which brings us to My One and Only, a fictionalized biopic about Mr. Hamilton's childhood. Now, not many of us if asked would state we'd want to know anything more than we already do about Mr. Hamilton. Ah, but we'd be mistakenly brash.

The actor's early teenhood as exposed here is quite riveting, thanks to the figure based on his mother, Ann Devereaux (René Zellweger), who spouts aphorisms like a Wilde character on speed (e.g. "Sarcasm is the last refuge of scoundrels," "A woman never appears smarter to a man than when she's listening to him."). Think of a Gwendolen Fairfax situated in more modern times.

The film opens in the late 1950s with Ann arriving at her exquisite Big Apple apartment only to discover her bandleader spouse (Kevin Bacon) in a towel. He has been cheating, and the proof is in the bedroom. With her pride frayed by such disreputable behavior, Ann plans to start a new life after gathering up her two boys at their respective private schools, which is a more arduous task than you might expect.

Being a totally self-centered femme fatale, with motherhood always on the backburner, Ann has no idea what educational institutions her children are enrolled in. But once that matter is resolved, she, young George (Logan Lerman), and his very gay stepbrother Robbie (Mark Rendall) start traveling across the United States in search of a new hubbie with loads of moolah for mom.

A few prospects turn up, but to be polite, let's just say they're flawed. Additionally, there's the problem of Ann not realizing she's aging and not as much of a catch as she once was.

Consequently, with more and more of Ann's beaus being unmasked as boobs, George finds himself losing patience with the life he was born into. He wants to be a son, not a caretaker of a self-interested woman seemingly incapable of supplying any nurturing. His own hero, Holden Caulfield, probably says it best: "If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn't rub out even half the 'Fuck you' signs in the world. It's impossible."

But George and family, like the travelers on the Yellow Brick Road, do eventually find some happiness. And you will probably, too, if you choose to accompany the Devereaux clan on its trek.

With lots of sprightly dialogue, fine acting, but some uneven dramaturgy, My One and Only is as probably as close as we'll get this decade to an Auntie Mame or a Travels with My Aunt. That's a shame or a blessing. You decide. - Brandon Judell

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Mr. Judell is currently starring in Rosa von Praunheim's New York Memories, which is still in production. In the fall, he'll be teaching "The Arts in New York City" at City College. He has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire, Detour, The Advocate, and dozens of other publications.

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