It’s a safe bet that most readers interested in a memoir by Gavin MacLeod will be looking for insights into his years starring on two iconic TV series, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Love Boat. If learning more about news writer Murray Slaughter and Captain Merrill Stubing, as it were, floats your boat, This is Your Captain Speaking: My Fantastic Voyage through Hollywood, Faith and Life delivers. However, will the stories of MacLeod’s years before television success and his work after his run in the ’70s and ’80s be enough to warrant a cover-to-cover read?
It’s ironic that MacLeod—born Allan George See in 1931—grew up in a town called Pleasantville. That’s because much of his story is told with a pleasant tone about mostly pleasant circumstances in both life and at work. For example, after paying his apprentice dues in his early career, MacLeod was lucky enough to capture the notice of director Blake Edwards who cast him in Operation Petticoat (1958) where the young actor worked with Cary Grant and Tony Curtis. After this break-out role, Edwards also cast MacLeod in his TV hit,
Peter Gunn. Thereafter, MacLeod had notable roles in films like The Sand Pebbles (1966), The Party (1968), and Kelly’s Heroes (1970). That’s no mean filmography.
Along the way, MacLeod also did considerable stage work and had recurring TV appearances in shows like Perry Mason, Hawaii 5-O, and an unhappy two year stint as a virtual extra in McHale’s Navy. Wisely, he didn’t accept a role he knew wouldn’t suit him, that of Archie Bunker on All in the Family. So, yes, even before describing his heyday, MacLeod has many Hollywood anecdotes to share featuring folks like Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, Marilyn Monroe, and Steve McQueen. Most of these stories are, well, pleasant. Only once does a legend get raked over the coals, Bette Davis. If the account of her behavior at MacLeod’s house be true—which is more than credible—she deserved it.
More good humor is shown in the many stories about MacLeod carrying a wig around with him in his early career so he could get roles with or without hair, and sometimes both in the same production. But, of course, no man voyages through life without dark storms and gales, and in MacLeod’s case, he had bouts with depression, alcoholism, and went through several painful divorces. Such turmoils, fortunately, were offset by MacLeod’s quitting alcohol cold turkey and his remarriage to his second wife, Patti Kendig, with whom he’s still wed.
Since The Love Boat, MacLeod has become best known for his 23 year association with Princess Cruises, his occasional reunions with The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Love Boat cast members, and his Christian activism. The latter ¼ of the book, in fact, is devoted to MacLeod’s repeated joy in his Christian beliefs including the family-oriented film work he now prefers. No, Gavin MacLeod is not a bitter man throwing out either revengeful poison or Hollywood mud. Quite the opposite.
So This is Your Captain Speaking: My Fantastic Voyage through Hollywood, Faith and Life is like a cruise on a sunny day with minimal turbulence in the company of people you’d like to spend time with. Sort of like what life would be like if the characters on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Love Boat were real. Especially that nice Slaughter fella.