You Must Remember This: Life and Style in Hollywood’s Golden Age by Robert Wagner
Robert Wagner “seems to have known anybody who was anybody in Hollywood,” said Jonathan Yardley in The Washington Post. Better yet, the onetime B-movie screen idol was apparently watching his peers with “a knowing and sympathetic if occasionally mordant eye.” His previous memoir, 2008’s Pieces of My Heart, paid affecting tribute to the two women he married—actresses Natalie Wood and Jill St. John. This time, he’s offering a less intimate story, trying to show us a vanished Hollywood—the one he knew as a busboy at the Bel Air Tea Room and as a prized bauble in the studio-system firmament. You might prefer that he’d “served up a bit more dishing and a bit less doting,” but that wouldn’t be Robert Wagner’s Hollywood.
“If you can remember the names—Wagner drops a lot of them, 24 on the first two pages alone—you might just like this book,” said Gene Walz in the Winnipeg Free Press (Canada). Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant, and Orson Welles all make cameos in Wagner’s evocation of a world where one party flowed into the next, where secrets remained secrets, and where even close friends competed to outdo each other in the construction of their lavish, often fanciful, homes. Affairs are hinted at, but You Must Remember This is more “about coveting thy neighbor’s goods” than his or her spouse, and “there’s plenty to covet here.”
Unfortunately, it all “has the feel of leftovers,” said Rick Kogan in the Chicago Tribune. Wagner must have packed his juiciest material into his first book, because too often here he’s forced to resort to playing social historian or even architectural critic. Wagner has played countless roles across his 84 years, so perhaps there’s no harm in his trying out a few others. No one would deny his right to speak as he wishes about living a fairly charmed life. “Still, he has never won an Oscar, and I can guarantee that he will not win any writing awards for his latest role as an author.”