Robinson, Jill 1936-
Robinson, Jill 1936-
ROBINSON, Jill 1936-
(Jill Schary, Jill Schary Zimmer)
PERSONAL: Born May 30, 1936, in Los AngelesCA; daughter of Dore (a playwright, director, and film producer) and Miriam (a painter; maiden name, Svet) Schary; married Jon Zimmer (a stockbroker), January 8, 1956 (divorced, 1966); married Jeremiah Robinson (a computer analyst), April 7, 1968 (divorced, 1977); married Stuart Shaw (a consultant and writer), June 21, 1980; children: Jeremy Zimmer, Johanna Schary Robinson. Education: Attended Stanford University, 1954-55. Politics: "Left-wing eclectic." Religion: Jewish.
ADDRESSES: Home—6 Willow Rd., Weston, CT 06883. Agent—Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc., 445 Park Ave., New York, NY 10022.
CAREER: Writer. Foote, Cone & Belding, Los Angeles, CA, advertising copywriter, 1956-57; free-lance journalist, 1964—; freelance book reviewer, 1973—. Host of "The Jill Schary Show" on KLAC-Radio in Los Angeles, 1966-68. Writing teacher at Woman-school in New York, NY 1975-77.
(Under name Jill Schary Zimmer) With a Cast of Thousands: A Hollywood Childhood (autobiographical), Stein & Day, 1963.
(Under name Jill Schary) Thanks for the Rubies, Now Please Pass the Moon, Dial, 1972.
Bed/Time/Story (autobiographical), Random House, 1974;Perdido (novel), Knopf (New York, NY), 1978.
Doctor Rocksinger and the Age of Longing (novel), Knopf (New York, NY), 1981.
Star Country, Fawcett Columbine (New York), 1996.
Past Forgetting: My Memory Lost and Found, Cliff Street Books (New York, NY), 1999.
(With Stuart Shaw) Falling in Love when You Thought You Were Through, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor to periodicals, including Cosmopolitan, Vogue, House and Garden, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Soho Weekly News, Chicago Tribune, and Village Voice.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A screenplay of Falling in Love and a book about the life of a film distributor.
SIDELIGHTS: Jill Robinson is the author of novels and personal memoirs filled with many of Hollywood's classic royalty. Although two of her memoirs focus on her marriages, her most compelling personal story may be Past Forgetting, in which she details her true-life experience with amnesia. Writing in Pif magazine, Emily Banner noted that "Robinson mounts a fascinating and thought-provoking investigation into just what role memory plays in making us who we are."
Robinson's first book, With a Cast of Thousands, focuses on her childhood in Hollywood as the daughter of Dore Schary, the head of production at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Robinson relates anecdotes about personalities such as John F. Kennedy, Loretta Young, Adlai Stevenson, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, and Humphrey Bogart. C. P. Collier of Best Sellers commented that With a Cast of Thousands "could easily have become over-the-backyard-fence gossip, but even the most barbed... observations, while sometimes hilariously perceptive, are devoid of maliciousness." Book Week's Joe Hyams similarly noted that Robinson tells "with astonishing frankness stories about her schoolmates, the multi-parented children of Hollywood's famous folk." He continued, however, that "the reader is never embarrassed for the people she so hilariously dissects, analyzes and pins down on paper with needle-sharp words."
Bed/Time/Story also met with a favorable reception. The book details the story of Robinson's second marriage to Jeremiah Robinson. "It is about two people whose love for each other slowly conquered their hatred for themselves," explained Annie Gottlieb in the New York Times Book Review. "It is, quite literally, about the lifesaving and healing power of love." With her husband's help, Robinson quit drinking and taking speed, acquired a good job, and began to piece her life together again. Gottlieb further stated: "Robinson portrays herself, with candor and humor, as having been so anxious to please, so terrified of rejection, so padded and propped by drugs, that she had no idea what she wanted or felt. The book tells about her discovery of herself, not as is currently fashionable, through lonely search, but through the unexpected, ferocious strength of her feeling for another." Nation's Nancy Lynn Schwartz contended that "Bed/Time/Story ... [is] a beautifully written book which forces the reader to care about the characters and their fate."
Robinson's next book, Perdido, is about teenager Susanna Howard, the granddaughter of a Hollywood pioneer who founded his own film studios. Susanna narrates this 1950's Hollywood story with a backdrop that includes the Cold War, blacklisting, and the rise of television. Tinged with an "epic, rather tragic flavor," as Schwartz described it, Perdido tells of things lost or soon to be lost. The heroine searches for her father, who left when she was still an infant. She is unhappy with her remote mother and stepfather and longs for the love of her missing parent. Constantly comparing real life to life in the movies, Susanna speculates that her grandfather "invented the happy American family and put it into the movies to drive everyone crazy."
Robinson wrote two more novels, Doctor Rocksinger and the Age of Longing and Star Country, in which she tells the tale of the daughter of an old Hollywood family trying to buy back a studio that her family once ran. Joanne Wilkinson in Booklist said that in Star Country Robinson managed "to communicate her deep love for L.A." despite a plot that was "overwrought." Wilkinson also noted that "Robinson . . . delivers the goods for fans of flashy melodrama."
Robinson returned to her forte with the memoir Past Forgetting: My Memory Lost and Found. This time, Robinson had a real-life plot device right out of the movies. After suffering a massive seizure from undiagnosed epilepsy, she wakes up in a hospital with amnesia. Robinson does not even recognize her husband dutifully sitting at her bedside. In the book Robinson recounts the many episodes involved as she recovers. At first she slowly regains pieces of her memory, with her childhood life in 1944 Los Angeles coming back the clearest. She still does not remember that her parents are dead, however, or that the children she remembers have grown. Nevertheless she uses clues from these memories and from photos to start piecing her life together. In one instance she calls up an old childhood friend from grade school to see if he remembers her. The friend, actor Robert Redford, does remember her, and the two meet to reminisce about childhood. Eventually Robinson returns to writing, a task doctors never thought she would perform again. In Booklist, reviewer Marlene Chamberlain said that "Robinson provides a colorful, sometimes frightening roadmap of her efforts" and called the book "a particularly moving account." A contributor to Publishers Weekly called the tale "an unflinching account of amnesia and the terror of being a writer without memory." And Jonathen Lethem in a review forSalon.com called it "a gemlike, seductively readable and quietly moving memoir."
Robinson also teamed up with her husband Stuart Shaw to write a dual memoir, in which the husband and wife team tell of their meeting and finding love when they thought romance was gone forever from their lives. In the book, the authors employ the "his" and "her" points of view. Although some reviewers found the story dull, Melissa Hirschl, writing for Wrangler News in Tempe, Arizona, called it a "compelling" book that was "candid and insightful."
"I'm most unhappy when I'm not working," Robinson told Hirschl. "To me, doing work is like being in love. That's the way it is sometimes when you have a talent; you can't bear not to do it."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 10, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1979.
Best Sellers, November 1, 1963.
Booklist, July, 1996, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Star Country, p. 1805; October 15, 1999, Marlene Chamberlain, review of Past Forgetting: My Memory Lost and Found, p. 410.
Book Week December 22, 1963.
Harper, August, 1978.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2002, review of Falling in Love when You Thought You Were Through, p. 721.
Nation, April 22, 1978.
Newsweek, April 24, 1978.
New York Times Book Review, October 27, 1974; April 23, 1978.
Publishers Weekly, June 10, 1996, review of Star Country, p. 84; July 5, 1999, review of Past Forgetting: My Memory Lost and Found, p. 44; June 10, 2002, review of Falling in Love when You Thought You Were Through, p. 49.
Times Literary Supplement, September 22, 1978.
Washington Post, May 2, 1978.
Pif,http://www.pifmagazine.com (October 9, 2002), Emily Banner, review of Past Forgetting: My Memory Lost and Found.
Salon.com,http://www.salon.com (October 9, 2002), Jonathan Lethem, review of Past Forgetting: My Memory Lost and Found.
Wrangler News, (Tempe, Arizona), http://www.wranglernews.com (October 8, 2002), Melissa Hirschl, "Couple's 'How-To' Primer: Keeping the Spark of Romance Alive," August 17, 2001 issue.*