'Star Struck' by Leonard Maltin is a fun read for film fans

NEW YORK -- If Leonard Maltin was a professional musician, you would have to call him a child prodigy.

Maltin's love of movies began as a child in our area. He was born in Manhattan and grew up in Teaneck where, encouraged by his parents, he began his career at the age of 9.

He wrote his first film reviews in the 5th grade and signed his first book contract at the age of 17.

Maltin spent decades as a movie reviewer on "Entertainment Tonight," dispensing wisdom like this from 1985: "There's two ways to look at a movie: emotionally and intellectually. A really great movie grabs you on both levels."

So true, but the guy who grew up to interview so many stars never expected to become famous.

"Everything about it was a surprise," Maltin said. "I never aimed at a television career. I never strived for that. It happened quite by chance."
It happened in the early 1980s shortly after E.T. started when a producer for the show saw Maltin on the "Today Show" promoting one of his books.

His guide to movies on TV, updated regularly, became a bestselling book in the pre-internet age. His latest is a memoir titled: "Star Struck: My Unlikely Road to Hollywood."

When asked how he chose that title, he replied, "Well, because that's how I feel, Sandy. It's how I've felt from the very beginning."

The beginning of the story came when the future film reviewer was just 4 years old and watched "Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs" in a Manhattan theater.

Later, he sat transfixed by the comedies of "Laurel and Hardy," "The Three Stooges," and "Our Gang" on television.

"TV in the early days was a living museum of movies," Maltin said. "This was nirvana to me. This was where I wanted to be. This is what I wanted to know more about, and that was unusual."

At just 13 years of age, Maltin published his own magazine from his bedroom in Teaneck, New Jersey.

"I think about how lucky I was that I had parents who encouraged what I did," he said.

His publication was called "Film Fan Monthly." He started writing to people and was surprised to hear back from several of them.

"Imagine being a kid and writing to the creator of 'Bullwinkle' and getting a letter back on embossed Bullwinkle stationary," he said.
Maltin was 16 when he first appeared on TV with the legendary New York talk show host Joe Franklin. That same year he met his first star, Ginger Rogers. She was to be the first of so many.

"Once I was on a major national television show, doors opened that wouldn't have been open otherwise," he said.

He was a young man when the legends from Hollywood's Golden Age were aging and very appreciative of his interest in their careers.

"Star Struck" is a fun read for film fans, but it's also a story of how a young guy from our area used all that NYC has to offer and a lot of what used to be called 'moxie' to ensure a wonderful life for himself.

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