Middle of the Rainbow by Bonnie Bartlett Daniels

L-R: Bonnie Bartlett as Myrtle and Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill in Better Call Saul - Season 3, Episode 9. Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television.

Emmy Award-winning actress Bonnie Bartlett Daniels opens up about life, work, and her marriage in Middle of the Rainbow.

It isn’t just that the actress opens up about her life but she speaks rather bluntly about everything. I’ve read a number of memoirs through the years but there’s something about this one that feels particularly different. It’s not often that I pick up a book and read about an actor’s meetings with their psychologist. And yet, Bartlett Daniels sprinkles in such sessions throughout her book.

Middle of the Rainbow: How a Wife, Mother and Daughter Managed to Find Herself and Win Two Emmys by Bonnie Bartlett Daniels
Middle of the Rainbow: How a Wife, Mother and Daughter Managed to Find Herself and Win Two Emmys by Bonnie Bartlett Daniels. Courtesy of BearManor Media.

If you’re an actor or aspiring actor and interested in learning from Lee Strasberg, this is definitely a book that I recommend. Daniels studied with Strasberg in his private classes and spent plenty of time hanging out at his home over the years. Many acting teachers might teach their own particular method of acting but Bonnie Bartlett Daniels doesn’t view Strasberg as the teacher of “any particular method.” In fact, she writes that the acting teachers “had different ideas about acting that they strongly believed in and that is what they tried to teach their students.” She writes about some of the exercises in classes, including “sense memory.” Daniels says that “sense memory” is the most important. However, “affective memory” is the “most complicated tool.”

The Emmy winner writes in-depth of her experience with Strasberg. It is not only the classes or hanging out at the home. In fact, she even writes about her husband disagreeing with Strasberg’s approach. There was much resistance at first. Keep in mind that William Daniels grew up as a child actor and had lots of experience. Eventually, he would come to change his attitude with Strasberg’s teachings.

Starting on page 105, Daniels writes about meeting the late Marilyn Monroe. Monroe the myth has become bigger than Monroe the person through the years. But in reading this chapter, one really gets an idea of who Marilyn Monroe was like as a person–something one really cannot get from watching a biopic. That Strasberg saw Marilyn Monroe’s potential as an actress says something about her talent. Daniels writes the following about Marilyn’s image on the screen:

Marilyn seldom looked or acted like “Marilyn.” She had created this amazing creature for the movies, sexy and funny, and I think she felt stuck with it…She was a great comedienne but also gave us a glimpse of her dramatic talents when she gave a poetic and moving performance in a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire.

Next to writing about work, Bonnie Bartlett Daniels writes about her childhood memories. She gets rather personal and blunt here about experiencing abuse in her life. It’s not easy to read but I have to tip my cap for opening up about it. She grew up in an era in which people did not discuss it.  It isn’t just her father acting inappropriately but there were other people in her life–and the business–acting inappropriately. Almost as soon as the book begins, the actress is writing about getting raped while Bill Daniels was touring on the road. Nobody should ever be on the receiving end of sexual abuse or sexual assault.

Not surprisingly, there are a lot of pages about her marriage to Bill Daniels. They’ve been married for over 70 years but it hasn’t always been an easy road. At times, they were on the verge of divorce. Communication with each other is a key to their relationship. The actress also writes about being a mother and how it also hurt to lose a child. A few years after their children were born, Bill started thinking of moving to Los Angeles. Bonnie wasn’t ready for this but it was the change of scenery that Bill needed. Working in TV and film meant not having to perform every day on stage at the theater. It’s a lot of pressure for any actor but the change also meant being there for his family and spending more time with them.

In reading Middle of the Rainbow by Bonnie Bartlett Daniels, on feels the catharsis coming through on every page. One can only imagine the healing that Bonnie Bartlett Daniels found while writing the book. I’ve read a number of memoirs through the years but this one is different because of how blunt it is in writing from the heart.

Middle of the Rainbow: How a Wife, Mother and Daughter Managed to Find Herself and Win Two Emmys is available in bookstores.

Please subscribe to Solzy at the Movies on Substack.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.