February 25 2024


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From Sawdust to Stardust

By Jacqueline Bundy
Posted at January 31, 2005 - 7:27 PM GMT

Title: From Sawdust to Stardust: The Biography of DeForest Kelley, Star Trek's Dr. McCoy Author: Terry Lee Rioux Release Date: February 2005 Format: Trade Paperback ISBN: 0-7434-5762-5

When you finish reading a really well done biography, you are left feeling as if you have gotten to 'know' the subject of the book. As if you have not only gained insight into the person, but also the era in which they lived and the factors that helped shape their life. Based on that criterion, From Sawdust to Stardust: The Biography of DeForest Kelley, Star Trek's Dr. McCoy by Terry Lee Rioux is better than well done; it is excellent.

For most of us, when we think of DeForest Kelley, we think of "Bones" McCoy but Jackson DeForest Kelley already had over 20 years in Hollywood under his belt before Gene Roddenberry tapped him to play the crusty southern doctor on Star Trek. Terry Lee Rioux traces that career through its ups and downs, all the while building a portrait of a gentle, caring man of deep beliefs and strong convictions. Meticulous research and countless hours of interviews with numerous friends and collegues who were close to the Kelley's have enabled Rioux to provide a revealing narrative that is rich with previously unknown details about DeForest Kelley's life and career.

Despite his humble beginnings in Conyers, Georgia, De Kelley had big dreams. He took his first steps toward realizing those dreams as a member of the Long Beach Community Players and gradually learned his craft under the ever looming shadow of war. His service in World War II, his marriage to Carolyn, the years of struggle as a contract player at Paramount and the failure of the studio system are all covered in the first two parts of the four parts that make up the book.

A fortune teller once predicted that De's real success would come after he turned 40, and indeed DeForest Kelley was contemplating retirement when Roddenberry came calling. At 46 years of age he reported for work on Star Trek on May 23, 1966 hoping the show would last the seven episodes he had contracted for. The rest, as they say, is history.

From Sawadust to Stardust is not your typical Hollywood biography. It is an impressive piece of scholarship and writing that has broad appeal beyond the obvious allure it will hold for Star Trek fans. Inspirational and moving, it is an outstanding portrait of a true gentleman, Jackson DeForest Kelley, the kind of person you would be proud to know, and if you read From Sawdust to Stardust, you will 'know' DeForest Kelley.

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Jacqueline Bundy reviews Star Trek books for the Trek Nation, writes monthly columns for the TrekWeb newsletter and the Star Trek Galactic News, and hosts the Yahoo Star Trek Books Group weekly chat.

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