This Is Your Captain Speaking is not a typical actor’s memoir, so I was pleasantly surprised when I purchased this autobiography for a quarter at a used bookstore. The title is derived from Gavin MacLeod’s popular role as the captain on the 1970s television show The Love Boat. Interestingly, MacLeod dedicates the book “to the Captain of my life, who came that I might have life and have it abundantly.”
I first saw Gavin MacLeod as Big Chicken, a drug pusher, on my favorite television show, Hawaii Five-O. Once I knew who he was, I noticed several guest roles he played in other television shows, the most familiar being The Andy Griffith Show. In all these, he was the same character: always a “bad guy.” Several years later I was stunned to see him in the Christian film, Timechanger, where he played a Bible professor. Having seen him in this role, I naturally assumed he was a Christian, but I had no idea how profound his story is.
MacLeod was raised Catholic but rejected that faith when he was older. His father was an alcoholic, and he, unfortunately, was an alcoholic for a brief period in his life. MacLeod married his first wife at twenty-four years old, and they later divorced because of his drinking. He remarried, and once again, divorced. However, his circumstances were different, for his second wife, Patti, became a Christian. At the same time, MacLeod found out his mother had a brain cyst and could die in surgery. That morning, he prayed that if God would let him see his mother one last time, he would give his life to Him. Then, he contacted Patti, and they soon remarried. (Read the book to find out the rest!)
His entire life changed; MacLeod didn’t want to be the “bad guy” anymore but instead use his fame to be a testimony for Christ. Indeed, because he is famous, Gavin MacLeod exerts a strong influence over his audiences. After being saved, MacLeod had the unique opportunity to witness to a dying friend, Ted Knight, whom he had co-starred with on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Both Knight and his wife were saved as a result of MacLeod’s testimony.
In addition to his captivating story of faith, the principal component of MacLeod’s book is, of course, his life in Hollywood. MacLeod loves trivia on actors and filmmaking, and he relates much in his autobiography. Did you know Raymond Burr raised orchids? Or that Julie Andrews was married to her husband, Blake Edwards, for forty-one years, until his death? I love interesting trivia as well, so this book appealed to me even more. Yet the most unique thing about Gavin MacLeod as an actor is that even when he plays a villain, viewers still like him. He confesses this oddity in his book: “It’s a strange thing, and I say this not to be boastful but because I’ve never understood exactly what it is about me that makes audiences react this way: even when I’m playing a really terrible character, there’s something about me that audiences still like” (51).
The accomplishments of Gavin MacLeod are incredible. He has known two US presidents, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and worked with famous actors such as Cary Grant and Marilyn Monroe. But what is more incredible is his testimony: “My greatest wish, though, is that whoever reads my story will walk away at the end with a smile. And maybe, just maybe, there’s something to be found in my journey—especially my journey of faith—that will help give someone a little bit of hope. Maybe even change someone’s life for the better.” Many of you have probably never heard of Gavin MacLeod and are wondering, “Why should I read this book?” I admit I’m biased—I am a big fan of Gavin MacLeod as an actor—but as writers, I think it is important to see the impact one man can have on the world. I recommend this book to teens and adults alike, and I believe that if you do read it, your life will be changed for the better.
Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including her cats, Prince and Harley; dog, Lady; and two fish, Minnie and Gilligan. She is a homeschool student and enjoys math, playing the piano, reading, and writing plays.