Valentines Day is the perfect day to celebrate love in all forms and today also marks the one year anniversary of The Candice Anne Marshall Show podcast! It was a Valentine’s Day themed event featuring both Golden Globe award winning actors Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting (aka: Romeo and Juliet from Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 verision of this timeless Shakespheare play). You can listen here. Today, I am celebrating the show’s anniversary (and Valentines Day!) with my book review on Olivia Hussey’s autobiography, The Girl On The Balcony , a candid and beautiful journey of her life from Romeo and Juliet to late 2017 when the book, a co-write with the actor’s son Alexander Martin, was completed.
I first saw Romeo and Juliet when I was a young and impressionable 14-year old girl – a film that changed my life and outlook on love forever. In my life, I have loved and lost more times than I can count: from family members to lovers, I have experienced the full gamut of heartbreak. There have been times when I have even questioned my own existence on this planet, especially following the loss of my mother in 2008 and a series of really hair-raising experiences with relationships after that. But, even through all the challenges and heartbreak, one thing’s for certain: I have never lost my faith in love and its power in changing the course of my life indefinitely. Romeo and Juliet, specifically, Olivia and Leonard, represented a literary giant in such a way that inspired me to turn away from what could have been a very dark, downward spiral of existence, to literally pouring myself into all the Shakespheare works – especially when I was at my lowest. For it was the hope in the tale of Romeo and Juliet which helped me to see light and the performances by Olivia and Leonard were believable enough to carry that glimmer of hope through those dark times…
Fast forward to 2018….
You see, late 2017, Olivia began following me on twitter after I tweeted out that the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli version of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ was my absolute favorite. I wrote that: ‘no one could ever replace she and Leonard Whiting’ in these prestigious roles. I began my research and found out that she was writing her autobiography! I immediately put in my media request to speak to her. By February 2018, I had interviews with both she and Leonard for my Valentine’s Day special on The Candice Anne Marshall Show (thanks to Olivia she connected me to Lynn and Leonard Whiting!). I was over the moon with excitement! Not only was I blown away at how fast it all came together, I was thrilled that these interviews were the launchpad for my very first podcast show as my own entity on web radio. And let’s not forget that 2018 marked the 50th anniversary of this epic film, the cherry on this beautiful cake!
This brings me to why I am writing this very important piece: In addition to the aforementioned events, Olivia also released her autobiography, ‘The Girl On The Balcony’ in late July 2018. A mutual friend and superfan, Ciro Morales (see photo below), was at Barnes & Noble in LA for the launch and was able to obtain a signed hardcover copy for me. By this point, I was elated!
The package was delivered within days direct to my front door and with trembling hands, I opened it. I mean, imagine your whole life looking up to these film icons and then opening a pandoras box into the very heart of the a woman whose singular performance was enough to leave a lasting impression on me for the next 34 years of my life? It was better than anything I could have hoped for. It was a journey I instinctively knew would be very much like my own. I was right.
The book was sealed in plastic, but there it was, right in front of me, the incredible journey of this beautiful soul. Our Juliet. I knew that People magazine had already begun posting about the book, but I didn’t read that. I wanted to have my own opinions. I opened the bag carefully and held the new treasure in my hands while thanking both Olivia and Ciro out loud for facilitating in me having a copy of this fine piece of literature. Kind of ironic how Olivia was the reason for me diving into literature to begin with, and here I held a book written in her own hand. Side note: Olivia’s son Alexander Martin (Grandson of the Great Dean Martin), co-wrote the book with her and he did a fantastic job compiling all the beautiful memories of Olivia’s life. He is an exceptional writer!
I opened it carefully and saw that it was inscribed with: ‘To Candice. I love you! Olivia Hussey’. ‘I love you too, Olivia’, I cried, tracing my fingers across the writing as though it were braille and that somehow, the magic of Olivia’s beautiful soul could be felt with my own fingertips. Yeah, maybe I’m weird that way, but these things mean a lot to me and this kind gesture meant the world. There’s much to be said in the penmanship and the intentions of the words we write down. I believe Olivia knows this too. Words are powerful.
I closed the book and placed it back in the protective plastic bag it arrived in and immediately downloaded the audio version of it (there was NO WAY I was going to ruin the spine!). Upon completion of the book, I found myself weeping uncontrollably at 3am on an early September morning. I had binge-listened to the final hours of the audio and it had ended right at the witching hour, (side note: my most creative and research-driven hours have always been in at that hour) and all that could come to me were tears. Uncontrollable, massive, nonstop, tears followed by accompanying emotions of: sadness, joy, and yet, oddly enough, completion. I thought: How could this woman have lived the same experiences I had in this life? How could our lives be so incredibly parallel? The answer is simple: we meet who we are meant to in this life, and Olivia (and this book) came at the perfect time into mine. I felt understood, calm, and peaceful. I then recorded a message to her right then and there that I emailed promptly afterwards. It couldn’t wait. She needed to hear the blubbering mess I was and that her words, her life, her experiences….touched me profoundly. She needed to know that the impact of her words affected me in such an ‘aha moment’ kind of way.
My Review | The Girl On The Balcony
Fast forward to February 13th, 2019….
I do hope you can forgive me for this being so late Olivia, but I found it difficult to formulate the right words to do justice to this incredible book. You see, when you come to a place of acceptance and forgiveness of and for past experiences in your life (good or bad), you also come to a place of peace and tranquility. Sometimes, when ‘reliving’ those esperiences through anothers eyes, it can leave you speechless for a time while you reflect. So, here is my synopsis:
This book speaks about such incredible wisdom, insight, reflection, self-empowerment, courage, and strength that many of us experience on a daily basis and I find that the most beautiful part of it was not just the individual who lived this life, but that it was someone I had looked up to all of mine and reading about her authentic experiences (relatable to the every day woman) made her that much more dear to me. Looking past the celebrity lifestyle and connections (including Olivia’s experience meeting the Queen!), there is humility, grace, and forgiveness woven throughout this book and at the heart of it, a very personable, authentic, and loving woman we all know as, Olivia Hussey.
Olivia and Alexander peel back the veil that so often surrounds ‘celebrity life’ and expose the raw, life-pulsating heart of a real person with real-life challenges and triumphs. And I suppose that’s one of the (many) reasons I fell in love with both Olivia and Leonard so many years ago: they came onto the scene authentically playing the part of real people at an age where most of us are just beginning to discover our sexuality and place in society. To have lived beyond that kind of early fame and success, it’s challenges as a celebrity, and it’s sweet spots and still manage to keep some semblance of balance with children, career, death, cancer, bankruptcy, and relationships for years to come as a ‘normal person’ leaves me completely in awe.
And for all it’s shocking truths and delightful discoveries, there’s a familiarity in this story which resonate with my own: that Olivia’s fiery temperance, passionate and compassionate nature, resilience, and grace under pressure lead her to exactly to the place in life where I am now: peace.
And that’s a great place to be.
And now, I will settle in and watch ‘Romeo and Juliet’ once more, as I do every year for Valentines Day. x
Olivia, you will always be ‘The Girl On The Balcony’ to me, but now I see you as someone infinitely more dear: a friend. You opened your heart and inner circle to me and for that I will be not only be forever grateful, but a forever friend, too. Your experiences in life and vulnerability in sharing them with the world make you the heroine in this story and I will always admire this in you. The rest of us can only aspire to be half the woman you are.
Alexander, it couldn’t have been easy capturing the emotion behind your mothers experience with your fathers passing. I applaud your courage in re-telling this incredibly sensitive subject while maintaining focused on your mothers life journey as a whole. It is an incredibly well-written piece! I do hope this isn’t the last I see of your writing! Perhaps your own autobiography? Thank you in for helping to facilitate in my interview with your mother last January. I would love to invite you to my podcast show in the near future because I believe your story is equally as great.
The Girl on the Prairies,
Candice Anne Marshall
Listen to the Podcast Episode 1 ft. Olivia Hussey & Leonard Whiting for The Candice Anne Marshall Show Valentine’s Day special podcast (here).
You can purchase ‘The Girl On The Balcony (here) or at select Barnes & Noble Book Stores.
Get Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting their much deserved stars on Hollywood Boulevard’s ‘Walk of Fame’!
Note: Both Ciro Morales and myself have been actively working on getting all 1000 signatures on this petition to get Olivia and Leonard’s stars on Hollywood Boulevard. There are only 375 left to go! Please sign here and share this everywhere.