Photo by Chris Mich

Prior to reading DiOrio’s biography on Bobby Darin, I knew only some of the essential tunes Darin contributed to pop music for all eternity. Namely, Darin’s American version of Charles Trenet’s La Mer. Darin fans know the tune as Beyond the Sea (1960).

And, of course, any Gen Xer would know the late 1980s McDonald's TV ad version of Darin’s 1959 single, Mack the Knife...

When I found this book at my favorite bookstore by the sea, I flipped through it to see if Darin starred in any films. He did. In fact, he was nominated for an Oscar for one. And so, I bought the book for this year’s summer #classicfilmreading challenge.

It’s difficult NOT to spoil a biography – since you can simply Google “Bobby Darin” and get the whole life story of the man born Walden Robert Cassotto. Bobby’s story, nonetheless, is a remarkable one due to many factors. The book’s author Al DiOrio, however, primarily uses Darin’s predicted short life – a diagnosis from doctors in his childhood – to frame Darin’s life and work. This seems like a logical choice but also a profoundly poignant one, too. For Al DiOrio himself passed away on the eve of his book’s publication after “a long and heroic battle with diabetes” (p. 11). The reader carries this knowledge of the author’s sickness and death as they read about Darin’s struggle from a secretive birth, four heart-damaging rheumatic fever attacks, and every subsequent health challenge that Darin faced. In light of DiOrio’s plight, Darin’s health challenges seem even more disheartening, even more tragic, and even more painful to the reader. This spills over into Darin’s artistic successes and failures that DiOrio sometimes renders with an almost melodramatic flair. Yet, I would imagine everything needs intense coloring when death is at your door.  

DiOrio, however, never loses track of Darin’s tenaciousness and ability to create art that will last more than a lifetime. He also chronicles friends, family, lovers, and wives. It’s all in there. It is a well-researched, meticulously-constructed telling of the life and death of Walden Robert Cassotto/Bobby Darin.

Since I didn’t even know Darin acted in films prior to picking up this book, I guess it will come as no surprise I haven’t seen any of his films yet. I did, however, add these three of his titles to my Letterboxd watchlist

John Cassavetes’s 1962 film, Too Late Blues, features Darin as a jazz musician who gets in trouble with the wrong girl. 

A film that Darin would refer to as "excrement" upon completion, Gunfight at Abilene (1967), also stars Leslie Nielsen (Forbidden Planet, The Poseidon Adventure, Airplane, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!) in a dramatic role. 

And, if I watch one of the worst Bobby Darin films, I guess I’ll have to watch the best. Darin was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Captain Newman, MD (1963).

Once I watch these films, I’ll post links to my Letterboxd reviews in the comments below. 

DiOrio did his best to keep his fanboy tendencies in check and tell the whole story. Fans of Darin who read this book must be ready to endure the ugliness of a tortured artist’s life. Darin had it all – starlet wives, a hand-made car with diamond dust coatings, and long-running shows in Vegas that stand alongside Sinatra and Elvis. He had personal demons, too. 

DiOrio balances wisdom and perspective that is truly his own and his alone. He spent his final days perfecting this truth-filled tribute and work of art.

Photo by Chris Mich

This post is an official entry in the 2023 Classic Film Reading Challenge. Special thanks to Out of the Past blogger Raquel Stecher for hosting the challenge and giving our blog a shout-out now and then. To join us in this summer fun endeavor, visit Raquel’s blog for more details


  1. Didn't get to any of the 3 films mentioned above but I did trip over a Bobby Darin performance as I chipped away at my Henry Mancini film list: THE MARSHALL OF MADRID (1972). Read my review of that film on Letterboxd:


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