Teri Garr's Story: 'Speedbumps' and Progress

Detail from the cover of Teri Garr's 'Speedbumps'

Detail from the cover of Teri Garr's Speedbumps. Penguin hide caption

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Actress Teri Garr is probably best known for her role in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein. She has also worked with other many other well-known directors in her varied career. Her first role was in Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation. She was in Stephen Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Sydney Pollack's Tootsie.

Before becoming an actress, Garr was a dancer, following in the footsteps of her mother, who was a Rockette. Garr danced in a number of Elvis Presley films, on the Sony and Cher Comedy Hour TV show, and on the show Shivaree.

In 2002, Garr was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis — a ruling that made sense of the symptoms that had plagued her for 20 years. Her new memoir is Speedbumps: Flooring It through Hollywood. The book was written with Henriette Mantel.

Read an excerpt from Speedbumps:

I was originally up for the principal female role in Young Frankenstein. Mel Brooks was directing. He had just finished Blazing Saddles, and was at the top of the comedy world.

Mel had picked me out of five hundred girls, but admitted that he was still trying to convince Madeline Kahn to take the lead role. After I auditioned three times, Madeline finally did decide to take the part of the fiancée.

I was crushed. I'd never come so close to getting a major part in a major movie. But then Mel told me that if I came back the next day with a German accent I could read for the part of Inga, Gene Wilder's buxom lab assistant.

A German accent in twenty-four hours? Luckily, I was still on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, and, as fate would have it, Cher's wig stylist was German. So, I sat in on Cher's hairstyling session (that gave me hours of study!) and emerged with a perfect German accent when saying, "Mein Gott, zis vig veighs forty pounds." That would translate to the script!

There was one last thing I needed for Inga. Or two, actually. I realized Inga's part was really all about the boobs, so the next day I went in to the audition wearing a bra stuffed with socks. People pay over five thousand dollars for a boob job today. Mine cost under five dollars at Woolworth's, and got me the part, my biggest to date.

I was thrilled. I'd been chosen by one of the best. My career was finally in motion.

I got to thinking that I should have stuffed my bra with socks for every audition.

Excerpted from Speedbumps by Teri Garr. Copyright 2005 by Teri Garr and Henrietta Mantel. Excerpted by permission of Hudson Street Press, a division of the Penguin Group. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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