Actor Frank Langella’s powers of observation lend the odd brief profiles in “ Dropped Names” substance and richness. Dropped NamesFamous Men and Women As I Knew ThemFrank LangellaHarper: pp., $Frank Langella’s “Dropped Names” is a. The Juiciest Bits From Frank Langella’s Celebrity-Leveling Memoir “Dropped Names”. “All actors are angry babies”: Langella. (Courtesy Getty.
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‘Dropped Names’ by Frank Langella dishes on fellow actors: Review – latimes
But in the film Looking for Richardthe star’s exploration of Shakespeare’s Richard III, that’s how he refers to Frank Langella, who originally signed on to play Clarence in that picture but apparently couldn’t take the production’s meandering discussion process for each scene. A Tony Award winning stage veteran and accomplished character actor on film, Mr. Langella after an apparently congenial first meeting with Laurence Olivier, who played Van Helsing to the author’s cinematic Dracula.
Langella as a bit of a predator himself, as he makes his career elbowing his way through a succession of encounters with big names in and out of show business, from JFK to Elizabeth Taylor. At one point, Olivier tells him, ” Particularly when playing Chekhov. So much more thrilling than giving a Star Performance. Langella states, “I did not believe or agree with him then, and time has not in the least altered my opinion.
Honesty is a notable feature of this book, which intrepidly names names as it cycles through the mostly unflattering features of the many deceased luminaries its author has encountered on his climb through show business. You’ll get to savor Richard Burton’s boorishness, Elizabeth Taylor’s desperation, Anthony Quinn’s egotism, Lee Strasberg’s megalomania, Rita Haworth’s desperate struggle with Alzheimer’s and Elia Kazan’s penchant for sexual manipulation.
And that’s only a handful of the sixty-some names Mr. Langella drops, not all so witheringly. The author forthrightly puts himself in the wrong in his interactions with the gentle Deborah Kerr, and he pays touching tribute to his friendship with Raul Julia. His chapter on Alan Bates, with whom he appeared so brilliantly on Broadway in Fortune’s Foolis the most moving tribute to the camaraderie between actors that I have ever read; as a bonus you get Lauren Bacall’s amusingly apposite one-word review and I speak as a great fan of the show.
A good chunk of the book is quite friendly, with respectful recollections of Al Hirschfeld, George C. Stapleton debunks in her own memoirsHume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, and others.
But it is all supremely gossipy, and if you enjoy showbiz gossip, as I do, you might react as I did in childhood when I discovered you could get a pack of Life Savers that consisted of all red ones. Even if you blanche at Mr.
Langella is a creature of the theater through and through; at a party featuring the Kennedys, it is the presence of Coward that gives him the most exciting surprise. If the author is disarmingly frank about, say, Anne Bancroft’s temperament and his own unflattering opinion of Ricardo Montalban, he can also be unsettlingly coy about something else. Langella, who was a true beauty in his youth and looks damn good in his seventies has a marriage behind him, a couple of children and several affairs with women including a famous one with Whoopi Goldberg that goes unmentioned in Dropped Names.
But as several of the memoir’s gay characters circle around his charismatic young self, Mr. Langella leaves flirtatiously open the possibility that he played both sides of the street. Other than that, if the book has a flaw, it is being a bit too much of a muchness; the problem of an all-red pack of Lifesavers is that you find yourself, surprisingly, getting sick of the same flavor, however much it saves you the trouble of making others eat the orange and green ones.
You might feel like you’ll throw this book through a window if you read one more recollection of Mr. Langella stoically fending off the clingy attentions of one more faded movie star.
The author is a terrific actor, and he permits himself an occasional serious observation about his craft; I could have used more. I would also have liked a more interesting look into his mind than simply knowing that he refused to applaud Elia Kazan droppsd the Oscars and didn’t vote for George W.
Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them
fgank Bush; such facts don’t exactly distinguish him in the entertainment world. I was intrigued by the thoughts on family that briefly emerge in his deathbed colloquy with Dominic Dunne, and was sorry to see them duck back undercover so quickly. Nonetheless, Dropped Names is an undeniable pleasure, one you may be tempted to devour too quickly.
But, unlike a hunk of chocolate mousse cake, it’ll still be there for you to taste again and again in the future, as you’ll surely want to. I know I will.
March 27, List Price: