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Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them Paperback – April 2, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


“Splendid. . . . As much a memoir as a primer on the vicissitudes of an actor’s life, the book is a collage based on real-life situations that offer touching insights into stars like Rita Hayworth, and into the practical magic that informs Langella’s signature sensibility.” (The New Yorker)

“Rarely have I read a book about celebrities that is as insightful, candid, revealing, and as well-written as this one. Frank Langella’s memoir is not the usual author’s ego trip, but rather his remembrances of the many accomplished men and women that he has come to know.” (Gay Talese, author of A Writer's Life)

“A delightfully unabashed page-turner about people we wish we had known in the throes of work, love, and growing old.” (A.R. Gurney, award-winning playwright)

“Engaging. . . .Not just Langella’s “famous people I have known,” but a heartfelt love letter to the theater and to the days when stars were stars, not merely celebrities.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Dropped Names is a sizzling platter of stellar vignettes—pungent, for sure, but poignant too. . . . Mr. Langella is surgically precise, and eloquent. . . . The human condition in most of its vagaries is beautifully rendered between these pages.” (Liz Smith)

“ If Frank Langella’s memoir simply did what its title promises, it would be deep-dish gossip. But his memories of the stars he’s encountered during a lengthy career on Broadway and in film shed perceptive light on the costs of pursuing and maintaining fame.” (Detroit Free Press)

“Langella’s uncommonly eloquent book is enjoyable for the panoply of great names who turn up. . . . A natural raconteur, he seems to fit precisely Henry James’s famous description of the novelist as one ‘on whom nothing is lost.’” (New York Times)

“Frank Langella’s DROPPED NAMES is a different kind of memoir. . . . Not many of his peers could write such an eloquently dishy book.” (Los Angeles Times)

“The 65 chapters in this satisfyingly scandalous memoir paint Broadway and Hollywood as teeming with vulgar, neurotic and irresistible company, and Langella as relentlessly affable in the face of nonstop groping by celebrities in far-flung locations.” (Paperback Row, New York Times)

From the Back Cover

Captured forever in a unique memoir, Broadway and film star Frank Langella's myriad encounters with some of the past century's most famous human beings are profoundly affecting, funny, wicked, sometimes shocking, and utterly irresistible. With sharp wit and a perceptive eye, Mr. Langella takes us with him into the private worlds and privileged lives of movie stars, presidents, royalty, literary lions, the social elite, and the greats of the Broadway stage.

How did Mr. Langella terrify a dozing Jackie Onassis? Why did he streak for Sir Laurence Olivier in an English castle? What led Elizabeth Taylor to wrap him in her pashmina scarf? Why did the Queen Mother need Mr. Langella's help? And what did Marilyn Monroe say to him that helped change the course of his life?

Through these shared experiences, we learn something, too, of Mr. Langella's personal journey from the age of fifteen to the present day. Like its author—and its subjects—Dropped Names is simply riveting and unforgettable.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (April 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062094491
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062094490
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (412 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #617,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Frank Langella has been a professional actor for over five decades and hopes to carry on for several more. He began performing as a boy in his hometown of Bayonne, New Jersey, and currently resides in New York City. This is his first book.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

81 of 88 people found the following review helpful By AudreyLM on March 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I downloaded Mr. Langella's memoir on Audible so had the immense pleasure of hearing him read his own words. Growing up in NY in the 60s and 70s I was treated to a Broadway show on every birthday and adored Frank Langella in Dracula on my 17th. I was eager to learn more about him and now I have, but oh how much more I've received from this exquisite, wry, utterly revealing look at so many legendary actors, many at the sometimes tragic ends of their lives. Among my favorites are his reminiscences of Raul Julia (Two Gentlemen from Verona was another birthday treat) and Abe Hirschfeld still hard at work at age 99 (who once so kindly wrote back to me explaining that Nina was his "red-haired daughter" in response to my query at age 12). It brought back Sunday mornings fighting over who got to read Section Two of the Times first. Mr. Langella is honest, sometimes brutally, about these individuals and about himself, keenly insightful and ultimately deeply compassionate. This book is a brilliant historical document of New York theater in the 20th century, and much more. I had to pause often as I listened to add names to the list of people to whom I will send this book, and the list continues to grow.
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95 of 110 people found the following review helpful By Mark R. Trost on March 27, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought this book this morning and inhaled it in two sittings. It's a fascinating read provided by a good solid writer.

I do not read autobiographies. Hell, age has taught me that history is written by gossips. And autobiographies are read through rose-colored glasses and written with hubristically hued pens. But Langella's title intrigued me. He hooked me with his preface. We experience his stories through his eyes but not from his perspective. He is the pupil - not the reader. I don't know more about Langella than I did before I read his remembrances. I've learned about his mentors. He doesn't mention them as much as he dissects them. He masterfully creates a mosaic of moving memories. His subjects are the stuffs of legends. There is a reason their names are the marques of his chapters. When I finished the book I felt entertained yet strangely saddened. Many of these names have faded and will soon be forgotten. It's good to have them set into a worthy work.

Langella's bio suggests this is his foray into a career evolution. Good. The man can write. I look forward to my next read.
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60 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Barry Sparks VINE VOICE on April 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I decided to purchase this book after reading Frank Langella's touching portrait of Rita Hayworth which was excerpted in Newsweek. What a splendid surprise. Langella, 74, a star of stage and screen for 40 years, writes about 66 celebrities he has known.

At first, they don't seem to be arranged in any particular order, but Langella points out in the preface that they appear according to the date they died. The pieces range from two pages to 16 pages (Liz Taylor). Most are 4-5 pages.

Many of the pieces are poignant and sad. Much of the sadness comes from people thinking they're still stars when their time has passed. Langella is perceptive, sensitive and honest. Langella is a fine writer, one who can paint a picture and turn a phrase. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Here are some of his observations of famous people he has known:

Lee Strasberg: Cruel and rather ridiculous demigod; arrogant and insufferable.

Rita Hayworth: One of God's lost souls; She is the single most tragic example of how far from the real person an image can be; From the moment I met her, she haunted my imagination.

Tony Perkins: A book with such a beautiful cover on whose pages were most likely written crippling and indelible words of shame and guilt.

Dinah Shore: An extraordinary example of what a woman can accomplish without a man and still retain her femininity; a person of soft Southern demeanor, full of integrity and honest curiosity.

Jackie Kennedy Onassis: Not shy but canny; skilled in the art of mystery and allure; someone for whom money was an aphrodisiac.

Raul Julia: Defined real masculinity.

Ida Lupino: Needed to be loved and nurtured.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on October 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Langella's actor/theatre cronies and friends among the 1% (with very few exceptions) were self-centered narcissists, according to this tell-all. No surprise, as this seems to be the typical personality type of many in this business. But by the end of the book, it was pretty obvious that Langella loved/hated them because he was just like them. A few amusing stories sprinkled in, but mostly a slog through the aging vanity of those who, when not on stage, were either bores or obnoxious a**holes.

Most telling - his dismissal of Paul Newman's talent, to quote: "(he) wanted, I believe, to be thought of as a great actor. He wasn't." and "As beautiful as he was, he personally had very little sex appeal." Sounds like the musing of someone who is unable to disguise his jealousy.

Langella should have waited until after his own death to publish this one. Almost too depressing to finish.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By MoiW on April 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I love Frank Langella's work. I've been watching him in for years and enjoying almost every thing I've ever seen him in. I've rarely been disappointed even watching the films he calls "crap" in this book. He has a habit of taking trash and turning it into something worth watching and when he does something worthy of him? He's amazing, and of course there's the unmistakable voice. Unforgettable. I could cheerfully listen to the man read a grocery list and probably enjoy it.

When I head he'd written a memoir I thought. "Okay, finally I'll get to know the person behind the actor." But that's not what happened with this book. I got his viewpoint all right. I got to know who he loved, who he dislikes, to whom he remains indifferent. But I got to know very little about Frank Langella, the man, and despite the fact that I enjoyed the read, and the viewpoints, at the end of the book I was left feeling a bit flat.

I'm hoping he does write another book. But if he does? I want to hear more about HIM and less about he's met. As name dropping tomes this one is amusing, I can almost hear his voice in my head talking reading it and of course his love of his profession comes shining through, but at the end I knew practically nothing more about the writer and the man than I could have gleaned from reading a few well chosen interviews over the course of his career and that's kind of sad because I think, just from what I've read here that Frank Langella has likely led one h-ll of a life on his own. Gee, I'd really love to hear more about it and HIM sometime. This book I read and I enjoyed, but I'm still waiting on a real auto bio from Frank Langella....

Oh and just in case the guy ever reads his reviews. On one point I'm afraid must firmly disagree.
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