on April 21, 2012
If you call yourself a friend of Frank Langella, try to outlive him so he can't write about you posthumously. Everyone he writes about comes off pathetic and/or emotionally or morally crippled. He himself is no prize---a boy toy for famous older women, even after he's no longer a boy.
So, did I hate the book? No. Reading it was akin to sitting in an audience and being unable to take your eyes off the villain who is delivering a flawless performance. His prose is intelligent and lean, even elegant at times, and he delivers his stories with hook, line, and sinker. The author is just not someone I'd choose to spend time with.
on May 19, 2013
I'm not sure what I hoped for when borrowing this book from the library, but this book does not deliver. The voice is snarky, clingy and desperate as Mr. Langella tells stories (i.e. writes 2-page sketches) of dead people who can't defend themselves. The only theme that I could find was the one of Langella desperately trying to prove his straight sexuality with a myriad of wives, girlfriends and lovers thrown into the "stories." I flipped through a few mean sketches and then dropped the book as quickly and easily as he dropped these dead names.
on July 23, 2012
Langella's huge ego gets in the way of this guarded book, which tells stories about dead famous people he supposedly knew. He rarely gives enough details in any story to make it interesting and uses much of it to look down upon names much bigger than his. He is downright mean at times. How he thinks he's greater than Paul Newman and Charlton Heston we'll never know, but he says they can't act (despite their Academy Awards).
There are almost no self-revelations here, carefully preserving Langella's privacy so we never know most of the "companions" that he mentions in the stories (though he does claim to conquer Elizabeth Taylor in a cringe-inducing chapter). He isn't afraid to repeat rumors but there is little salacious here--it's most dull drive-by encounters with celebrities. Marilyn Monroe? He saw her get out of a car. John F. Kennedy? He was at a luncheon with the president and said two sentences to him. Princess Diana? Um...he never actually knew her, but that doesn't stop him from writing a chapter about her!
There are a few interesting tidbits but it's so poorly written (those who say it's well written must like theatrical Shakespeare-style language), with walls up to make sure Langella doesn't reveal too much of himself, that it ends up being a trifle. It's not really a memoir but more a chance for him to make himself look good by associating himself with those who are much more famous or interesting than he is.
on March 28, 2012
Although I am 53 now and was familiar with most of the people wrote of, there are some I vaguely remembered from watching older movies. As I read this with my laptop at hand I looked up the people I was unfamiliar with, for some reason I had to have a face to recollect them. I want to thank you Mr. Langella for a fun and entertaining read. Our perception, well my perception from a personal view is you think as you watch Actors over the years in interviews you kinda get the feeling for people. This book showed me how totally wrong I was. What a vast difference I have now. How fun and what an exciting life you've had
and the wonderful per chance meetings of fascinating people. I'd say your life was truly blessed with wonderful memories and boy the stuff you remember in such detail. Anyways I'm babbling, this book was so fun and entertaining I laughed, was truly surprised at some things and was very saddened by some things also. It's a fantastic quick and very I believe honest and thoughtful book. Thanks again.
on October 6, 2012
By writing this book, Frank Langella reveals himself to be as much a vampire as his most famous characterization of Dracula. He writes of the arrogance, boorishness and self-delusion of many people who have passed on, essentially feeding his ego (and bank account) by his thoughts and feelings of them. What if he were to take a good look in a mirror? What would he see? Oh, I forgot! Vampires cast no reflection!
Now that the Spider-Man franchise has been restarted, Mr. Langella would be perfect for the arch-villain, The Vulture - picking at scraps from the dead.
on April 18, 2012
Celeb books are not my thing, but a review reeled me in on this one, and it will be the last.
The book starts off charmingly enough, the writing professional and lively (making me suspect ghost writer), so the Kindle sample lured me in. After that, it was all sex all the time for a while, before it took me from one sad and depressing celeb deathbed to another. I'm about his age, so I really didn't need that.
The author seems almost singlemindedly obsessed with sex in all its varieties, and he's quick to tell us about others' sexual dalliances and preferences but keeps playing coy about his own encounters. And, Frankly, unlike other customers who said they want a real autobiography, I don't even care,
He manages to trash as airheads two of the most handsome men Hollywood has known -- Cary Grant and Paul Newman -- leading me to think that with Frank's other obsession besides sex, good looks -- there was more than a little envy there. And, did he find Newman such a crashing bore because he seems to have been such a straight-arrow guy, married to one woman for so long, contrary to Hollywood tradition?
on April 15, 2012
So, there I was at the bookstore recently, mulling over a breakup, $4 coffee in hand, hovering around the mystery, classics, and, yes, even self-improvement sections, when I finally abandoned my search, frustrated that nothing spoke to my mood. (The Dungeons and Dragons aficionado air drumming with sound effects to his less-than-comfortable girlfriend didn't help.) I wandered past a table of books, and there beckoned Frank Langella's memoir, appropriately titled "Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them." A thin volume, it promised light escape, which is what I probably really wanted. Some stories of Hollywood royalty, a little trivia to liven up a future conversation. I like Langella and have since his turn as James Bond with fangs in "Dracula." I like him even more as he ages, as his sonorous "voice of doom" fits his physical presence -- he would make a good Blofeld if they ever brought the character back to 007 movies -- yet he has been careful to choose roles that stretch his acting chops. Not surprisingly, I was expecting something along the lines of a classy reflection of encounters with pop culture elite. Surprisingly, that ain't what I got. While reading most of the entries, I kept hearing Bart Simpson's voice in my head snickering, "He's such a bitch!" Let me say this: Langella can write . . . or at least he's got a good editor or ghost writer. The prose is crisp and engaging, no doubt. The observations are provocative. But to say he "dishes" would be understatement. At times, it felt like Langella had assumed another role, that of Hedda Hopper or even J.J. Hunsecker, the fictitious SOB gossip columnist brought infamously to life by Burt Lancaster in "The Sweet Smell of Success." At other times, it felt like straightforward character assassination. I don't doubt Langella's veracity, not least because there are photos that certainly back up a lot of what he describes. But there is too much glee in the way he not only kills some of their reputations but also comes back to piss on the graves. It's obvious from the anecdotes that Langella has complex feelings toward people -- as much as he wants to like Paul Newman, for instance, he just can't get past the fact that the man was, in his words, a "bore" -- but it also seems obvious that the more attracted he is to the subject, the more positively they tend to be described all around. It's a rhetorical game anyone can play. Let's say we like Langella. We could describe him as a remarkable presence, fit, dignified, magnetic -- a Roman statue come to life. Or if we don't, we could declare his features Reptilian, sum him up as a man with a voice like being smothered in a flour sack, and with a small brain pan and a Herman Munster-esque physique. See how easy that is? Read enough of the book and you'll find any number of celebrities get the treatment: Richard Burton, Charlton Heston, Ricardo Montalban, Cary Grant -- even Roddy McDowell is a pretentious gigolo murdering the arts. The women come across slightly better if they were paramours, like the pill-dependent Elizabeth Taylor or the MILF-y Rita Hayworth, and significantly worse if they were not, especially Anne Bancroft, who makes Mrs. Robinson seem like freaking Julie Andrews spinning atop a mountain. I'm not sure why men get so much more attention, but Langella also plays a game of "Is he or isn't he?" as he recounts his often salacious observations, pointing out for instance that in his view Newman did not have a particular attractive derriere or his being flattered, maybe even tempted, by Noel Coward's advances. Given that so much of what connects the anecdotes is the promise of easy sex in an industry that peddles flesh, the great amount of insinuation is irritating. It's not because I need to know Langella's sexual orientation - that's his business and doesn't change how I view him - but in a book that splays out the inner workings and confidentialities of so many long-gone celebrities, the fuzziness about himself makes Langella again less than admirable. It seems unfair. Perhaps I am being unfair; perhaps I need to give the book a second read to see if it is as rabid as it was the first time. Perhaps the celebrities in the crosshairs deserve it. But I really don't want to. And to me, that's the biggest failing of a technically well-crafted book. As with a dead horse, beating a dead celebrity too has its limits.