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Hellraisers: The Life and Inebriated Times of Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O'Toole, and Oliver Reed Hardcover – December 8, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 286 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1 edition (December 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312553994
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312553999
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 6.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #552,560 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Show business biographer Sellers (The Battle for Bond) chronicles the booze-soaked lives of four of the stage and screen's most bombastic performers. Welsh Burton (1925–1984), Irish-born Harris (1930–2002), Irish-born and English-raised O'Toole (born 1932) and English Reed (1937–1999) gave some of the 20th century's most memorable performances, but were equally famous for their offscreen antics. Except for Reed, their careers began on the British stage, before all four were lured to Hollywood, starring in such classics as Lawrence of Arabia (O'Toole), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Burton), Camelot (Harris) and The Three Musketeers (Reed). Consuming staggering amounts of alcohol on a daily basis, all were forces to be reckoned with on the set, often turning up too drunk to perform. Burton's tempestuous affair with Elizabeth Taylor—which led to two marriages and two divorces—often eclipsed his talent, while O'Toole, Harris and Reed saw their careers slump in the late 1970s and '80s, only to be revived by roles in such successful films as Troy (O'Toole), the Harry Potter franchise (Harris) and Gladiator (Reed). Though Sellers often muddles the chronology by switching too often between the four's liquored-up antics, his glimpse into Hollywood's culture of excess is more than enough to satisfy. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Told in the free-ranging anecdotal style of the bar stool bard--and taken, presumably, with the requisite tumberful of tipple--these breezy tales of outcast British actors stumbling, bumbling and humping their way to stardom, offer up truly guffaw-worthy camp and idiocy. All the classic bits are there. . . . The sprightly smash 'n dash of the prose so wonderfully captures the wanton belligerence of both binging and stardom you almost feel the guys themselves are telling the tales (and moaning and toasting all the while.)"

--GQ 

"A book celebrating famously unrepentant drunks is a welcome surprise . . . Like the rejuvenating martinis and blurry haze of cigarettes in "Mad Men," Robert Sellers's nostalgic Hellraisers . . . amounts to an unapologetic celebration of the plastered and the damned in our sanctimonious "Oprah" age of public confession and easy redemption."

--The Wall Street Journal

 "Robert Sellers' outrageously entertaining history proves that today's celebrities don't have much on Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole, Richard Harris and Oliver Reed."

--The Daily Beast

"Hellraisers wants only to be a rowdy collection of greatest hits, and it lives up to that fun-loving ambition."

--The New York Times

"An incredibly entertaining series of anecdotes, interspersed with unpretentious and conversational interviews--all about drinking."

--The La Times

"As the colorful anecdotes collected in this book make clear, some stars are born rather than made."

--The New York Post

“Their names are included up there with the acting greats and these boys spent quite a bit of time behaving badly. From O’Toole getting arrested for wooing an insurance building, Reed dropping his pants in public to show off his “mighty mallet,” Harris attacking cars in Italy, to Burton urinating onstage, it is laid out in hilarious detail by Sellers. The hijinks, happening in a time before real paparazzi we have now, did not come without a price, although while on top, these men lived life to the fullest and never looked backward or even forward. . . . These extraordinary characters and ultimately charming men continued to grab life by the horns even when the partying slowed. The men were more than actors; they were legends, and they never let anyone forget it for an instant.”

--San Francisco Book Review

"The most outrageous film book of the season, by far, is Robert Sellers' Hellraisers. . . . We no longer think of the exploits and peccadilloes of self-annihilating alcoholics as a roistering, almost Elizabethan source of anecdotage and amusement, but for the last historical period where people did, Burton, Harris O'Toole and Reed were the source of more stories, both hilarious and monstrous, than anyone else."

--The Buffalo News

"Equal parts funny and appalling, Hellraisers takes us back to the glory days of stage and screen actors Peter O'Toole, Richard Burton, Richard Harris and Oliver Reed."-

-Connecticut News

"There are some wonderful tales here."

--Dallas Morning News


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Customer Reviews

I found this book very entertaining.
SusieQ
It's a good read, because when you finish and realize how boring the current film stars are, you want to go out and grab some DVDs of this Fearsome Foursome.
Boffin
The author couldn't be bothered to include interview notes or book references in this 4 - in - 1 hatchet job.
RA Meeks

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Boffin on December 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a very good introduction to the lives of the four greatest Hellraisers in the British Cinema. Burton, O'Toole', Harris, and Reed weren't just great talents, but great drinkers. Of the four, Harris was the one who eventually became addicted to drugs, while Reed was the most dangerous. It's a good read, because when you finish and realize how boring the current film stars are, you want to go out and grab some DVDs of this Fearsome Foursome.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Michael OConnor TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Over the years, the British acting community has included a number of very talented individuals who also happened to be hellacious pubcrawlers. At the top of the heap were Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole, Richard Harris and Oliver Reed. Author Robert Sellers traces the life and crimes of those gifted yet flawed men in this warts-and-all biography published in 2008.

Burton, Harris, O'Toole and Reed were blood brothers almost from birth. Most had childhoods marked by poverty, less than stellar parents and family histories of alcoholism. Those childhood scars shaped each man, producing a Jekyll-and-Hyde man-child. Throughout the book, reminiscences by family, friends and colleagues describe wonderful, sensitive, gentle, incredibly talented men who turned into blotto drunks noted for wrecking pubs, punching out whomever they chose, treating women like floor mats and so on. The Brits apparently enjoyed such hellraising since none of the four ever did serious jail time for their misdeeds but usually received a slap on the wrist.

HELLRAISERS is the kind of book where you don't know whether to laugh or cry. Some of the stunts those gents pulled were silly, stupid, childish and occasionally rather funny. Others would have gotten 'Joe Average' sent away for hard time if he had done the things Oliver Reed, for example, did. Ultimately you end up just shaking your head. Such great potential, such a great waste. And, ironically, what all four men were seemingly aiming for - to create an exciting life filled with memories - was scuttled by their very own actions. Time and again, the comment is made that so-and-so can't remember meeting someone or trashing a particular pub or what he did in the 1970s(!), etc. Some memorable life.

In the end, I found HELLRAISERS a fascinating read.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By J. Bell on October 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although this is aquick and semi-interesting read for fans of the inebriated stars in the title, the author has basically cobbled together information that anyone can find on the internet. Seriously. Google Ann Turkel, for instance (second wife of Richard Harris). What's in the book is taken almost word for word from her web site. Ditto Oliver Reed, etc.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful By RA Meeks on April 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Robert Sellers' "Hellraisers: The Blah-Blah-Blah" is one of the worst pieces of pathography to come down the pike in a while. Normally, one has to go to the check-out aisle in the grocery store to find this brand of tripe.

The author couldn't be bothered to include interview notes or book references in this 4 - in - 1 hatchet job. You'd expect, at the least, a list of the television, screen, and stage work performances of each subject. It's not there. Who knows if what he writes is true, false, or somewhere in between? Yes, I know what you're thinking: You read the title of the book, you saw that chapter titles, the clever ones, like "The Plastered Fifties", "The Soused Sixties", and "The Sozzled Seventies" (all clearly the result of a great deal of contemplative effort about his subjects; my god, to come up with chapter titles like that, he must have truly and deeply immersed himself not only in the lives of those he writes about but the times in which they lived -- not), you knew what the book was about. You've no one but yourself to blame.

Perhaps. And perhaps I hoped this was a serious biography about four very complex, often troubled people who all rose from the same generation to become legends of stage and screen and were, in large measure, undone by their success. None of them tried in any way to hide or cover up their exploits; in fact, just the opposite, and Butcher Boy Sellers seems to have simply copied down and regurgitated each and every tall story, any story, as long as he accomplished his goal: to put all four into the worst light possible, to make them look bad. They didn't need Mr. Sellers' help with this, as they left legacies that people will still be talking about for a very long time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Harry O on February 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Not only is Hellraisers poorly written from a purely literary point of view, it is also a totally uninteresting look at four drunkards who were never called to account because of their show-business "pedigree." The book is about as interesting as reading a department store catalog: once the reader gets through the first sections about the younger days of these four actors, the rest of the so-called biography is boring repetition. We go from Burton's drinking bouts to Harris' drinking bouts to O'Toole' drinking bouts to Reed's drinking bouts, over and over again, with only the venue changing. Yes, these four actors could drink prodigious amounts of alcohol, but so what? As if that weren't enough, whenever another famous actor is introduced we get a digression about his alcoholic career. A very sad look at men who think that being drunk all the time and degrading women is what life is all about. Even sadder, author Sellers seems to agree.
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