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Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 27, 2012

4.0 out of 5 stars 435 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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

Rita Hayworth dancing by candlelight in a small Mexican village; Elizabeth Taylor devouring homemade pasta and tenderly wrapping him in her pashmina scarf; streaking for Sir Laurence Olivier in a drafty English castle; terrifying a dozing Jackie Onassis; carrying an unconscious Montgomery Clift to safety on a dark New York City street.

Captured forever in a unique memoir, 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.

What, for instance, was Jack Kennedy doing on that coffee table? Why did the Queen Mother need Mr. Langella's help? When was Paul Mellon going to pay him money owed? How did Brooke Astor lose her virginity? Why was Robert Mitchum singing Gilbert & Sullivan patter songs at top volume, 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.

Dropped Names is, like its subjects, riveting and unforgettable.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (March 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062094475
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062094476
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (435 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #520,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I finished this book and put it aside, I didn't have a good feeling and I felt bad for even having read it. Thankfully most of the people in the book are dead and don't have to suffer the public humiliation, I assume they thought he was a friend and they could trust him. Mr Langella comes across as pushy, snoopy, opening doors, looking throught people's things and watching them covertly. He refers to the women in his life by all kinds of titles, cohabiters, roommates, a woman I was living with, and wife and he is constantly ending relationships. I think Colleen Dewhurst had him pegged from the start.
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it has truly touching anecdotes about two women we know almost nothing about, Dinah Shore and Jill Clayburgh, not so nice ones about two women we think we do know a lot about, Anne Bancroft and Rita Hayworth, some truly ribald tales with Alan Bates and Larry Olivier but mostly, it's about Liz. Whether they went out or stayed in, he makes the most of his time with Elizabeth Taylor. When it's time to go, she gives him the bad news. It's a touching tale from an actor who seems more comfortable dishing others than telling on himself, witness no mention of longtime love Whoopi Goldberg in this book and nothing about him except a photo, looking very self congratulatory. As he should, he wrote a book impossible to put down and impossible not to pick back up, as there's always something.
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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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