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Hellraisers: The Life and Inebriated Times of Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O'Toole, and Oliver Reed Paperback – Bargain Price, April 26, 2011
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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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
“Told in the free-ranging anecdotal style of the bar stool bard--and taken, presumably, with the requisite tumblerful 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 bingeing 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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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While it's true their drunken tales do get tiresome, I enjoyed reading the behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the filming of their many movies and found myself investigating these films further. Unfortunately many of their 70s stinkers are not available on Netflix, though I was certainly intrigued by a few.
On balance the book ends on a sad note, given the ravages these men experienced and -- in some cases -- their regret over entire chunks of their lives lost to drink.
Only Peter O'Toole comes off in the end well, and even then it is tempered.
Still, I found this a guilty pleasure and enjoyed their romps and rampages and found myself on Youtube replaying some of Oliver Reed's TV appearances. His "performance" on Letterman is a classic!
Most of us realize that the major film and theatre awards (and even, the nominations!) are not based on excellence, but "rationed" so that one performer does not win often. We know that Meryl Streep and Jack Nicolson deserve more Oscars than their competitors, but the awards are a war zone and the power brokers negotiate to maintain a semblance of peace. In a evidently vengeful reaction, the Hollywood entertainment community persistently denied these "hellraisers" a major award. I thought it was outrageous that Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole were patently ignored for their fabulous work in Becket. How Burton never received a Tony for his Hamlet performances defies common sense. Lesson: we acknowledge your talent; however, if you can't control yourself, no prizes.
Short of committing murder, they knew that they were the "cat's meow" to sell a project. They continually showed their backsides to the establishment, family, associates, and their doctors by completing their offensive "bucket lists" before they left our presence. Wherever they are in the afterlife, I silently chuckle at my imagination of them running havoc in heaven (or hell) over an exasperated Almighty (or the devil).