Sunday, July 01, 2012

Dropped Names by Frank Langella (book review)

I love gossip. I love knowing who's sleeping with who and why X isn't talking to Z. But there is a limit. And, in his new memoir, Dropped Names, Frank Langella goes well past it.

The book is aptly named. Langella drops dozens of names: people he worked with and/or slept with or even just met once in passing (and, in one truly odd vignette, someone he never met yet compared penis sizes with). Marilyn Monroe. Rita Hayworth. Elizabeth Taylor. Montgomery Clift. Lee Strassberg. Laurence Olivier. And he pulls no punches--even punches that really should be pulled. He calls actors second-rate, tells who never picks up the check, and shares very very private moments. He says that he did two awful things to Jackie Kennedy and seems totally unaware that in writing about her now, he's doing a third.

There's something deeply icky about the whole endeavor. He writes only about dead people (with one exception). Is it (1) to spare their feelings? or (2) to deny them a chance to tell their side of the story? Even if it's choice (1), his choice to expose people who believed him to be a friend is creepy.

To Langella's credit, he knows that he's arrogant and somewhat closed down. But he doesn't seem to understand that he's also a user. And a shit.

Gossip is fun at a party when a stagehand or production assistant tipsily shares anecdotes of the great and/or famous. But for a peer to do it--someone who claims to have loved many of these people--and to do it in print, and to do it for profit, is repulsive. I'm glad I took the book out of the library and didn't contribute to his cheerful selling out of his old friends.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

You make a good point about the overall "ethicalness" of the book. The entry that bothered me the most was his dishing the dirt on Anne Bancroft. Wonder how husband Mel Brooks feels about that, who loved her devotedly. Brooks was the director who gave Langella one of his first big breaks in film. Perhaps Langella should have waited for Mel Brooks to pass on before he printed his tell-all.