I love a good celebrity dishing memoir. I'm shallow like that. But, I do get annoyed when some celebrity writes a book--and i kid, because most of them have people write the books for them--and trash other people who aren't here to defend themselves; as in, they're dead.
The newest dead celeb basher is Frank Langella, whose new book, Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them, trashes countless dead famous people.
Let's see what he has to say about:
Rita Hayworth was 20 years older than Langella, almost permanently drunk, and suffering from the onset of Alzheimer’s disease when they co-starred together. She was unable to remember her lines unless they were written in huge block letters and placed on cards beside the camera.
But to 34-year-old Frank Langella she was a goddess, a flame-haired siren, and they began a passionate affair on the set of the 1972 Western, The Wrath Of God.
The couple played mother and son in the film, yet spent every evening together in her rooms, working their way through endless bottles of bourbon and wine as she reminisced mournfully about the good old days.
Langella remembers Hayworth saying: ‘Don’t stare at me, baby. You can see me in the movies.’ And when he finally left her--I'm assuming the filming was over--he says Hayworth ran out to the car and pleaded: ‘Don’t leave me. I gotta have a man with me.’
According to Langella, Richard Burton was less than impressive when he visited Langella’s dressing room while he was starring in Dracula on Broadway in 1977.
Langella claims that, after single-handedly polishing off a bottle of Scotch which he had offered nobody else, a slurring Burton launched into a series of reminiscences about Britain’s great theatre actors and recited lengthy sections of Dylan Thomas’s poetry.
As the hours wore on, Langella just wanted to get home.
‘Could anyone, I wondered, be so unaware of what a crashing bore he had become? There sat a man approximately 52 years of age, looking ten years older, dressed in black mink, with heavily applied pancake [make-up], under a tortured, balding helmet of jet black hair, grandly reciting tiresome poetry.’
Langella reserves particular ire for Anne Bancroft--an ‘elegant’ stage name, he says, which was ‘about as suited to her as Cuddles would have been to Adolf Hitler’.
He first met Bancroft, wife of comic actor Mel Brooks, in 1966 when they co-starred in a play. And though they remained close friends for twenty years, Langella soon realized she was ‘consumed by a galloping narcissism that often undermined her talents’.
She once told him how she had been in a New York department store when she saw a woman smiling at her. Bancroft felt ‘inexplicably’ attracted to the woman and wanted to go over and ‘embrace and kiss her passionately’--until she realised she was looking into a mirror.
Speaking of narcissism, self-love surely was never more intense than in the case of Yul Brynner. No actor ever talked about himself so much, Langella recalls, and yet had so little time for his fans.
The baldheaded star--‘never far from a full-length mirror’--once gave Langella and his former wife, Ruth, a lift in his 20ft-long white limo. On the drive, Brynner explained how he’d had a special elevator--big enough to fit a car--installed in the Broadway theatre where he was starring in The King And I.
His chauffeur could drive straight in and spare the star from having to ‘deal with the public’. Brynner even showed off a pair of blinding flash lights which he kept handy ‘in case blacks attack my car’.
According to Langella, Paul Newman--long regarded as one of Hollywood’s Mr Nice Guys--was a frightful bore, too.
‘After dirty-sexy jokes, shop talk, cars or politics were exhausted, Paul was a pretty dull companion,’ he recalls. ‘Never rude or unkind, just dull.’
In awe of his good looks, companions would instinctively think it their fault when he suddenly went quiet, but, Langella says, in reality Newman had simply run out of anything to say. Like the statue of David, Newman was ‘physically perfect but emotionally vacant’.
Sidenote: Paul Newman was the hottest man ever. That's from me, not Langella.
Bette Davis was well into her 60s when, having seen Langella’s films, she ordered their mutual agent to put them in touch. Though--as with his affair with Rita Hayworth--Davis was 20 years older, they had ‘a number of racy conversations, not quite phone sex but certainly rife with foreplay,’ he says.
But nothing more ever happened as Davis always cancelled their dinner dates. Years later, however, he says he ran into her at a hotel and--enraged, he believes, that her privacy had somehow been invaded--she froze him out when he identified himself.
Apparently he had better luck with with Elizabeth Taylor.
Put in touch in 2001 by a mutual friend who said the Hollywood icon was desperately lonely, Langella reveals that their second date culminated in a 69-year-old Taylor urging him to: ‘Come on, baby, and put me to sleep.’
After helping her upstairs rather indecorously by pushing on her backside, he was taken aback by the clutter in her bedroom. he says it was filled with pictures of her dead ex-husbands, ‘dozens and dozens’ of bottles of witch hazel which she used to remove her make-up and a giant open box of chocolates on the bed.
Despite knowing that a relationship with her was ‘quicksand’, he began a brief affair and now says she was: ‘A small, sweet woman who wanted a man to be with her, protect her and fill a void as deep as the deepest ocean.’
At one stage, she told him she wanted to leave Los Angeles and move with him to the East Coast to ‘find a place that’s normal’, but Langella told her a relationship would never work because she would ‘have him for lunch’.
Isn't it odd how, with the exception of Bancroft, who apparently only loved herself, all these women wanted to be with Frank Langella, and all these men were morons, narcissists and bores?
And yet he waited until they had all died before he told their "stories".
Methinks someone needs a payday.