Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them
At first blush, reading the title of hot to trot actor Frank Langella’s memoir "Dropped Names," (Harper) my thoughts turned to the Truman Capote’s tell-all novel of life not so pristinely lived by the exceedingly rich ladies who lunch "Answered Prayers."
When the insider confidences and bits of gossip they’d whispered to Mr. Capote started to be published bit by bit as stories in "Esquire" magazine, the writer was unceremoniously dropped from their rarified presence effectively ending his jet set social life much to his astonishment.
Langella, however, is going to be able to carry on as before, is my guess, although many of the adventures he relates are of the boudoir kind from romps with faded but still alluring divas Rita Hayworth, Yvonne de Carlo and on to Elizabeth Taylor and with more, many more, ladies of theatrical or cinematic renown. That is if he can keep up the pace and avoid the withers.
I began to realize that the reason he’s not going to get into the kind of trouble Capote did is that while Langella blabbed away about certain adventures, he never drops in on his own home life with the likes of Whoopie Goldberg or his wife of almost 20 years with whom he had two children and he got the O.K. from "Bunny" Mellon (best friend to Jackie Kennedy and Noel Coward among other legends) to recount his many wonderful times as her house guest.
Langella’s visits with Mrs. Paul Mellon throughout the years starting in the mid 50ties make for fascinating glimpses of the top drawer celebs at her summer place on Cape Cod (where Langella was apprenticing at the Cape Cod Playhouse when this friendship starts up) and on to parties and weekends at homes in Virginia and New York and the Caribbean and even, shades of "My Fair Lady," to the Queen’s box at the Ascot horse races.
Langella is a kind of ham fisted with a pen but he knows, as most actors do, how to tell a story.
You’ll be engaged with his close up and personal moments with such personages as the cold, cold Arthur Miller, the imperious Bette Davis, the almost broken Montgomery Cliff, the indomitable Billie Burke (the Good Witch from Oz), the scary acting coach Lee Strasberg, the narcissistic Brooke Astor, the bon ami Raul Julia. They and lots of others made indelible impressions on Langella and his sketches of them will make indelible impressions on you.
For those of you book readers who enjoy back stage and behind-the-scenes gossip, this is the delish publishing event of the season.