DROPPED NAMES: Famous Men and Women as I Knew Them
By Frank Langella
The actor Frank Langella is perhaps best-known for his role as Richard Nixon in the Broadway play and subsequent film adaptation Frost/Nixon (he was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance). His book is a series of short profiles of various famous people that he knew or encountered (64 in total), many of them actors. Anyone with an interest in Hollywood, Broadway, and the rich and famous will revel in this witty, candid insider’s guide to this world. Refreshingly, Langella is an accomplished writer with a sharp wit. Particularly amusing are his anecdotes about various actors exercising their egos (Charlton Heston)! Nor does he shy from speaking bluntly about those people he didn’t particularly like (Rex Harrison, Yul Brynner and Oliver Reed). But Langella also provides some rare glimpses of the stars out of the spotlight, especially when their glory days have faded and they’re obliged to adjust to their changed status. Several once revered stars end up dying sad, lonely deaths. One of the most tragic portraits is of Rita Hayworth. Langella appeared with her in a western. The production crew had scant patience for her inability to remember her lines, and presumed she was drunk. In fact she was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, which was little understood at that time. Langella is coy about his own relationships and liaisons − names are rarely mentioned. He is clearly straight (but not narrow) and enjoys the company and attention of gay men. In one choice anecdote he recalls how Elsa Lancaster pointed out to him the secluded part of the swimming pool where her homosexual husband Charles Laughton would seduce strapping young men. According to Elsa, he was immensely persuasive and very successful!