Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them

Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them

3.4 48
by Frank Langella
     
 

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Rita Hayworth dancing by candlelight; Elizabeth Taylor tenderly wrapping him in her Pashmina scarf; streaking for Sir Laurence Olivier in a drafty English castle; terrifying a dozing Jackie Onassis; carrying an unconscious Montgomery Clift to safety on a dark New York street...

Captured forever in a unique memoir, Frank Langella’s myriad encounters with

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Overview

Rita Hayworth dancing by candlelight; Elizabeth Taylor tenderly wrapping him in her Pashmina scarf; streaking for Sir Laurence Olivier in a drafty English castle; terrifying a dozing Jackie Onassis; carrying an unconscious Montgomery Clift to safety on a dark New York street...

Captured forever in a unique memoir, Frank Langella’s myriad encounters with some of the past century’s most famous human beings are profoundly affecting, funny, wicked, sometimes shocking, and utterly irresistible. With sharp wit and a perceptive eye, Mr. Langella takes us with him into the private worlds and privileged lives of movie stars, presidents, royalty, literary lions, the social elite, and the greats of the Broadway stage. We learn something, too, of Mr. Langella’s personal journey from the age of fifteen to the present day. Dropped Names is, like its subjects, riveting and unforgettable.

Editorial Reviews

Charles Matthews
On the face of it, this is a popcorn book: one to be dipped into for gossipy goodies. Who can resist flipping through it to see what Langella has to say about Jackie O. or Princess Di? But the book gains richness and depth by being taken as a whole, as a revelation that fame turns everyone…politicians…royalty…writers …and socialites…into actors, strutting and fretting their hour upon the stage.
—The Washington Post
Ada Calhoun
…satisfyingly scandalous…Langella is as enthusiastic as he is vicious…the book's stylistic imperfections add to the sense that you're reading the uncensored diary of an indefatigably social and curious man, a modern-entertainment-industry Samuel Pepys. Narcissistic? Sure. He grants that he was especially "selfish and obstreperous" in his youth. But he's inspiringly game…There is so much happy sexuality in this book that reading it is like being flirted with for a whole party by the hottest person in the room. It's no wonder Langella was invited everywhere.
—The New York Times Book Review
The New Yorker
“Splendid. . . . As much a memoir as a primer on the vicissitudes of an actor’s life, the book is a collage based on real-life situations that offer touching insights into stars like Rita Hayworth, and into the practical magic that informs Langella’s signature sensibility.”
Detroit Free Press
“ If Frank Langella’s memoir simply did what its title promises, it would be deep-dish gossip. But his memories of the stars he’s encountered during a lengthy career on Broadway and in film shed perceptive light on the costs of pursuing and maintaining fame.”
New York Times
“Langella’s uncommonly eloquent book is enjoyable for the panoply of great names who turn up. . . . A natural raconteur, he seems to fit precisely Henry James’s famous description of the novelist as one ‘on whom nothing is lost.’”
Los Angeles Times
“Frank Langella’s DROPPED NAMES is a different kind of memoir. . . . Not many of his peers could write such an eloquently dishy book.”
Gay Talese
“Rarely have I read a book about celebrities that is as insightful, candid, revealing, and as well-written as this one. Frank Langella’s memoir is not the usual author’s ego trip, but rather his remembrances of the many accomplished men and women that he has come to know.”
A.R. Gurney
“A delightfully unabashed page-turner about people we wish we had known in the throes of work, love, and growing old.”
Liz Smith
“Dropped Names is a sizzling platter of stellar vignettes—pungent, for sure, but poignant too. . . . Mr. Langella is surgically precise, and eloquent. . . . The human condition in most of its vagaries is beautifully rendered between these pages.”
Paperback Row
“The 65 chapters in this satisfyingly scandalous memoir paint Broadway and Hollywood as teeming with vulgar, neurotic and irresistible company, and Langella as relentlessly affable in the face of nonstop groping by celebrities in far-flung locations.”
A. R. Gurney
“A delightfully unabashed page-turner about people we wish we had known in the throes of work, love, and growing old.”
Library Journal
Tony and Drama Desk award winner Langella doesn't so much tell his own story as relate encounters with others—and not just theater folks like Elizabeth Taylor and Laurence Olivier but John F. Kennedy, William Styron, Brooke Astor, and more. Fun for all.
Kirkus Reviews
Stage and screen stalwart Langella recalls his encounters with celebrity, both in and out of the spotlight. Early on in this engaging memoir, the author notes his difficulty in conveying the "glory" of a chapter's subject, Noel Coward, to a contemporary audience, "as wit, intelligence, and style have lost ground to stupid, vulgar, and loud." Curmudgeonly tone aside, Langella's stories of 65 noteworthy people illustrate his point that the celebrities of today can't hold a candle to the distant, mysterious, shining lights of yesteryear. The book is organized into a separate chapter for each "dropped name," in chronological order of their death. Among those appearing, some in brief encounters, others in lifelong relationships, are many of film and theater's greatest, including Laurence Olivier, Robert Mitchum, Elizabeth Taylor and Rita Hayworth, to name just a few. Freed up, perhaps, to kiss and tell by the death of his subjects, Langella pulls no punches, expressing scorn for talent wasted (Richard Burton) and egotism misplaced (Anthony Quinn, Actors Studio guru Lee Strasberg), and providing scandalous detail on many on-set or backstage dalliances. Some of the stories are humorous, others fascinating, and some--notably the section on Hayworth--heartbreaking. Though often relegated to a supporting role in these stories, Langella's voice commands the reader's attention. However, he does not ignore his own flaws, including moments when his arrogance let him down or his ignorance led to humiliation. Through it all, the author's respect for the craft of acting and those who attempt to practice it at the highest level is evident, and his focus on the importance of real connection between not just actor and audience but between human beings, elevates the book above mere name-dropping. Not just Langella's "famous people I have known," but a heartfelt love letter to the theater and to the days when stars were stars, not merely celebrities.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062094483
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/27/2012
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
256,918
File size:
493 KB

What People are saying about this

Gay Talese

“Rarely have I read a book about celebrities that is as insightful, candid, revealing, and as well-written as this one. Frank Langella’s memoir is not the usual author’s ego trip, but rather his remembrances of the many accomplished men and women that he has come to know.”

A.R. Gurney

“A delightfully unabashed page-turner about people we wish we had known in the throes of work, love, and growing old.”

Liz Smith

“Dropped Names is a sizzling platter of stellar vignettes—pungent, for sure, but poignant too. . . . Mr. Langella is surgically precise, and eloquent. . . . The human condition in most of its vagaries is beautifully rendered between these pages.”

Meet the Author

Frank Langella has been a professional actor for over five decades and hopes to carry on for several more. He began performing as a boy in his hometown of Bayonne, New Jersey, and currently resides in New York City. This is his first book.

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Dropped Names 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 48 reviews.
LaurenBDavis More than 1 year ago
An odd book. I began it with high expectations, since I find Langella to be an intelligent, highly skilled actor. What I've discovered by reading his memoir of now-dead famous friends and acquaintances, however, is that I don't think I like him very much; he's a little too cruel for my taste. Consider this about Roddy Mcdowell -- "I watched him work the room like a cordless vacuum cleaner, sucking up celebrity droppings." Or perhaps that's not fair. More accurately stated, I feel somewhat sorry for him. Reading between the lines here, he comes off as a very smart, somewhat insecure man with a dodgy semi-transparent sex life (there is a lot of slap and tickle in the book with famous women of all ages and, one suspects, a few tumbles--or at least exploratory sessions--with men) and a longing to be seen as both attractive and important, who regardless of accomplishments is dissatisfied and snarky. True, he does not escape his own criticism, but there's something about this parade of elderly, mostly drunken, sad, sick and lonely actors that left me feeling little more than pity for the entire profession. Many creative people feel this way, of course -- God knows I've met my fair share of writers who fit the bill. His prose his fine -- not brilliant writing, but it serves -- and he certainly does know a lot of famous folks, many of whom say clever, if unkind, things about each other. Still, I think I'll go back and watch his STUNNING performance in "Starting Our In The Evening." I prefer that Langella.
morganmad More than 1 year ago
This was really enjoyable. It's like sitting down and having a chat with the author over coffee, just reminiscing about people he's known. There were some people he liked and some he didn't and he stated very clearly why. There was NO bashing. Anyone who thinks this was an exercise in "bashing" anyone either didn't actually read the whole book or didn't understand it. This is clearly stated as one man's memories and experiences. And Langella is in no way, shape or form B list.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What can I say about a man who says that Paul Newman is not a good actor? I would wager to say that Mr. Langella does think of himself as a good actor. The only thing I can remember seeing him in was Dracula, however I remember every perofrmance of Mr. Newman's that I have seen. He even says that Mr. Newman came to him admiring his acting and hints that Mr. Newman sought his advice!!!!!!!! OH MY GAWD!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There are some good tidbits of information in this book. Often though things are quoted from a source listed as "an actress", "a source", "someone once said". I paid $8.00 for the book, including shipping, I think I got my money's worth.
Genoman More than 1 year ago
Mr. Langella is one of the finest actors living today. You get to be that way by your experiences. In this book are just SOME of those experiences. But what experiences they are! Here is Hollywood, the classic Hollywood unlike today, behind the scenes. Not 'behind the scenes' as in 'how this film was made' but 'behind the scenes' of those who made them. Behind the scenes of the carefully crafted public images. Who was really like their public image? Who wasn't? Who longed for the public image they once had? Here are some of the stage and screen's royalty as they are, unguarded, unvarnished before one of their own where they need not let their public image out of the box. This is a great book and a great read! Mr. Langella's writing is as if you were sitting across from him at dinner in his house having a conversation. You are enthralled and fascinated. It is a book that could only come by way of one of THE great actors of stage and screen in our time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have to admit I didn't know who he was. I had to Google his picture. Had no idea he had been with Whoopi for 5 or so years. At first I was put off by his gravitation to celebrities and didn't believe that he had had such close associations with the likes of Jackie Kennedy and Bunny Mellon, but as his subsequent entries made convincing cross references to these associations, I started to believe him and came to change my perception of Mr. Langella. I found him to be very proud and individualistic, his own person, not to be bought by anyone, yet a man of heart and integrity. I liked him by the end. Glad I got to know him better through this book.
Iora More than 1 year ago
Yes, it's full of dishy stories of celebrities of another era, but over the course of reading Mr. Langella's retelling you do get a measure of his own character. On balance, he seems as candid in revealing parts of himself. I was fascinated by his fawning politeness to some of the greats he's met, as well as when he'd refuse to kowtow to arrogant actors regardless of their public image. I never forgot him in Diary of a Mad Housewife so it was fun to read the backstory on what was happening in his life at the time. And what a life he's had. An intense, great talent who's just a little less of a mystery.
jononfire More than 1 year ago
First of all, this work is totally enthralling...as what wouldn't be, if it digs up new dirt, full of worms, about top celebrities, now all deceased (but known first-hand), with the sharpest of spades. Note the words "new" and "all deceased": most of the dirt is new, and the fact that the bodies are safely below ground is troublesomely underhanded, no? But I can almost hear Langella cackling over his cleverness while under his breath. The pages turn like wildfire as one races to get to the punchlines. You're rarely quite sure where anyone stands in his esteem until you reach the end of a character sketch, and as often as not, that standing is something of a non-sequitur from what's gone before. In retrospect, I wouldn't have missed this book for the world, but its conception is somewhat despicable. And full of resentment, I suspect, from a not-quite-A-list actor, whose aura for me has always had an element of the sleaze (like anyone, I'm not 100 o/o free of bias). He tries unsuccessfully to cover his ego with elegant chicanery, and there's some discomfort for the reader in the way he relates how he asked several of his subjects, out of the blue, about their sexual bents and experiences, while elsewhere boasting subtly about his own, through several marriages and many heterosexual affairs which somehow don't seem to tell the whole story. He could have had the aging, lonely, vulnerable Liz Taylor at will, you gather, but....
libraryrk More than 1 year ago
Shame on me for reading this book and shame on Frank Langella for writing it. He had nothing nice to say about anyone except for Alan Bates and Raul Julia and told stories that cannot now be denied or defended by these deceased celebrities. I never cared one way or other about Mr. Langella but now I can definitely say, "I am not a fan." Take the moral high ground, which I didn't, and don't waste your time or money on this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of those biographies/autobiographies that leaves you disliking the subject rather than admiring him. According to Langella, anyone with legendary charisma was in fact a bore. Paul Newman was a bore, Cary Grant was a bore, ditto for Charlton Heston, Anthony Quinn, Yul Brynner, Oliver Reed, the list goes on. He liked Roddy McDowell just fine, though. Perhaps messrs. Newman Grant et. al. weren't overawed by this Broadway actor. A good many of the stories defy belief (Langella was pursued breathily by both Jacqueline Onassis and Liz Taylor - oh yeah, Rita Hayworth as well). Wish I hadn't read it, I used to like this actor.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Author Living Vicariously Thru Real Stars, Now Mostly Deceased We've seen Langella on the stage, and on film, and he's a journeyman actor in most roles, pretty much a reliable actor, but not a star probably due to a lack of charisma. So it's interesting to see that he seems to agree with this assessment by publishing a book of short vignettes not about himself but about real stars he's met, known or worked with, people truly loved by audiences. In his view, Ellizabeth Taylor was lonely, Charlton Heston was pompous, Yul Brynner was manipulative, Deborah Kerr was a doormat, Richard Burton was moneygrubbing, Paul Newman was not a good actor (???), Alan Bates was a slave to work, Arthur Miller was detached... it goes on and on. Too many have a a chapter in the book, but nobody meets Mr. Langella's high regard for himself. You have to ask yourself, would Langella even appear as a footnote in a book by anyone listed in the table of contents here? Not likely, so he's living vicariously through them, much as anyone else might. So, let's turn the tables on Mr L - here's our Frank Langella story for what its worth - We went to see a Broadway play not too long ago. On taking our seats, we saw Mr L sitting across on the aisle with his legs hanging out in the aisle, for comfort, no doubt, as the theater was old and there was little legroom. The friend I was attending the play with is an actor and said, maybe we'll say hello to him at intermission. But, just before the first half curtain came down, Mr L ran away up the aisle. OK, we thought, but he'll certainly have the manners to sit through the curtain call at the end. Nope, again, he ran away before the cast took their well deserved bows. We wondered what was going on - was he too frightened to meet the public, the few who might recognize him? In need of a smoke? A bathroom break? Or maybe he hated the performances and could not bring himself to applaud. Well - the book sheds some light on this strange and rather rude behavior, as he refused to applaud Elia Kazan's honorary Oscar, but states that he sat in full view of Kazan on the occasion, not applauding. There's principle and then there's civility, and manners teach that it is so much better not to attend an event rather than attend and pointedly avoid acknowledging the person being honored. Sorry, we cannot recommend the book, and don't feel that learning how high a regard Langella has for himself was worth our time or money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Individual chapters of famous people the author has had the opportunity to encounter. An easy read with some surprising personal tidbits on people we thought we knew. Refreshing, and written more as a friend to others.
maginnisone More than 1 year ago
Frank Langella has worked and known most of the famous names of Broadway and Hollywood. In this book he writes about them truthfully. However, except for just one person, he only writes about those who have departed this world. His portraits are revealing but not mean-spirited. He just helps us understand that even the most famous are just human beings like the rest of us.
Mshall More than 1 year ago
I would love to know what his subjects recall of him,if they even remember him.
brittbus More than 1 year ago
He was a winning person in many lives, so he writes. He has no trouble debasing most of the people who he identifies in this book. Most friends and acquaintances are disposable, dismissible, commodities. I was not impressed with his writing skills, his reflections of the times nor any depth of his character.
Anonymous 3 months ago
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I love gossip and this book seemed more the authors opinion
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