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Jack: A Biography of Jack Nicholson

Jack: A Biography of Jack Nicholson

2.6 3
by Edward Douglas

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Jack Nicholson is one of the longest-lasting and most recognized sex symbols of our time. This sizzling biography goes deep in-depth, relating exclusive interviews with past flames and flings, to shed light on the unique charisma and magnetism of one of America's most respected and desired movie stars.

Among the startling revelations:

  • A longtime


Jack Nicholson is one of the longest-lasting and most recognized sex symbols of our time. This sizzling biography goes deep in-depth, relating exclusive interviews with past flames and flings, to shed light on the unique charisma and magnetism of one of America's most respected and desired movie stars.

Among the startling revelations:

  • A longtime girlfriend who describes Jack's reaction when he at last discovered the long-buried, dark secret of his childhood
  • Jack's notorious penny-pinching, such as the time he came home from a movie set with a doggie bag of catered Mexican food
  • The woman Jack "shared" with Robert Evans and Warren Beatty
  • The night Christina Onassis, who'd had a fling with Jack in Los Angeles, got mad at him for seducing a girl in her party at Xenon
  • The beauty queen who was still married to drug dealer Tom Sullivan when she was drawn to Jack
  • The beautiful, talented costar who showed up at Jack's house at 1 A.M. and what happened when live-in girlfriend Anjelica Huston answered the intercom
  • The night Steve Rubell ran around Studio 54 saying, "We got to keep Ryan O'Neal and Jack Nicholson away from each other. There's going to be a big fight."
  • Why Rebecca Broussard refused him when Jack asked for her hand in marriage in 1993, even after having two children with him
  • Why Katharine Hepburn's goddaughter still loves Jack and has spent years looking for a man who can measure up to him
  • Diane Keaton's reaction to Jack passing gas during filming of a love scene for Something's Gotta Give
  • Jennifer Howard, who found Jack's lovemaking "very oomph! He knows what he's doing. You can kind of just let go. Let him le-e-e-ad the way!"In Jack, Edward Douglas offers us a provocative, fascinating portrait of the man, the legend, the star: Jack Nicholson.

Editorial Reviews

John DiLeo
Douglas does succeed in conveying that moment in American movies, epitomized by Nicholson's "Easy Rider" (1969) and "Five Easy Pieces" (1970), when anti-establishment ideas and characters arrived on-screen. "Five Easy Pieces presented a new kind of male in American cinema," he writes, "one who deconstructed not only the usual he-man stereotype of masculinity but, cutting closer to the bone of contemporary reality, unmasked the counterculture rebel, showing him as a far more intriguing creature than Brando, Dean, or Dustin Hoffman -- or, for that matter, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper -- had ever envisaged."
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Nicholson has already been the subject of nearly a dozen books, most of which are mined thoroughly for information in this latest tell-all. Douglas does little more than update the record established in Patrick McGilligan's standard-setting Jack's Life with a decade's worth of new films and gossip about a stormy relationship with actor Lara Flynn Boyle. Douglas, who claims several previous biographies to his credit but has chosen to publish pseudonymously, did manage to land interviews with B-movie mogul Roger Corman and other members of Nicholson's earliest Hollywood circles that shed light on the actor's start in Hollywood, but he's much more interested in the rambling, self-serving tales he accumulates from recent ex-lovers. Douglas's prose contains all the worst excesses of the celebrity biography genre, yet at least the overabundance of salacious irrelevancies distracts from Douglas's weak efforts at psychoanalysis. Douglas celebrates Nicholson for being "ahead of his time" in front of the camera while condemning his off-screen shortcomings, and the judgmental tone frequently lapses into pure snideness, especially when individual films come under discussion. This is a brazen appeal to the lust for sordid celebrity stories with just enough moralizing so that readers won't feel too cheap and dirty afterward. 8-page b&w photo insert not seen by PW. (On sale Nov. 9) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink style portrait of the noted actor and unstoppable womanizer. The pseudonymous Douglas (author, we are told, of previous biographies) admires baby-boomer icon Nicholson, theorizing that his most notable roles-in Easy Rider, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Carnal Knowledge, About Schmidt-anticipated seismic shifts in the American psyche. This early sentence gives a fair idea of the project's tone: "Loving Jack Nicholson [was] a maze with no way out, like the treacherous hedge that defeated Jack Torrance in The Shining." The author's major psychological insight concerns the not exactly breaking news that Nicholson, conceived by an unmarried woman, grew up believing his grandmother to be his mother and his mother his sister; he learned the devastating truth well after he became a star. The actor spent years honing his craft in B pictures, then incarnated the new, countercultural Hollywood in his riveting early-1970s performances. Douglas's hectic prose swerves to link Nicholson's antics to larger trends in drugs, fashion, and restaurant culture with mixed success. Fellow rogues like Robert Evans, Dennis Hopper, and Nick Nolte drift through the narrative, while Nicholson's own musings demonstrate him to be witty, intelligent, but ultimately arrogant, embodying Tinseltown's complicated solipsism as well as any living actor. (On his outsized fees: "The minute someone signs a deal with me they've made money, so what does it matter?") The author offers recollections and caustic commentary from many of Nicholson's old flames, detailing his "wild" seduction tactics and inner isolation, but the mirth is dampened by his refusal to utilize condoms. In the 1990s, notablefor bitter litigation with the mother of his oldest child and incidents of road rage, Nicholson's life seemed flaccid and ugly, although he still provided reliable box office and the occasional strong performance in, for example, As Good As It Gets. Rich in scandal-sheet anecdotes-bed-hopping, copious drug use, and real-estate coups abound-but oddly hagiographic overall, this is a flat, uninflected read. Detailed, mildly salacious, not especially moving or surprising.

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Read an Excerpt

The Great Seducer

Chapter One

The Prince of Summer

Just as Nicholson ultimately became remote and unattainable for Cynthia Basinet, so were his parents forever distant from Nicholson. "I became conscious of very early emotions about not being wanted," he said, "feeling that I was a problem to my family as an infant." Quite literally, his parents would never permit him to know them -- not even their real names or exact relationships.

According to one theory, his father was a man named Don Furcillo-Rose, who impregnated Nicholson's mother, June Frances Nicholson, then a beautiful, red-haired, seventeen-year-old New Jersey girl and aspiring movie star, who'd been courted by gangsters and prizefighters, and appeared as a showgirl in a Leonard Sillman revue on Broadway. Furcillo-Rose, a song-and-dance man who'd worked the Jersey Shore with various bands, was married to another woman and had already fathered a son. Angry and outraged, June's mother, Ethel May, banished him from her pregnant daughter's presence in 1936, months before the birth of Jack Nicholson.

According to another theory, Nicholson's father was a bandleader/pianist/dance-studio owner who'd played the Jersey circuit with Jackie Gleason; his name was Eddie King, and he had featured June Nicholson on his radio show Eddie King and His Radio Kiddies before getting her pregnant. Later, threatened with deportation as an illegal immigrant, King went into hiding in Asbury Park, fearing that admission of having sex with a teenager would get him into even deeper trouble with the law. He was finally cleared and later married an employee at his dance studio.

Even June herself wasn't sure who Jack's father was, and as Jack would later put it, he belonged to his "own downtrodden minority: the bastard." Putting the best possible face on his illegitimacy and its inevitably destabilizing effect on his life, he convinced himself that he had "the blood of kings flowing through my veins."

Jack's thirty-nine-year-old grandmother, Ethel May Nicholson (or "Mud," as he later nicknamed her), was a slender, pretty brunette. Gifted as a seamstress and painter, she was capable of taking care of herself and others, which was often necessary. Her alcoholic husband, a dapper window dresser named John J. Nicholson, decorated for Steinbach department stores in Asbury Park, but disappeared on binges and could be counted on for nothing. When Ethel May learned that her daughter was pregnant out of wedlock, she made an extraordinary decision. As the only female in the house who was married, Ethel May would assume the baby's parenting, even claiming to be his mother. Her decision was tacitly accepted by John J., June, and Lorraine. "You can't imagine the stigma and shame for a mother and child in that situation at that time," said "Rain" -- Nicholson's nickname for his pretend sister Lorraine -- who was fourteen when June became pregnant.

After considering abortion, June crossed the Hudson River to Manhattan and remained there until the baby's birth, on April 22, 1937, at Bellevue Hospital. When Jack was two months old, she returned home. Lorraine related, "Right after that, [June] got a job and was gone, which was OK. Mud just grabbed that baby and made him hers. My mother lived and breathed Jack. Everything Jack did was great to us." Neighbors naturally gossiped, speculating on the identity of the father, many of them later noticing the resemblance between Jack and Eddie King, but eventually they accepted that the boy was Ethel May's "change-of-life baby." Jack grew up thinking that June, his true mother, was his sister, and that Lorraine, his aunt, was his other sister. When Jack was in his teens, Lorraine was tempted to tell him the truth -- that June, not Ethel May, was his mother -- but she held back, and he continued to live in ignorance until he was thirty-seven years old, long after he'd achieved stardom. "They were both so afraid of losing him," Lorraine recalled. Ethel May and June suspected, not surprisingly, that he'd lash out at them in rage for practicing such gross deception. "He grew up with three mothers," Lorraine added, "and even though he wasn't close to June, no one ever deserted Jack."

Though it was a merciful act in many respects, Jack was surrounded by crafty and deceitful women, a situation that would forever influence his attitude toward women. "Jack has a right to be angry -- a legitimate beef," Lorraine said in 1994. "If he's got hangups today, they're legitimate, too." Not until 1974, when he was contacted by a Time magazine reporter researching a cover story, was the secret so long and scrupulously guarded by Ethel May, June, and Lorraine finally exposed. Upon learning that he was illegitimate, Jack was devastated, his entire sense of identity undermined and savaged, but at last he understood why he'd always felt like a second-class citizen, and why his lack of self-esteem always destroyed his love affairs and attempts at marriage. In 1975 he referred to "a terrible realization I had as an infant that my mother didn't want me ... and along with that came desperate feelings of need. Basically ... I relate to women by trying to please them as if my survival depended on them. In my long-term relationships, I'm always the one that gets left."

Denied his real mother, he would never stop searching for her, and all his intimate relationships with women would be shaped by what had happened there on the Jersey Shore. "Somehow," he later ruminated, "in the sexual experience, I was making the woman into a sort of a mom -- an authoritarian female figure; that made me feel inadequate to the situation, small and childish. I indulged myself in a lot of masturbatory behavior. I solved none of these problems in therapy. I worked them out for myself, but any of them might reappear."

The Great Seducer
. Copyright © by Edward Douglas. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Edward Douglas is the pseudonym of a well-known biographer.

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Jack: The Great Seducer 2.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
43BankerJB More than 1 year ago
I found the book to be a long winded account of his excessive womanizing. It did show Nicholson as a tortured individual but also an ego maniac. Why women put up with his crap is astonishing.He may be a good actor but his personal life has been a soapbox tragedy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
too boring to even finish.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Havent read the book why five stars its because hes a five star actor i especially loved his portrayalof the jokerin the batman movie hestoletheshow much better than ceasar romerosportrayal in the tvversion ceasarswas dry jacksspooky and funny as hell