February 07, 1983 12:00 PM

by Sylvia Safran Resnick

Here are two books that support a general proposition: Most movie star biographies are best utilized as paperweights. Hoffman is a prickly, lively actor who deserves a better book than this one (St. Martin’s, $10.95). By the author of The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoon Series, it is dull, fawning and poorly written. The quotes from friends, fellow actors and critics seem distinctly secondhand. If Lenburg ever interviewed Hoffman, it doesn’t show. He strings together senseless stories; in one, for instance, Hoffman, shopping in Beverly Hills, “was on the receiving end of a phone call inside a quaint boutique, imitating the salesman’s French accent over the phone. A few minutes later, he supposedly also started blowing bubbles out of saliva, to the utter astonishment of customers around him.” The title doesn’t hold up—either for Hoffman’s movie roles or for his real life. He has played romantic leads (John and Mary), reluctant tough guys (Straw Dogs), an action hero (All the President’s Men) and character roles (Midnight Cowboy). He won an Oscar in 1980 for Kramer vs. Kramer and has a big commercial hit in Tootsie. He’s a tireless perfectionist, successful and nobody’s antihero. Reynolds fares only slightly better in Resnick’s book (St. Martin’s, $10.95). This is a silly book, too, but Resnick does have a point of view: Burt is utterly irresistible. “Men and women adored him,” she writes. “Men wanted to look like him, to exude that macho essence that seemed to ooze from every pore. Women wanted to look at him, to delight in the approval that gleamed in his dark eyes.” That kind of mush-gush-slush prose is used throughout. Resnick, a former Rona Barrett associate who’s also written a book about Kristy McNichol, says Burt was loved by fans and cast on the early Gunsmoke, but he got bored. His starring TV series, Hawk and Dan August, flopped, and he just happened to have already filmed Deliverance when he did the hairy Cosmo centerfold and became the darling of the TV talk shows. When a book is labeled “an unauthorized biography,” as this one is, that implies some astounding revelations. But there are certainly none here.

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