by Roddy McDowall
An actor for 50 years and a serious photographer for 30, McDowall has a keen eye, a good ear and exceptional entree into the lives of movie stars: thus this irresistible book of photographic portraits embellished by verbal tributes. (A similar volume appeared in 1968.)
Some of the tributes are uninformative and hypergushy, even by Hollywood standards. Director Jim Bridges says of working with Debra Winger on Urban Cowboy, “We both knew that something important was happening. We fought. She threw things at me. We kissed. We made up. Her performance was dynamite. A star was born.” Director Martin Ritt says Sally Field’s “interior is volcanic in its possibilities,” and she is “a great dame.” Ava Gardner says of McDowall’s pal Elizabeth Taylor, “I admire her, and especially love her, because of her great love for animals and Michael Jackson.”
Other comments are variously poetic, revealing or amusing. Kim Stanley writes of Piper Laurie, “She is steel/ with known pain/ and she is angry.” Blake Edwards says of Peter Sellers, “He could be cruel, selfish, occasionally generous and sometimes the funniest man I have ever known.” Shirley MacLaine, in praising director John Schlesinger, says, “I have always been intensely interested in the hidden meaning of why people are in each others’ lives. Some would say too interested.” James Woods says James Garner “puts his crew and his fellow cast members before himself on the set, no mean feat in a business that thrives on selfishness as a staple diet.” Cher says of Michelle Pfeiffer, “I won’t diminish her by trying to explain her. That would be like putting pins in a butterfly to slow it down so people could get a better look.” “When a man is excellent company for his friends and wonderful company for himself, he bears watching,” Sidney Poitier says of Richard Widmark. And Maureen Stapleton says of her friends, ’30s-’40s stars Frances Dee and Joel McCrea, “There are men you dream of, there are men you fall in love with—there are men you marry and then there is real life,—and that S.O.B. Frances Dee got it all.”
As for the book’s 170 photographs, McDowall does better with his male subjects, showing Jack Nicholson surrounded by books in his home, Burt Lancaster looking amused and thoughtful, Alec Guinness clowning—wearing a noble look and a slipper on his head. Far more of the portraits of the women—Cher, Pfeiffer, Lynn Redgrave—seem routine.
There’s a lot of enjoyment here, though, and if nothing else, another reason to admire Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, who says of her husband, “Sexiness wears thin after awhile and beauty fades, but to be married to a man who makes you laugh everyday, ah, now that’s a real treat!” (Morrow, $60)