Tuesday, April 7, 2015

WATCH ME by Anjelica Huston (non-fic)

I wouldn't want a steady diet of it, but every-once-in-a-while, it is fun to be a voyeur into the lives of the rich and famous Hollywood royalty.  Certainly, Anjelica Huston is such royalty.  She is the daughter of the enormously talented John Huston who directed such gems as The African Queen and The Misfits.  This is the second volume of an autobiography by Huston who seems to have written it without the aid of a ghosting hand.  The first volume, "A Story Lately Told" tells of her childhood in the rural and verdant Irish countryside.

I began the book with high hopes of being entertained, knowing Huston's relationship of 17 years with Jack Nicholson was a turbulent one.  He was the great love of her youth, and she was with him through his most prolific and talented years when he was at the top of his game, handsome, svelte, and entertaining.  Unfortunately for Anjelica, whom he affectionately called Toots, he was also an inveterate womanizer and consistently unfaithful to her, though he seemed to care for her as much as it was in his nature to do so.  "He done her wrong!," though why she put up with this and allowed it to go on for so long, is never clearly explained.  Perhaps it was that he was a reflection of her dearly loved father who was also an intensely masculine presence in her life, equally involved with a string of women.  She also had two other destructive relationships, an earlier one with Bob Richardson, the fashion photographer, during her modeling days and another with the actor, Ryan O'Neal, who was physically abusive.

Anjelica and Nicholson broke for good in 1990, but she holds no bitterness toward him.  In 1992, she met and eventually married the great love of her later life, Bob Graham, a well-known and respected sculptor.  Huston and Graham had a loving relationship and enjoyed many of the same activities and travel.  The marriage was seemingly a happy one, until Graham died after they had been together for 16 years.  Huston's description of her life with him, is touching and she does her best writing in this section.

While I enjoyed the parts of the book devoted to Huston and Graham's life together, the earlier section of the book was disappointing.  The reader has to wade through lists and list of famous people without much substance or depth.  For example she was in the house with Roman Polanski the night he was accused of raping a young girl; she glossed right over this with a non-descript paragraph or two.  One wonders where the reflection is during her life with Nicolson.  Did she really jump from party to party listing the famous faces in her diary perhaps and just regurgitating them for us?  Was life really just drugs, sex and rock and roll?  Since she turned to acting during this time and won an academy award for her role in "Prizzi's Honor" there must have been periods of hard work and self-reflection that do not come across in the book.

If you are looking for a read about the Hollywood life of privilege mixed with tidbits from the lives of the famous whose paths cross Huston's, read away.  There is the bonus of the book becoming a better read after Huson marries Bob Graham, who was a well-grounded partner for her.  One thing that does come through is Anjelica Huston is a genuinely nice woman who is not given to whining about the messy turns her life took.

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