Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


THE SEXIEST MAN ALIVE: A Biography of Warren Beatty. Ellis Amburn. HarperEntertainment; 2002.

An absorbing look at the life of the often contradictory actor and cocksman Warren Beatty, from his New York theater origins to his breakthrough in Splendor in the Grass, to his influential, controversial production of Bonnie and Clyde and the massive undertaking of Reds. Amburn analyzes the often bad choices (especially in film assignments) that Beatty made, as well as the actor's psychological underpinnings and his stabs at the political arena. Taking his cue from Lawrence J., Quirk's The Films of Warren Beatty, he comments on how Beatty used connections with older gay men who admired him to get his start in show business. One problem with this manuscript is that Amburn's detours into the lives and subsequent fates of some of the people who crossed paths or beds with Beatty should have been relegated to footnotes instead of stopping the manuscript dead at several points. Occasionally he offers a puzzling opinion, such as when he offers the staggeringly simplistic statement that Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Streetcar Named Desire and Inges' Picnic are “rather transparent homoerotic fantasies about wayward, usually misogynistic hunks.”[And there are a couple more jaw-dropping moments. At the same time Amburn is right to point out that Bonnie and Clyde, whatever its cinematic merits, is a thoughtless glorification of criminality.] But Amburn does a good job of exposing the sleazy understructure of Hollywood, showing that Beatty would dump one woman only to go after another who had a higher profile or had just won an Oscar. He doesn't neglect the actor's good points, however. His dissection of the Beatty-Annette Bening marriage is also quite good.

Verdict: A lively, fast read with lots of info on the bed-hopping Beatty. ***. 

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