Thursday, June 13, 2013
ORIGINAL STORY BY ARTHUR LAURENTS
Arthur Laurents may never have become a household name a la Tennessee Williams or Eugene O'Neill, but he did have quite a successful career with such plays as "The Time of the Cuckoo" to his credit, as well as writing and/or directing such famous musicals as West Side Story, Gypsy, La Cage aux Folles and Do I Hear a Waltz?, which was taken from "Cuckoo." He also wrote a number of screenplays for such films as The Snake Pit, Caught and Hitchcock's Rope. Laurents writes bluntly and intelligently of his experiences, good and bad, working on all of these productions, detailing the often infuriating compromises one must make in Hollywood and the inevitable clash of egos that happens on Broadway. His book is also a look at early gay life before modern Gay Liberation, where he dealt with his own self-hatred, while enjoying numerous affairs and a relationship with actor Farley Granger, and he also discusses the days of the blacklist as well. He doesn't pull any punches about such people as Jerome Robbins and others. One problem with the book, with is rich in detail and in anecdote, is that Laurents often bounces around time wise, which sometimes makes sense but also makes the book a confusing read at other times; just when you think you're done with one period or individual, you're suddenly back with them again for a few pages. There's also too much on his relationship or whatever you want to call it with dancer Nora Kaye. Laurents could be called a name-dropper were it not for the fact that he did legitimately work with and otherwise interact with many famous people, not all of whom are portrayed in a flattering light. Laurents ends the book by writing of his long-time partner, Tom Hatcher, "as long as he lives, I will." Sadly, Hatcher died six years later, and Laurents survived him by five years.
Verdict: Entertaining and absorbing for most of its length and a fine evocation of its period. ***1/2.