Monday, April 25, 2011

Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America

Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America
By Peter Biskind

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

As I began reading Biskind’s book, I realized this was a period of time I lived through (the 1960's and 1970's) and thoroughly enjoyed.  What is absolutely terrific about Biskind’s approach to Beatty is that he consistently and neatly ties situations to what was going on in Hollywood, the nation, and the world at the time.  Thus, it is easy for readers to orient themselves as Biskind moves the story about Beatty’s life forward.

I was never a fan of Warren Beatty, but just as I follow other Hollywood stars (lightly and with a sense of humor), I followed his career because he was constantly in the news, and not only that, I enjoyed going to the movies.  Also, I think the whole creative art of making movies held some fascination as well, and this is truly a book about how Hollywood movies are made.

I have to confess: I was fascinated with this book.  Why?  First, Biskind is a terrific writer.  The content is well-organized, engaging, and examples and stories are numerous.  Second, I am amazed at Biskind’s information and where he went to get his material.  Yes, it is a big book: 627 pages!  The index is 26 pages in length.  There are 45 pages of notes—552 of them in all!  His sources are outstanding.  Third, Biskind tells a compelling story.  He doesn’t take sides; he simply tells it like it was and you come away with a picture of Beatty as an intelligent, manipulative, shrewd, sexual, innovative, creative, perfectionistic, and complex person.  What a fascinating portrayal.

Do you get a picture of his sexual prowess?  Definitely!  Not all the intimate details, but you definitely get the picture.  Here, Biskind describes the situation: “Beatty used to say that he couldn’t get to sleep at night without having sex.  It was part of his routine, like flossing.  This was who he was.  As the evening progressed, he would disappear with his little black book, looking for a phone.  Simple arithmetic tells us that if he had no more than one partner a night — and often there were several — over a period of, say, three and a half decades, from the mid-1950s, when he arrived in New York, to 1991, when he met Annette Bening, and allowing for the stretches when he was with the same woman, more or less, we can arrive at a figure of 12,775 women, give or take, a figure that does not include daytime quickies, drive-by blowjobs, casual gropings, stolen kisses, and so on” (p. 160). . . . He begins the very next paragraph saying, “There were so many women that it’s hard to characterize his sexual preferences by how he behaved with any particular one.  Different women served different purposes” (p. 160).

You shouldn’t read this book for all the titilating details of his sexual nature, for you will be disappointed.  Whether you are a Beatty fan or not, here is so much more here to absorb, ponder, and enjoy.  It is truly a good read and sheds so much light on the Hollywood film-making process and the professional film-making of Warren Beatty

This book is available at Star: How Warren Beatty seduced America

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