Drama: An Actor’s Education
John Lithgow’s journey is an interesting read. For the most part, it’s a smorgasbord of show business names, places and projects.
It is also a treasure trove of mystery, at least for me. Whenever John has to say something even slightly negative about someone, he hides their identity. That makes me determined to find out who they are. In each case I have italicized the clues.
“Chiefly responsible for the theatrical doldrums up onstage was the actor playing Romeo. He had a flowery name, six syllables long, but I’ll call him Devereaux. Devereaux was a vain, baby-faced pretty boy, consumed with narcissistic self-regard. His favorite pastime was sitting languorously at his makeup table for an hour before every show, staring at himself in the mirror, his face framed by a whole gallery of photographs of Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra. As Romeo, Devereaux’s coiffed blond hair, meticulous mascara, and fey, self-styled costume were far more important to him than his character’s impetuous flesh-and-blood passions. Romero’s scalding love for Juliet was barely an afterthought.”
“My Don Pedro was no Albert Finney. I’ll call him Biff Richards. Biff was a very nice guy. He was tall and rangy, with an easygoing masculinity and movie-star good looks. Rare among rep actors, he seemed destined for screen stardom. He had already gained a certain prominence in the business: everywhere he went he was recognized for a series of TV commercials he had done. In those ubiquitous ads, he smoked a stogey in dramatically lit close-up while someone else’s resonant off-camera voice extolled the virtues of a certain cigar. My father had been delighted to land such a splendid figure of a man for his company, blithely disregarding Biff’s meager list of stage credits. As first this enthusiasm was justified. Early in the season, Biff was broodingly effective in the role of Slim, a plainspoken mule skinner in Of Mice and Men. He played the part without a trace of artifice or histrionics. Neither was there a trace of nuance, variety, emotion, humor, or even energy.”
“By this time in his career, Rock Masters was running on fumes. He was navigating the rough waters of a middle-aged leading man‘s faltering career. His genial manner was tinged with desperation. For him, starring in Interdit was a chance to regain some lost credibility in the movie business. The plot of the film paired the two of us in a complex psychological chess game, full of mystery, duplicity, and shocking revelations. It was a meaty on-screen relationship, the kind most actors would kill for. I had practically salivated when I first read the script. I suspect that Rock was pretty excited, too. But he could have been forgiven for feeling a little concerned when he learned that he would be partnered with an unknown, untested New York theater actor half his age.”
I guess when someone writes their memoirs, they have to be mindful that someone might take offense at something that was remembered. And I’m sure the publishers would have been mindful of defamation suits. Perhaps John Lithgow was advised to disguise these select few, because everyone else in the theater, and movies, were named in his book.
But, I don’t mind. It made for a riveting few hours trying to figure out who exactly they were. Notice that I didn’t name them either, just in case.