ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Last year, the actress Angelica Huston published a memoir. Our reviewer, author Meg Wolitzer, was excited to read about Hollywood in the '70s and Huston's famous relationship with Jack Nicholson. Well, that book turned out to be a tease. It ended with Huston's arrival in California to become an actress. Now there's a sequel. It's called "Watch Me," and it's out tomorrow. Reviewer Meg Wolitzer got a little more what she wanted, sort of.
MEG WOLITZER: This time, Huston's book is all Hollywood. Lesser roles go to Ryan O'Neal, Roman Polanski, Elia Kazan and Angelica's father, John Huston, but the book's leading man is Huston's boyfriend, Jack Nicholson. Throughout the memoir, he seems like tremendous fun to be with. He's sexy, funny, smart and a huge presence - always generous with himself. Finally, though, that generosity leads to another woman's pregnancy and the birth of a daughter. After nearly two decades, Angelica Huston walks away.
I wasn't surprised by the stories of excess, fame and money, but I was a little surprised by Angelica Huston's lack of interest in fleshing out the stories with more subtext and genuine feeling. Sometimes, it was like reading a screenplay rather than a memoir, as if she expected that all of these actors she mentions would come in to give her words the intensity that wasn't there on the page. I was frustrated by list after list of people who'd appeared at one event or another. Even a potentially dramatic moment where Huston describes so mad at Nicholson for his behaviors that, she says, she beat him savagely about the head and shoulders lacks drama.
Still, it was pleasurable to read about her encounters with Michael Jackson and Marlon Brando and disturbing to hear that Ryan O'Neal was abusive and a bully. The later section of the book, when Huston falls in love with the sculptor Robert Graham, has more depth, partly because their relationship seems more stable.
"Watch Me" is a fun, but often thin story about big Hollywood players in a golden era that's starting to feel like it took place as long ago as silent pictures. It's strongest when we start to see Huston's life as a working actress - someone who wasn't a big star in the way Nicholson was, but who wants to work, appearing in movies that range from "Prizzi's Honor," for which she won an Oscar, to "The Addams Family" to "Daddy Day Care." And among all the noise of celebrity, this really is the interesting story, though it's much more quietly told.
SIEGEL: The book is "Watch Me" by Angelica Huston. It was reviewed by author Meg Wolitzer.
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