August 9, 2012 at 12:56 pm EDT | by Terri Schlichenmeyer
Mingling with the stars

‘Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women as I Knew Them’
By Frank Langella
356 pages

Shameless name dropping is often the sign of a boor, but at times, a dishy tale featuring the well known can be great fun.

Actor Frank Langella (Photo by Joe Fornabaio; courtesy Harper)

In his new book “Dropped Names,” Tony-winning actor Frank Langella lets go of a few tales and things as he writes about the stars he knew, hated and loved.

It all started with one word from Marilyn Monroe.

Frank Langella was a 15-year-old New Jersey boy on a bus trip to New York when a limousine happened to pull up in front of him while he stood in Times Square. The driver pushed Langella aside and when the limo door opened, a vision in white emerged.

Marilyn Monroe smiled and said “Hi,” and Langella was instantly smitten.

He never forgot that whispered word, even through his long career in Hollywood and on Broadway allowed him to meet all kinds of famous characters.

Because he was friends with their daughter, for instance, Longella spent long summers at the various homes of Paul and Bunny Mellon, and their luncheons were filled with the rich and famous. Langella remembers how everyone was greatly entertained by Noel Coward, and how Jackie Kennedy was rarely far away.

While playing in the Poconos, Langella had the pleasure to work with Billie Burke, far from her Good Witch role but not a bit less than charming.

He writes of seductions: Elsa Lanchester’s breezy explanation of her late husband, Charles Laughton’s swimming pool habits; clumsy overtures from Anthony Perkins; a sweet love affair with Dinah Shore; and an “unconsummated” man-crush on Raul Julia.

He writes of Rita Hayworth’s illness, when nobody knew much about Alzheimer’s. He tells of a “stupid thing” he did to Jackie Kennedy. He writes of a down-and-out Montgomery Clift, Richard Burton as a “crashing bore,” feuds with Lee Strasberg, bawdy jokes with Elizabeth Taylor, pranks with Robert Mitchum, and more.

“Fame is … fleeting,” says author Frank Langella. So, unfortunately, is this book.

“Dropped Names” is one of those Hollywood tell-(almost)-alls that you never want to end. It’s like discovering a box of old movie magazines in Grandma’s attic, or like a movie-marathon on paper. It’s the best kind of fluff, if you’re a film buff.

Readers will be happy to know that there’s enough snark in this book to satisfy the most fierce gossip lovers, but Langella also writes poignantly Hollywood’s tortured souls and those who seemed too fragile for fame. What’s nice is that he does this while calling only the barest amount of attention to himself.  He tells the stories as he remembers them, without getting in the way.

If you love old movies or if you miss the glamour and glitz of old Hollywood, then grab the popcorn and settle in.

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