It wasn't until I began reading Frank Langella's first book "Dropped Names" that I realized how much I was missing the late Dominick Dunne. The book's content is as insightful about the dark side of human nature as Dunne's work. The tone is as arrogant and bitchy.
An actor for half a century, Langella got to have access to plenty of famous people. Most of them were in the acting profession. But some were outsiders such as Bunny Mellon and Tip O'Neill. Most had a tragic flaw or developed one through the delusions imposed by fame. Among the exceptions were Marilyn Monroe who Langella has frozen in his memory bank from his teenage experience of her.
Langella is at his best with his chronicle of decay. He presents to us a boozing, balding, boring Richard Burton who even on the stage could not re-enact the Burton who once was. Given all the similar examples in the book of talent destroyed by fame one wonders, though, if that is the sole explanation for the loss of self as well as of theatrical abilities.
Did an internal switch get turned off in some like Burton and not in those personalities Langella does not mention. They could have included Betty White, Sally Field, and Rupert Murdoch. All of them have been burdened with high profiles and have managed to continue their professional growth.
But Langella's mission in the book is not to be objective. He seems to intend to entertain and does that exceedingly well.