A Story Lately Told by Anjelica Huston, Scribner, 254 pages ($25). The trouble with Anjelica Huston as an actress is that she is too regal-looking to play anything other than an empress. She’s tall, slender and striking looking in an unconventional way great for modeling but not resembling the movies’ improverished ideas of beauty. No one has ever needed a DNA report to see the DNA of her father, writer/director/actor John Huston. To play any role at all in a movie means she has to go against type.
Her movie career has come with built-n challenges. To her credit she’s always gone for them wholeheartedly. (Let’s never forget that she played Vincent Gallo’s mother in “Buffalo ’66”, an entertaining, terminally neurotic act of vengeance by the talented fellow ex-model who – rather sadly – wanted a whole city to blame for coming from a lousy family.)
Given all the “celebrities” who burden the world with autobiographies and memoirs, it has become truly uncommon to have them written by those whose life story the world actually needs. This is that uncommon book, impressively written in a style that is as graceful and natural as breathing and as observant as that by a “born writer.”
Try this about her father: “Dad stood alone. He was a lonesome pine. I think there were places that my father wouldn’t go with anyone. He had demons. He could be charming and captivating, seductive and charismatic but if he had it in for you, watch out. His eyes were brown and inquisitive, like a monkey’s eyes, with a keen intelligence. But when he got angry, they would turn red. He was disgusted by ignorance, prejudice and stupidity but sometimes I think Dad was just plain angry and vodka fueled that rage.”
In the very next sentence, she tells us that the only book her father ever read to her and her brother Danny was “Old Yeller.”
This is a coming-of-age memoir. So you won’t find long disquisitions here on life with Jack Nicholson during the era when they were Hollywood nobility incarnate and appeared together in “Dad’s” “Prizzi’s Honor.” (She won an Oscar.) Here she comes of age surrounded by talent, pot, fame and photographers, and tells her tale with unexpected distinction.
– Jeff Simon