SPLIT IMAGE by Charles Winecoff

SPLIT IMAGE

The Life of Anthony Perkins
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 This is the first book by Winecoff, a graduate of the film program at UCLA, who ``grew up around the corner'' from his subject, Psycho star Anthony Perkins. Unfortunately for his career and his emotional balance, Perkins was quickly condemned to be thought of as just that, the star of Alfred Hitchcock's epochal 1960 film. Although he had a not undistinguished career on stage and actually made few horror films until relatively late in his career, Perkins would be forever identified with the knife-wielding Norman Bates. However, as Winecoff's book amply documents, that was one of his lesser problems. Perkins was the son of the famous stage actor Osgood Perkins, who died when the boy was only five. Perkins's mother, Jane, was a cold and dominating woman. The boy was sent to boarding schools, where he was generally miserable. His life was made all the more difficult by his realization that he was gay. Winecoff assiduously traces Perkins's career path--from summer stock to a premature Hollywood debut in Cukor's The Actress, to Broadway success in Look Homeward, Angel, then back to Hollywood for Friendly Persuasion and stardom. Perkins had a somewhat ambiguous marriage to Berry Berenson, which produced two children, whom he doted on. His life and work after Psycho seem to constitute a nearly unbroken downward spiral, including an escalating drug problem and culminating with his death in 1992 from AIDS. The book is the product of a tremendous amount of homework; Winecoff seems to have interviewed everyone living who ever worked with Perkins. Unfortunately, the prose is gratingly melodramatic and filled with mixed metaphors and solecisms (a play ``had flopped without a trace''). Winecoff shows little affection for most of Perkins's work, which leads the reader to wonder why why he has produced this long and tedious book. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen) (Book-of-the-Month Club and Quality Paperback Book Club selections)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-525-94064-2
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1996