AN OPEN BOOK by John Huston

AN OPEN BOOK

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Director-writer-actor Huston recalls his career and some aspects of his private life--in a detail-rich but curiously muted, often stubbornly impersonal autobiography. Son of actor Walter (who soon took off to pursue his career), sickly little John moved around with Mother in search of healthful climates, suddenly got better, even became something of a boxer. But he wanted to paint, acted here and there (thanks to Dad), tried writing (H. L. Mencken bought his first story), married early (""I recommend young marriages to everyone""), discovered Ulysses, bumbled a bit as a reporter, failed once in Hollywood, philandered away his marriage, wound up street-bumming in London. ""At the time, I only thought of myself as unlucky--under a cloud--but that fuming dark cloud undoubtedly emanated from my own spirit."" In any case, he pulled himself together, beginning his screenwriting career in earnest: Jezebel, Juarez (""Paul Muni. . . insisted on changes to accommodate his own conceit""), his directing debut with The Maltese Falcon (disappointingly brief discussion here). Then: the War, and, oddly, the best chapters of the book--as Huston scrambles to patch together propaganda documentaries, coming up instead with tough films labeled ""anti-war"" by Washington and dumped (likewise a film on Army psychiatric patients). Back in Hollywood and on location, having married Evelyn Keyes on the impulsive rebound from a doomed affair, there was Treasure of Sierra Madre (""I believe B. Traven was two or more persons who worked in collaboration""); African Queen--the best-evoked filming here (black mambas in the portable toilet, unflappable Hepburn staring down a wild boar); tussles with D. Selznick over Duel in the Sun (""David never did anything worth a damn after he married Jennifer""); the miserable making of Freud, with Susannah York (""the personification of the uninformed arrogance of youth"") and over-the-edge Montgomery Clift (Huston denies he was cruel to Monty). Plus--hunting with Hemingway, too much on Ireland-manse lifestyle (foxhunts and all), too little real sense of Huston's passionate personality (""I've refrained from making any dark disclosures""). Fine for film buffs, then, but--even with the many swipes at un-favorite colleagues--not enough of a truly ""open book"" to engage much sympathy or intense general interest.

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 1980
Publisher: Knopf