CALAIS by Kathleen Winsor

CALAIS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Can you write a novel supposedly set ha today's theater world without the slightest inkling of how show-business really operates? Apparently Winsor (Forever Amber) believes she can: this interminable soap opera takes place in a Broadway never-never-land where a N.Y. actress can win fame and fortune by playing nothing but classical roles--Juliet, Desdemona, Lady MacBeth, Hedda Gabler, Cleopatra, Beatrice Cenci (!). In fact, the credits of gorgeous superstar Arlette Morgan read more like a Great Plays reading list than anything remotely realistic; nor is the day-to-day theatrical scene--classes, auditions, rehearsals, etc.--conveyed with an iota of insider savvy. (Arlette's N.Y. acting teacher says, ""Remember, Arlette: when eight-forty comes, love goes,"" oddly unaware that Broadway curtain time hasn't been 8:40 for decades.) So any appeal here must rest with Arlette's heavy-breathing personal life. Born Lily Malone and cheated of love by being orphaned early (""I am a haunted house""), Lily resolves to be a great actress and starts at college in a pretentious Chinese-style opus--coached (and bedded) by her Svengali-like college professor. But soon, in N.Y., Lily starts climbing, changes her name, and finds new bed partners: ""Sensuality was a lotus land for Lily Malone and Arlette Morgan,"" so she dallies with a stage director, a film director, and others before winding up with matinee idol Anthony De Forest--who leaves his wife and kids to make Arlette Mrs. De F. But their careers clash (despite filming an epic together), and then comes Anthony's infidelity with a new young climbing actress--discovered by Arlette in a telephone scene lifted right out of All About Eve. And finally, before a hilariously arbitrary deus ex machina ends the tedium, Arlette finds Truer Love with a married doctor. Throughout the play-making and movie-making (there's an unlikely filming of Return of the Native), Arlette remains vapid, selfish, and dully self-dramatizing; moreover, any readers unsophisticated enough to believe in Arlette's theatrical career will probably not appreciate Winsor's gratuitous sprinklings of four-letter words or her clumsy attempts at graphic and acrobatic sexplay.

Pub Date: June 8th, 1979
Publisher: Doubleday