CURTAIN by Michael Korda
Kirkus Star

CURTAIN

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Korda's tightest, most smoothly written, most tackily distasteful novel, in a lengthening line of tacky tales, and his best ever. This time Korda delves deeper into his characters than ever before, perhaps because he choses some vastly engaging folks to write about--Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, whose romance of the century gets lacquered here. Robert Vane, the world's greatest actor, lies dying in old age, under the portrait of glamorous ex-wife Felicia Lisle, as his present wife rages frumpishly. Then it's back to Hollywood in the early 1940's. Lisha (Felicia) and Robby have had a long love affair in public while married to others and awaiting divorces that never come. Lisha has just won world renown and an Oscar while Robert fritters. They decide to go on the road as Romeo and Juliet, but in San Francisco Lisha dries up during the balcony scene (she's going mad and will need hospitalization) and Robert falls from the balcony. The show closes, leaving the two actors deep in debt. After a big party at their Hollywood home, Lisha spies Robert and next-door neighbor Randy Brooks, the country's most beloved comedian (Danny Kaye), making out in the library. Has Robby gone queer? The thought haunts Lisha, drives her bonkers, and reoccurs when Robby later falls into a deep friendship with genius critic Guillam Pentecoste (Kenneth Tynan). Meanwhile, Robby and Lisha are rescued by a $400,000 loan from Marty Quick (Jed Harris/Mike Todd) on the promise of their appearing in his film of Don Quixote. Lisha is also haunted by memories of her wicked Uncle Harry, who sired her daughter Portia (though only she and Harry know this) and who now wants Portia to raise (and violate?). As WW II ends, Marty wants payment while Lisha goes ever more mad. Along the way, magnificent secondary characters include Robby's rivals, gay Philip Chagrin (John Gielgud) and dotty Toby Eden (Ralph Richardson), who steal every page they appear on. Once you forgive yourself, it's riveting, especially Korda's rich ideas about classical acting and the Vanes' talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 26th, 1990
Publisher: Summit/Simon & Schuster