A snarky, muckraking, indulgent treat for film buffs.



A British stand-up comedian turned journalist scrutinizes four celebrated, heavy-drinking actors.

Sellers’ blackly humorous biography chronicles the bawdy, outrageous reputations of “four of the greatest boozers that ever walked—or staggered—into a pub. It’s a “celebratory catalogue of their miscreant deeds” that thankfully incorporates notes of humor and revelation, since these conditions not only stalled their careers but cost them their livelihoods. Welsh actor Richard Burton, once one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood, claimed apathy (and a stream of cinematic “drivel”) as his primary reason for drinking, that life offstage was too much of a sobering reversal to handle without alcohol. Irishman Richard Harris abused alcohol for most of his life while achieving fame in the film adaptation of Camelot (1967), then more recently as Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series. Despite winning major acclaim in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Peter O’Toole’s heavy drinking and public brawling sabotaged his career. After some resulting major surgery, his ability to garner film roles was stunted further. British actor Oliver Reed, the most notorious of the “hellraisers,” died amid a legendary drinking binge in Malta during the filming of Gladiator (1999). Sellers delivers decades of debauched history and insider Hollywood information on his subjects, from the “The Plastered Fifties” to “The Pickled Nineties.” Chain-smoking Burton was prone to rages and a voracious sexual appetite; Harris’ domineering personality and days-long drinking binges often trumped his notoriety; O’Toole, saddled with eccentricities and a failing marriage, befriended Burton in a union that Elizabeth Taylor quickly squashed; and Reed’s dour public image suffered even more after his penchant for “showing his cock in public” emerged. Of the four, only O’Toole endures, “the last surviving British reprobate” who “knows he’s been living on borrowed time for years, watching all his drinking pals from the 60s [sic] go under turf one by one.”

A snarky, muckraking, indulgent treat for film buffs.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-55399-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2009

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?