SOME UNKNOWN PERSON by Sandra Scoppettone


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B-movie melodrama, which would whine for shlock filming were that not a fait accompli: Butterfield 8, with Elizabeth Taylor as the vamping, tramping ""Gloria,"" O'Hara's version of Starr Faithfull, the 1920s real-life booze-and-pills party girl whose body washed up on a Long Island beach on June 5, 1931. Here the lurid focus is divided between Starr--unwilling Lolita to her middle-aged uncle (mayor of Boston), victimized ether addict, self-destructive tease--and semi-innocent bystander Orlando Antolini, whom Scoppettone (The Late Great Me) pegs as the mystery man who abetted Starr in her oceanic suicide. Each jumpy, predictable chapter begins with Orlando's fragmented, guilty reminiscences as he lies dying in 1977, then flashes to Starr and Orlando in their separate youths (leaky-faucet-of-consciousness), and winds up with a portentous sliver of Starr's last day on earth. Some of the school-age dialogue is fast and sharp, but all too soon the silver-screen cliches bounce on in bulk (Starr's beloved ship's doctor, who just wants to be her on-the-wagon buddy: ""If you go back to your old way of life, you'll be dead in no time""). With super-short sentences and far. more explicit sex than necessary (why must we learn, at length, that Starr's negligible stepfather has a ""knockwurst to beat the band with""?), more than a few unknown persons will be wanting to wolf this down, but they'd be better off with Liz on celluloid, where the lack of insight or texture goes unnoticed in the technicolor glare.

Pub Date: Aug. 29th, 1977
Publisher: Putnam