Jamie Kennedy's favorite movie review site
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Latest Features

Films I Neglected To Review: And You Thought Flying United Was Bad

Short Stuff: The 2017 Oscar-Nominated Documentary Shorts

Films I Neglected To Review: 'Another Head Hangs Lowly

Short Stuff: The 2017 Oscar-Nominated Live-Action Shorts

Short Stuff: The 2017 Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts

Whistler Film Festival 2017 Interview: THE OTHER SIDE OF PORCUPINE LAKE director Julian Papas

Whistler Film Festival 2017 Interview: TRENCH 11 director Leo Scherman

Whistler Film Festival 2017 Interview: Meet the team behind ORDINARY DAYS!

Whistler Film Festival 2017 Interview: SANTA STOLE OUR DOG director Bryan Michael Stoller

Whistler Film Festival 2017 Interview: HOLY ANGELS director Jay Cardinal Villeneuve

Whistler Film Festival 2017 Interview: NEVER SAW IT COMING director Gail Harvey

Whistler Film Festival 2017 Interview: THE BALLAD OF LEFTY BROWN director Jarod Moshe

Whistler Film Festival 2017 Interview: JUGGERNAUT director Daniel Dimarco

Whistler Film Festival 2017 Interview: BUDAPEST NOIR director Eva Gardos

Whistler Film Festival 2017 Interview: SOMEONE ELSE'S WEDDING director Pat Kiely

Whistler Film Festival 2017 Interview: VENUS director Eisha Marjara

Whistler Film Festival 2017 Interview - NEVER HERE director Camille Thoman

Whistler Film Festival 2017 Interview: A SWINGERS WEEKEND director Jon E. Cohen

Whistler Film Festival 2017 Interview: THERE IS A HOUSE HERE director Alan Zweig

Whistler Film Festival: The Darkest Movie Moments on the Starriest Slopes

subscribe to this feed

Latest Reviews

Pacific Rim: Uprising by alejandroariera

Unsane by Peter Sobczynski

Tehran Taboo by Rob Gonsalves

Final Portrait by Rob Gonsalves

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story by Jay Seaver

Before We Vanish by Jay Seaver

Dear Dictator by Peter Sobczynski

Tomb Raider (2018) by Peter Sobczynski

Darken by Jay Seaver

Early Man by Jay Seaver

Beyond Skyline by Jay Seaver

Agent Mr. Chan by Jay Seaver

Wrinkle in Time, A by Peter Sobczynski

Kill Order by Jay Seaver

Detective Chinatown 2 by Jay Seaver

Game Night by Jay Seaver

Operation Red Sea by Jay Seaver

Red Sparrow by Peter Sobczynski

Annihilation by Peter Sobczynski

They Remain by Rob Gonsalves

subscribe to this feed

BOOK REVIEW: Mel Gussow's Edward Albee: A Singular Journey

by Charles Tatum

Albee, the playwright of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," and other plays, is given a deluxe biographical treatment here from a writer who has known him for almost forty years...and sometimes worships him a little too much.

Albee was adopted by a wealthy, yet emotionless set of parents. His father, Reed, was absent, and his mother, Frankie, was cool and detached. This upbringing, where he was seen more as a possession than a family member, would, of course, affect his writings. Constantly kicked out of schools, and never graduating from college, Albee turned to writing, his first success being "Zoo Story."

"Zoo Story," a short play about a fateful meeting of two men in a park, received mixed notices from assorted playwrights and critics. Here, biographer Gussow overextends his protection of his subject too much. He dismisses the honest critiques of two playwriting giants- Thornton Wilder and William Inge, because they did not understand or like Albee's works. However, a bland positive response by Samuel Beckett is treated like a Dead Sea Scroll, to be picked apart and treasured. I have read "Zoo Story," and it is wordy and preachy.

Albee's next big success was "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," which was turned into the powerhouse film by Mike Nichols. Again, Gussow is flagrant in his criticism of someone involved with the film in order to placate Albee, and here, Nichols. The film's screenwriter, Ernest Lehman, is harshly criticized for opening the play slightly, yet just copying Albee's play. The bio's author, and Albee, make a point of needling Lehman's screenwriting credit on the film. Yet, Elaine May copied the French film "La Cage Aux Folles" word for word, adding what could be described as copious scenes at best, then took a big giant screenwriting credit for Nichols' "The Birdcage." Watch both of those films back to back sometime, it is eye opening.

Gussow also fumbles in his outline of Albee's life. In Albee's less successful years, he is writing weird experimental plays with subjects like a man with three arms, and one play where two of the characters are sea creatures. After mounting all of these failures, Albee is defended endlessly by Gussow, who suddenly contributes an entire chapter about Albee's alcoholism. The alcohol is both a reason his plays were not celebrated, and a defense of the brilliant man.

The entire beginning of the book chronicles the complete lack of love Albee's parents had for him, yet the death of Albee's father is glossed over, barely mentioned. I had to reread the sentence a few times, since no followup is made about Albee's reaction. A whole chapter is devoted to his mother's demise, and her revenge on her own son in her will. More is written about one of his former lovers and honest critics, a frustrated musician. This "A Star is Born" redux is written about nicely.

Gussow does do well in describing Albee's assorted forays into theater, as playwright and director. Dirt about Donald Sutherland and Frank Langella is dished around. The bio's author is honest in Albee's lacking skills as a director, coming to the theater as a playwright and not an actor.

Albee, who prefers to be called a writer who is gay, as opposed to a gay writer, also has kind words for his longtime partner of over twenty years. Albee says a gay writer writes about being gay, whether the work is good or not is moot, since the writer knows the subject and is putting in the final word. A writer who is gay is not tied down to just homosexual topics, and is free to explore society without audiences looking for gay subtexts that do not exist. "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" is a seering look at two heterosexual couples, the sexuality of the playwright is nonessential in light of his characters and their actions.

Gussow wisely keeps talk of Albee's lesser known plays, and the ones readers probably have not read anyway, to a minimum. Albee's triumphant comeback play, "Three Tall Women," is covered extensively. The play is about his mother, and so much more.

Reading this biography will make you curious to seek out some of Albee's other plays, just to see what makes him tick. Over seventy now, he is definitely an interesting man, and Gussow does catch that fact better than anything.

I recommend this book to theater lovers, and any writer who needs a little inspiration.

link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=1176
originally posted: 08/03/04 15:01:12
last updated: 08/14/04 13:47:11
[printer] printer-friendly format

Discuss this feature in our forum

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 
Privacy Policy | | HBS Inc. |   
All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast