Huston's most notable films include screen versions of the novels The Witches by Roald Dahl, Prizzi's Honor by Richard Condon, and The Grifters by Jim Thompson.
"Unlike many celebrity memoirs, Anjelica Huston's is worth reading," says book reviewer Lewis Jones of The Spectator. "Her story is an interesting one, and is generally well written, sometimes even beautifully so."
Anjelica Huston, the daughter of the legendary film director John Huston, was born in Los Angeles in 1951 while her father, then in his mid-forties and at the top of his game career-wise, was in the Congo making his famous screen version of C.S. Forester's novel The African Queen.
|John and Anjelica Huston, 1976|
(photo: Rex Features).
Young Anjelica attends a local village school run by nuns (though her family is atheist), roams the green fields of St. Cleran's with the children of the servants (her only playmates) and becomes an excellent horsewoman. As soon as she is old enough she fox hunts, sometimes sidesaddle, with the local gentry. "There was nothing so close to the feeling of flying as being on a good Irish hunter when the hounds picked up a scent," Anjelica writes. Her eccentric brother Tony takes up falconry. Her beautiful young mother, the former ballerina Enrica "Ricki" Soma, the fourth of John Huston's five wives, endlessly arranges renovations to the ramshackle estate and entertains the numerous visitors, many of them writers, who the usually absent John Huston brings home with him.
|Reflections in a Golden Eye, |
movie tie-in paperback edition, 1967.
Irish novelist Edna O'Brien, working with John Huston on a screenplay, encounters Anjelica on the grounds of St. Cleran's and, in tears, tells her "Your father is a terrible man...a cruel, dangerous man."
A gravely ill Carson McCullers visits St. Cleran's in early 1967. Sipping bourbon from a little silver cup, McCullers requests a tour of the house. "Her stretcher was carried from room to room as she asked questions about each object's history and each painting's provenance," Anjelica writes.
|White Hunter, Black Heart,|
first edition, 1953.
Viertel had collaborated with John Huston on the screenplay to The African Queen and used the experience as the basis of his novel White Hunter, Black Heart (1953), in which an egotistical movie director named John Wilson, while filming in Africa, neglects his duties in order to follow his obsession to shoot an elephant. Anjelica notes that a copy of White Hunter, Black Heart was "kept on the bookshelf in the downstairs bathroom at St. Cleran's."
Clint Eastwood directed and played the Huston-based lead character, John Wilson, in a 1990 film version of White Hunter, Black Heart.
|John Huston and Ray Bradbury, 1956.|
When Anjelica was about ten years old, her parents separated. She and her brother moved with their mother Ricki to London where Ricki commenced a busy social life mainly with writers and artists, including photographer Richard Avedon and poet Stephen Spender.
|Anjelica Huston on cover of movie|
tie in edition of Hans Koning's A Walk
with Love and Death, 1969.
A Story Lately Told takes Anjelica through the death of her beloved mother in a car accident in 1969; her reluctant cooperation in a failed attempt by her father to make her a teenage movie star with a screen version of Hans Koning's novella of romance in war-torn medieval France, A Walk with Love and Death; her modeling career in Europe and New York; a turbulent, near deadly, relationship with a mentally ill fashion photographer twenty years her senior; and a relieved return to her birthplace. Anjelica writes -- "Los Angeles was a dream that I'd cherished for some time...although I knew that I probably was not going to find work as a model, not being in the least the popular idea of a California girl. I nevertheless craved the sun, the open space, the beach -- the comparatively easy living. I put my old life behind me."
Oxford-educated Allegra Huston worked for many years in the London publishing world. Her memoir, Love Child (2009), which covers her peripatetic childhood as a semi-orphan shuttling between different households in her fragmented family, is more thorough in regard to Huston family dynamics and takes a more questioning attitude than Anjelica's cool, conversationally-toned volume.
The Huston sisters, though their personalities and writing styles differ, paint similar portraits of their flamboyant father. "Dad stood alone," Anjelica writes. "He had demons. He could be charming and captivating, seductive and charismatic, but if he had it in for you, watch out...He was disgusted by ignorance, prejudice, and stupidity, but sometimes I think Dad was just plain angry." Allegra recalls John Huston as often kind and generous but basically a "difficult man...egocentric, impatient, judgmental, cuttingly sarcastic, and a gambler."
An Open Book (1980).
As a young man in the 1920s, John Huston was a journalist and aspiring fiction writer in New York. His short story "Fool," was published in American Mercury (March 1929). His mother, Reah Gore, Walter Huston's first wife, was a prominent journalist and close friend of novelist Thomas Wolfe. John Huston began his Hollywood career as a screenwriter and earned his first Oscar nomination as co-writer of the original screenplay to Sergeant York (1941), directed by Howard Hawks. "My only thrill in writing comes after I've written something, put it away and then on re-reading it later find it still holds water...a feeling largely of relief," Huston says in An Open Book.
The Maltese Falcon. Hammett's hard boiled mystery had been unsuccessfully filmed twice before. Huston attributed the success of his version to not trying to put his own stamp on the source material. Throughout his career Huston, who wrote or co-wrote the screenplays to most of his films, sought to preserve as much as possible of a literary work, especially the nuances of character that are often lost in the transition to film.
"When I make a picture, it's simply because I believe the story is worth telling," Huston writes in An Open Book. "It has been said that I have a tendency to choose stories whose point is the irony of man's pursuit of an impossibly illusive goal. If this has in fact been a consistent motif of my pictures, I must confess to being unaware of it. Admittedly, certain themes trigger a deeper personal response than others, and success stories, per se, are not really of much interest to me. I'm convinced that there are more failures than men of achievement among us. Moreover, the best men tend to think of themselves as failures."
|Theophilus North, re-titled |
movie tie-in paperback, 1988.
Huston directed a screen version of Tennessee Williams' play Night of the Iguana and turned Maxwell Anderson's blank verse drama Key Largo into a classic film noir. Huston also filmed Arthur Miller's original screenplay, The Misfits.
Lillian Ross, a young staff writer for The New Yorker, covered Huston's filming of Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage in 1950. Ross' resulting book, Picture (1952), is a classic of film world journalism. A new edition of Picture was released in 1993 with a foreword by Anjelica Huston.
John Huston's last completed film was his 1987 screen version of James Joyce's short story "The Dead," starring Anjelica Huston. In August 1987, John Huston died of complications from emphysema while on location in Rhode Island directing Mr. North, a film adaptation of Thornton Wilder's 1973 bestselling novel Theophilus North.
Here's more information --
Peter B. Flint. John Huston, Film Director, Writer, and Actor, Dies at 81." New York Times 29 August
Jonathan Rosenbaum. "A Free Man: Clint Eastwood's White Hunter, Black Heart." 1 December 2009.
The Committee Room. Time Spent with TCR is Never Wasted.