Frank Langella: Affairs with Liz Taylor, Rita Hayworth and Plenty of Dish

Frank Langella details affairs with Elizabeth Taylor and Rita Hayworth and takes some pot shots in his memoir “Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them”

Last Updated: March 25, 2012 @ 11:53 AM

"There will be a fair amount of forks to the eye and knives to the throat," Frank Langella warns at the start of his just released memoir, and he isn't kidding.

Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Hayworth, Paul Newman, Rex Harrison, Richard Burton and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis are among those cast in a none-too-flattering light by Broadway and film star Langella, 74, in "Dropped Names: Famous Men And Women As I Knew Them." Harper Collins is releasing the book on Tuesday.

He recalls a desperately lonely Taylor who, after a second date in 2001, told him "Come on, baby, and put me to sleep." After helping the then 69-year-old actress upstairs by pushing her from behind he said he was shocked by the clutter in her room: pictures of dead ex-husbands, "dozens and dozens of bottles of witch hazel that she used to remove her makeup and a huge box of chocolates on her bed."

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Taylor was "a small, sweet woman who wanted a man to be with her, protect her and fill a void as deep as the deepest ocean." At one point, Langella says, Taylor wanted to move with him to the East Coast but he said no, because she would "have him for lunch."

He details an affair with Rita Hayworth, when he was 34 and she was 20 years his senior, drinking and suffering from the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. They were playing a mother and son in a 1972 Western called "The Wrath of God."

Langella, an Oscar nominee for "Frost/Nixon," said she couldn't remember her lines unless they were written in huge block letters and placed next to the camera, but that they spent days together drinking while she reminisced.

‘Don’t stare at me, baby. You can see me in the movies,’ she told him one night, but writes that when he left her for the last time after several weeks, Hayworth ran out to the car and pleaded: "Don’t leave me. I gotta have a man with me."

Among the other stars remembered and generally skewered by Langella:

>> Paul Newman, who Langella says was "a pretty dull companion, after the dirty-sexy jokes, shop talk, cars or politics were exhausted. Never rude or unkind, just dull. In awe of his good looks, companions would instinctively think it their fault when he suddenly went quiet," Langella writes.

>> Richard Burton was a "crashing bore" who liked to recite poetry in a drunken stupor. "Could anyone, I wondered, be so unaware of what a crashing bore he had become?" he writes. "There sat a man approximately 52 years of age, looking ten years older, dressed in black mink, with heavily applied pancake [make-up], under a tortured, balding helmet of jet black hair, grandly reciting tiresome poetry.";

>> Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was the first woman he met who found "money as an aphrodisiac.";

>> Rex Harrison was a "real son of a bitch" terrified people would think he was homosexual (he wasn’t);

>> Laurence Olivier was a "silly old English gent who loved to play camp and gossip";

>> Graduate star Anne Bancroft "was consumed by a galloping narcissism that often undermined her talents." Langella remembers Bancroft being struck and attracted to a woman she saw at a department store — and then realizing it was a mirror image of herself.

>>Yul Brynner was "never far from a full-length mirror." He gave Langella and his former wife, Ruth, a lift in his 20-foot-long white limo. On the drive, Brynner explained how he’d had a special lift — big enough to fit a car — installed in the Broadway theater where he was starring in "The King And I" to avoid contact with the public. Brynner had a pair of blinding flash lights which he kept handy "in case blacks attack my car," Langella said;

>> Lee Strasberg was "a pompous pygmy."

Whoopi Goldberg, with whom Langella had a relationship for years, isn't mentioned in the book, which largely addressed stars who have died. That heads off embarrassment, and lawsuits, of course.