Seven Magpies

anjelica huston
Source: David Shankbone, Flickr.

I have had a girlcrush on Anjelica Huston since I saw her in Addams Family and Addams Family Values when I was a teenager. I wanted to look like Morticia, say witty things like her, and generally subvert the dominant paradigm like her. I have matured somewhat, but I still think Ms. Huston is one of the best actresses of her generation. So how could I pass up the first volume in her memoir, A Story Lately Told?

Most people know that Anjelica's father was the revered and prolific film director John Huston. However, the person who really helped shape her was her mother, Enrica (Rickie) Soma Huston. John was more interested in making movies it seems, than in actual parenting, which he was okay at when he was around.  Rickie started off as a ballet dancer, but put it aside to be Mrs. John Huston. This involved remodeling the vast Irish estate where Anjelica spent most of her childhood, hosting parties, hiring some of the staff, and generally being glamorous.  Rickie did have help raising Anjelica and Anjelica's older brother, Tony, but one gets the impression that she led something of a lonely life despite the constant flow of friends and relations.

Anjelica writes of her parents with a certain distance, balancing their adult doings with her child's impression of them. She was confused and hurt when they separated, relatable emotions for children of divorced parents. Interestingly enough, Anjelica did not immediately set out to be an actress. Her father convinced her to be in one of his later films, A Walk with Love and Death, as a teenager. The film did not do well, and critics singled out the young Ms. Huston for particular scorn. So she turned to modeling, which had its own attendant drama. The book ends not with the tragic death of Rickie at age 39 in a car accident, but on a more hopeful note when Anjelica ends her four-year relationship with the mentally unbalanced fashion photographer Bob Richardson.

There is plenty of name-dropping in A Story Lately Told, but it seems to serve the story. If you like physical description and atmospherics, the book will have at least some charm, even if you aren't particularly up to date on Ms. Huston's life and work. If you are fascinated by the lives of the rich and famous, you will definitely want to pick this up.  I, for one, am looking forward the sequel, when Anjelica's acting career really takes off.

And for the highlights of Anjelica Huston's film career:

The Postman Always Rings Twice Jack Nicholson stars in this adaptation of James Cain's noir novel about lovers who kill the woman's husband. Huston's first notable role.

Prizzi's Honor Anjelica Huston got a Best Supporting Actress nod from the Oscars for her portrayal of a Mafia princess in John Huston's satire of the Mob.

The Grifters Huston got a nomination for Best Actress Oscar for portraying an experienced, tough-minded con artist in this film that also starred Michelle Pfeiffer.