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Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America by Peter Biskind

<em>Star</em> is both an &ldquo;exhaustive&rdquo; treatise on an intriguing career and &ldquo;so salacious&rdquo; that readers &ldquo;may never look at some Hollywood icons the same way ever again,&rdquo;

(Simon & Schuster, 627 pages, $30)

Warren Beatty remains, at 72, “a national treasure of titillation,” said Lauren Beckham Falcone in the Boston Herald. The “capo di tutti capi” of Hollywood skirt-chasers has been married for 18 years and hasn’t starred in a movie since 2001, but when biographer Peter Biskind’s estimate that the actor has slept with 12,775 women became public, it made headlines across the country. Never mind that the math he used to reach his tally is difficult to square with reality: The author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls clearly chose his latest subject wisely, said Judith Newman in People. Star is both an “exhaustive” treatise on an intriguing career and “so salacious” that readers “may never look at some Hollywood icons the same way ever again.”

Biskind will certainly convince you that Beatty retains amazing powers of seduction, said Janet Maslin in The New York Times. The normally tough-minded author seems so dazzled by the actor that he “applauds” his womanizing, forgives him all manner of pettiness, and “makes remarkable claims” for the artistry of films as unremarkable as Dick Tracy and Reds. Beatty’s lawyer has disputed some of the reporting in Biskind’s book, but Beatty sat for enough interviews with the author
to burnish his reputation as a man “who can speak at great length without saying much at all.”

The book’s flaws “hardly matter,” said Lawrence Levi in the Los Angeles Times. In Star, Beatty “comes off as the most exasperating person who ever lived,” and that’s entertainment enough. Beatty had the looks to be a movie idol at 24, the charm to sleep with a who’s who of Hollywood starlets, and the vision to produce 1967’s groundbreaking Bonnie and Clyde. Yet Biskind shows us that he was also a bully, a control freak, “maddeningly indecisive, and hopelessly self-defeating.” When you consider what, with all his gifts, he might otherwise have accomplished, it’s clear that he’s primarily “an underachiever.”

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