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Watch Me: A Memoir


Watch Me: A Memoir

If my boyfriend was photographer Tony Richardson and he had told me the following --- “Poor little you. So much talent and so little to show for it. You’re never going to do anything with your life.” --- I probably would’ve given him a good pouty face, perhaps the finger, and turned my back on him. Anjelica Huston smiled bravely when these words were uttered to her and heard a small voice in her head declare, “Watch me!”

One Oscar and many iconic roles later, Huston has fashioned a memoir named for this battle cry, so that we can see how she went from delicate teen model to brave dramatic actress. With the life she led, she gives us a lot to “watch” in her trajectory, emerging from under the shadow of her famous Hollywood director dad, to surviving as girlfriend of iconic Hollywood superstar Jack Nicholson, to becoming a well-respected director and producer and keeper of the family flame.

"Yes, it plays against the backdrop of Tinsel Town with audacity and bravado, but it also showcases the elegant and elegiac memories of a woman for whom the remarkable was a regular event."

WATCH ME starts when Huston left the side of Richardson and came back to the United States from Mexico, young, talented and utterly unsure of what direction to take. With encouragement from her raconteur father, Huston made her way into the wave of young beauties beating down doors in Hollywood proper. While a good family pedigree helped her get some appointments other actresses could only wish for, it was her talent that got her some amazing roles in amazing films directed by amazing talents. And it was in the process of finding out what she was really capable of doing that she came into contact with Nicholson, a man whose friends and worldview were very different from any she had ever previously encountered. 

Nicholson was a force to be reckoned with, a hardscrabble multitasker who liked his fun as much as he grew to enjoy the celebrity his work brought him. Huston’s dad, the irascible John, was suffering from a malady of medical issues that would eventually take his life, and she inadvertently searched out another renaissance man whose strength and infidelities would keep her skittish attention for some time. That man was Jack with a capital J, the iconic writer-director-actor extraordinaire who could barely keep his mitts off anything female that walked into his view, regardless of his forging a deep connection to Huston herself. The stories of his constant unfaithfulness get tiresome, but then the reader must be reminded that Huston was all of 20 when she met one of the greatest actors in the world, thus exhibiting twentysomething angst in every situation with the wild Nicholson. 

The actors work together, play together, fight with each other and almost get married. They try to have a child, be faithful and settle down together, but it never takes. They weather a series of strange occurrences, like Huston walking in on Roman Polanski with a 13-year-old girl at Nicholson’s house, the finale of which is his expulsion from the United States (actually, he just skips the country and goes back to France, where he remains today). There are other such very true and dramatic episodes in this book that Huston’s life Venn-diagrammed. It is shocking to see how much drama a rich, privileged and talented woman could pack into her first five decades. 

The cast of characters in this book include her brothers, Tony and Danny, and her sister, Allegra, but the two men who bookend the book --- her dad and her late husband, Robert Graham, the famous sculptor --- really give the memoir its structure. In between there are the years with Nicholson, the building of a reputable career and the endless weeping that years with him brought with them. But Huston is smart enough to know that the traumas she suffered at his hands made her strong enough to understand the man her father was and appreciate the man her husband was. It’s a true bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story that gives us a microscopic perspective on the ins and outs of a true Hollywood life.

WATCH ME highlights Huston’s talent and hard work but stands as a testament to a woman’s growing into a greater consciousness. Yes, it plays against the backdrop of Tinsel Town with audacity and bravado, but it also showcases the elegant and elegiac memories of a woman for whom the remarkable was a regular event. Her spare style belies the beautiful and lithesome heart and depth of her perspective, which makes WATCH ME a memoir that screams “Read me!” You’ll be glad you did.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on November 21, 2014

Watch Me: A Memoir
by Anjelica Huston