Rage and Glory: The Volatile Life and Career of George C. Scott
Applause Theatre & Cinema Books
New York, NY
Reviewed b y Joan Leyden
To anyone who has followed the professional career of George C. Scott and responded to his prodigious talent, keen intelligence, and the implicit threat that he often brings to his roles, this biography will stir many memories. For those who know little about how he conducted his private life, there will, no doubt, be mixed reactions to this record as set forth by David Sheward.
Recognized early in his career for his outstanding portrayals at the New York Shakespeare Festival of Richard II, Shylock, Jacques and Antony, Scot t went on to win critical approval in many other venues. Audiences will not easily forget his characterizations of the sly prosecutor in ANATOMY OF A MURDER, the devious gambler of THE HUSTLER, his hawkish chief-of-staff in DR. STRANGELOVE, and his brilliant portrayal of the volatile, larger-than-life Patton.
But while this work is exhaustive in its inventory of Scott’s performances, chronicling every amateur play, stock appearance, television show, feature film, and Broadway and off-Broadway play, it does little to suggest who and what influenced his development as an actor. We are, however, treated to a dismaying collection of stories about his generally bad behavior towards women and his ugly displays of temper: the smashed mirrors, bashed-in hotel room doors, even his physical abuse of Ava Gardner.
Describing briefly the family out of which the angry actor emerged, Sheward labors to provide a psychological explanation for the devils which beset Scott, as well as for the extraordinary gifts that he brought to his work. Unfortunately, this type of pocket-book psychology adds little to our under-standing of his talent. Suffice it to say that his alcoholism probably determined much of his behavior.
By quoting the other actors, directors and producers with whom the actor worked, as well as the accounts of major film and theatre critics, Sheward is able to suggest the particular tension Scott brought to his characterizations, the unusual size and scope of his acting, even the sympathy he inspired amongst those who knew him better. But this biography suffers in that these accounts are too fragmentary, too superficial. Missing are letters, diaries or other primary source material that would have added to the public records we already have about Scott. Missing also is a felt relationship of the biographer with his subject. One is left with a curiously flat impression of Scott, and a question as to why Sheward undertook him as a subject.