the Brit booze brigade


One of life’s oddities is how often a series of genuinely comedic incidents congeals into, if not tragedy, then tragic loss. Robert Sellers certainly has no intention of turning readers’ thoughts in that moody direction, but “Hellraisers: The Life and Inebriated Times of Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O’Toole and Oliver Reed” probably will, though there’s a tremendous amount of unapologetic, unself-conscious fun to be had on the way to introspection. Burton, Harris, O’Toole and Reed were four of the great actors to emerge in postwar British stage and cinema; they also were legendary drunks, who not only pursued their avocation — it surely was more than a recreation — in public and without regrets. Today, when what we used to term a “hard drinker” is routinely referred to as a “high-functioning alcoholic,” it’s difficult to imagine an account of their lives free of judgment or amateur psychoanalysis. Sellers, a drama school grad and former London stand-up comic-turned-film writer and pop culture critic, manages to pull it off. It may be, in fact, that he just loves a great series of stories about fascinatingly intelligent and preternaturally talented men behaving in utterly outrageous ways.

more from Tim Rutten at the LAT here.