Rage And Glory

Book Review by Willard Manus

After Marlon Brando, George C. Scott was America's finest actor, a performer whose power and ferocity made him seem like a force of nature. Unlike Brando (who quit the stage forever after starring in A Streetcar Named Desire), Scott loved to appear in plays and continued to do so even after he won fame and fortune in such films as Dr. Strangelove, Patton and Anatomy of a Murder. Not only that, he also directed and produced many plays, both on and off Broadway.
Now Applause Theatre & Cinema Books has published RAGE AND GLORY--THE VOLATILE LIFE AND CAREER OF GEORGE C. SCOTT, by David Sheward. The biography paints an arresting portrait of the actor who "had a love-hate relationship with his audience and his craft, indeed with the entire world."
Scott was born in Virginia into a coal-mining family; his upbringing was rough, working-class and violent, qualities that stayed with him all his life. "Scott could be a drunken brawler and a binge drinker," says Sheward. "By the time he was forty, his nose had been broken five times--four times in fights and once in a mugging. But, as actress Dana Ivey observed, 'he was a deeply felt person and sensitive which he covered up with that rough masculinity.'"
Scott's personal life was just as complex and stormy. Married five times to four women, he fathered six children, had numerous mistresses (including Ava Gardner), made and lost several fortunes. Yet through it all he managed to keep working, taking on major roles (Richard III, Mussolini, Willy Loman), giving his all every time out and more than holding his own against such acting heavyweights as Jason Robards, Nicol Williamson, Paul Newman and Colleen Dewhurst (one of his ex-wives).
Scott's middle initial could have stood for Controversy. He battled CBS, denouncing the network for censoring his TV series East Side/West Side, refused an Oscar for Patton, took verbal potshots at critics, audiences, producers and directors alike. Many people, including some of his fellow-actors, were afraid of him, yet Scott also had a kind, generous side. When Theodore Mann, artistic director of Circle in the Square, where Scott had begun his acting career, apologized for the threadbare carpet in the theatre lobby, Scott asked him how much it would cost to have it replaced. Ten thousand dollars, replied Mann. In a flash, Scott whipped out his checkbook and wrote out a check for the full amount.
Scott died in 1999. At his memorial service in New York (where Broadway's lights were dimmed in his honor), Jason Robards recalled that he would have drinks with Scott at Patsy and Carl's Theatre Bar when the latter was just beginning to make a name off-Broadway. "He liked to hang out uptown with the big boys," Robards said. "Little did he know, he was bigger than any of us."