Robert Redford bio shows us golden boy with a common touch
It seems an odd compliment to call the highly anticipated biography of actor, director, producer and philanthropist Robert Redford comprehensive but not particularly revealing.
But that seems to be the case with author Michael Feeney Callan’s “Robert Redford: The Biography” (Knopf, $28.95), a jam-packed 470-page tome that takes ample advantage of the subject’s full if skittish cooperation – drawing from Redford’s personal papers, journals, script notes and correspondence and hundreds of hours of taped interviews – but still leaves Redford the man feeling like an elusive, enigmatic figure.
Always a bit of a paradox – a glamorous, high-profile movie star who seems positively shy and reticent about publicity – Redford is certainly among his generation’s most iconic leading men, with era-defining roles in films such as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “The Sting,” “All the President’s Men” and “The Natural.” As an Oscar-winning director, he’s helmed such classy, signature works as “Ordinary People,” “Quiz Show” and “A River Runs Through It.”
Callan does a thorough job of setting the stage by telling us of Redford’s rough-and-tumble early life in Los Angeles, his “girl-crazy” teen years as a budding juvenile delinquent more interested in hot rods and Beat poetry than in school. But, typical of Redford, there’s a guarded quality to any personal insight that he reveals. Always a golden boy and budding sex symbol, Redford simply reveals to his biographer that he was “hungry for experience” in those young days.
There’s some passing and perfunctory information about his uneasy 27-year marriage to Lola Van Wagenen and their four children (one son died in infancy) and his “beyond friendship” link to co-star Natalie Wood (whom he appeared with in 1962’s “Inside Daisy Clover” and 1966’s “This Property Is Condemned”).
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