Beautiful Darling (2010) Poster

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A well-crafted portrait
cathy-earnshaw19 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This long-awaited documentary on the enigmatic Candy Darling (1944-1974) was a treat. Over 85 minutes, we learn about her upbringing (born as James Lawrence Slattery in Forest Hills, Queens), her boredom with the sterile, identikit village in which she grew up at Long Island, and her escapist adoration of old Hollywood movies and movie stars, especially blonde Vertigo actress Kim Novak.

Excerpts from Candy's diary, which she started aged 14, are shown and read by actress Chloë Sevigny, having been published in book form as 'My Face for the World to See'. Many of those who knew her in the late 1960s through Andy Warhol and the Factory scene are interviewed – Fran Lebowitz, Gerard Malanga, Vincent Fremont, Pat Hackett, Agosto Machado, Holly Woodlawn – and are even audio comments on Darling are heard from Warhol shooter Valerie Solanis. But the lynchpin of this documentary is Candy's friend and roommate Jeremiah Newton, who first met her at 15. It was Newton who originally approached director James Rasin with the idea of doing a film on Darling's fascinating, difficult life. In the years after her death, Newton gathered material from her mother, kept an audio diary of his memories, and started taping conversations with those who knew her. During the four years in which this docu was made, Newton had Darling's ashes interred at Cherry Valley Cemetery, New York (shots of the funeral and memorial slab are shown), and donated archive items to the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

Candy's life, although short, is not represented as a tragedy. She became the movie star she had yearned to be, adored by the avant-garde, theatre audiences, at Max's Kansas City; she lived out her fantasy world, even making it to Hollywood. On her deathbed, she didn't stop performing, posing for one last photograph in full make-up with a rose thrown on the duvet of her hospital bed (this famous photograph, taken by Peter Hujar, became the front cover of Antony & the Johnsons' 2005 album I Am a Bird Now). There are suggestions that, like Jean Harlow, Peg Entwistle, and Marilyn Monroe – of whom Darling kept a picture on her dressing room table – she wasn't adverse to the "glamour" of dying young & extravagantly beautiful since it reinforced her affinity with those whom she idolised, parodied, and strove to embody.

In his film Rasin doesn't make the possible connection of the lymphoma that killed Candy at 29 and her consumption of hormone pills from the early 1960s onwards. And I wonder whether Jeremiah's influence as producer shows itself here: he comes across as fiercely protective of her memory, refusing to believe others who, for example, claim that Darling prostituted herself to make money. This is perhaps the largest question mark of all in the docu: Even 36 years after her death, Jeremiah is shown as a man still intensely preoccupied by the transsexual star and intent on keeping her fantasy/memory alive. Why is he still (seemingly) in thrall to the paradoxes and complications of her life? What does Darling's intense identity struggle represent for him?

Inevitably there are other points of contention, with one commentator claiming Candy was secretly in love with Gerard Malanga; some who saw her as naive while others felt she was a highly-conscious performer; and some who view her as another of Warhol's long-line of "victims" who died young (Candy died, incidentally, just a few blocks from the Factory at Columbus Hospital). By 1973-74, Warhol had moved on to other projects and Candy – like others – fell out of favour. Rasin defended him after the screening at Berlin, arguing that people used Andy as much as he used others.

Candy would, of course, have been thrilled to know that so long after her lifetime, she is still up there on the big screen. It's her words that are heard before the credits roll: "There is one thing I must tell you because I just found it to be a truth. You must always be yourself no matter what the price. It is the highest form of morality." (8/10)
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8/10
Take a walk on the wild side
Chris Knipp9 March 2010
Edie Sedgwick, Andy's druggie socialite "muse," and a real girl, was dead by 1971. Among the "chicks with dicks" who gathered at the second, Union Square version of Andy Warhol's Factory, Candy Darling was the most ethereal and beautiful and pure, it seems from this documentary, which recounts her short life. She died of lymphatic cancer before reaching the age of thirty, already by then cast off by Andy, who used Holly Woodlawn and Jackie Curtis in later films. One of the many photographers who lensed her, Peter Hujar did a glamorous portrait of Candy on her hospital deathbed, garlanded with roses and still perfectly made up.

This documentary's existence is due to the devotion of Candy Darling's closest male friend, Jeremiah Newton, prominently featured and also a producer. He still carries the flame, and Beautiful Darling is book-ended by his arranging for Candy's ashes to be buried along with his (Jeremiah's) mother's, under a tombstone for them and, when his time comes, Jeremiah himself. Back in the day, he attached himself to Candy Darling when he was only sixteen and when she had a preferred place in the Factory and the Factory hangout Max's Kansas City.

Newton approached James Raisin (who's made films about the Beats and written stuff about Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith and a screenplay for Abel Ferrara about Warhol) with piles of memorabilia about Candy and interview tapes he made right after her death with people who knew her. He also had archival film footage. Raisin has woven together all these records and his own recent interviews with some germane and often pungent talking heads, including Fran Lebowitz, Glenn O'Brien, Taylor Mead, Bob Colacello, John Waters, Gerald Malanga, Paul Morrissey, Holly Woodlawn, Pat Hackett, George Abagnalo, and Sam Green, among others, to make Beautiful Darling an excellent record of the person and the context and another valid entry in the collection of cinematic Warholobilia. There is lots of good and appropriate music, and for readings of letters and statements, Chloe Sevigny does the voice of Candy Darling.

She was originally Jimmy or James Slattery, and as we're told in Lou Reed's famous song "Walk on the Wild Side," which describes the "chick with dicks" Andy used and threw away, "Candy came from out on the Island," Long Island, that is, from a flat monotonous development in Forest Hills.

Candy came from out on the Island/In the backroom she was everybody's darlin'/But she never lost her head/Even when she was giving head/She says, Hey babe/Take a walk on the wild side/I Said, Hey baby/Take a walk on the wild side/And the coloured girls go/Doo do doo do doo do do doo...' While Edie Sedgwick was born a real girl, Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, and Jackie Curtis were among the various trannies who gathered at the Factory. 'Take a walk on the wild side' was a come-on to prospective johns, meaning, Have sex with a transvestite prostitute. But what we learn from Beautiful Darling is that the Warhol Factory girls weren't all alike.

No one worked harder at being a girl than Candy, but not just at being a girl -- at being glamorous and beautiful, inspired by memories of Forties screen divas seen in TV movies and dreams of Hollywood fame. She didn't always necessarily say much, except when performing somebody's lines, always in that special breathy feminine voice of the drag queen (or Marilyn). She was in Warhol's Flesh and Women in Revolt. Candy used her Warhol film fame to land other screen appearances, and Tennessee Williams, who was among her admirers, cast her in his play, Small Craft Warnings. (Warhol, in one of the clips, says he was making movies because it was easier than painting.) It was not only hard work but dangerous work. Back in the Sixties it was illegal in New York for a man to be on the street dressed as a woman. They could be hauled off by the cops just for wearing heavy mascara, so the trannies carried their dresses in shopping bags and slipped their gear on slowly till night came, and it was safer. (Agosto Machado tells us about this.) Beautiful Darling shows us hints of Candy's Jimmy Slattery origins, including a still of the then boy of 14 or so stretched on a chaise longue in shorts, showing long, sleek ivory gams. It's strange to see Jeremiah, who like not a few of the former Warhol beauties, is a big limping blob of a person now, as a wraith-like androgynous beauty himself, when with Candy. But in a self-penned obit, Candy mentions poor Jeremiah way down in her list of people she loved and owed it all to.

John Waters is always a sharp voice, but Fran Lebowitz, is the treasure here. Not just she but Andy himself says Candy should not lose the penis. She just wouldn't be the same. Apparently she and Newton were not a couple and she had no man in her life. The film ends with the line that to be true to yourself is the greatest morality. But as Lebowitz points out, a transsexual who becomes female never had a girlhood. And so Candy, though wonderfully successful at being a glamorous mirage, found it terribly hard work. Fran points out real women don't work so hard all the time. And so it is artificial, and exhausting, and Candy was ready to die of cancer. When the tumor was found, it ushered in one of her greatest roles, that of a tragic early death.

Beautiful Darling had its world premiere at the Berlinale in February 2010, showed at the BFI Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in London in March, and will be presented as part of the New Directors/New Films series of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art, April 2, 2010 at MoMA and April 3 at the Walter Reade Theater.
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7/10
No sympathy
SomeGuyName18 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Candy was an intelligent, but super vapid person, whose main dream in life was not so much to become an actual woman, but to be desired and admired - just like a female movie star.

Oh, I'm sure the pain of not "living the dream" was intensified by her being born a man - but down to it's very essence, this story is not about transsexual rights, or their all too real struggles; it's just a story about wanting to be famous.

I admire the passion of people like this, but it's usually all they have. The only thing special about Candy from every other hopeful woman who moves to Hollywood, is that she was born a man. I get that any person who devotes their life to getting this kind of attention, is a hurt person indeed; but the additional hindrances doesn't make this kind of struggle anymore beautiful, or any less narcissistic.

It annoys me to hear those diary entries read out loud as words of insight, when clearly, they were only meant to dazzle an audience. It's the opposite of an actual diary, more a product to be sold later on when she got "famous", than an inner expression of self.

There's no real Candy, because the desire to be someone else(not of gender, but of status and superficial "image") consumed what was left of her her long before she even met Andy Warhol. So she never achieved her dream! Boo hoo. Her happy way of dying young and "glamorous" sent shivers down my spine.

I feel sorry for this man who always took care of her, who loved her so deeply. Was he in love with the image as well? It seems to be, as we never get any other insight from him than what was shown on screen. I wonder what drove him towards her, given how unable she must have been at telling a warm hug from the blitz of a camera.

Candy, the beautiful thing about your story, is that you never amounted to anything more than a Warhol art prop. I hope most of the people who surrounded you, were people exactly like yourself.
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4/10
Young, Blonde, Beautiful & Talentless
strong-122-47888531 March 2018
OK. Let's face it, darlings! - When talking about transgendered "Warhol" discovery, Candy Darling - Yes. Her radiant beauty may have only been skin deep - But her total lack of any acting ability went right to the bone.

Through glamour stills, vintage film-clips, and seemingly endless interviews - This celebrity-bio documentary takes a close-up look at the life and times of Candy Darling (aka. James Slattery) who confessed that emulating actress, Kim Novak was her ultimate obsession.

As the viewer quickly learns - Candy's desperate aspirations to be recognized as a serious actress left her life in a constant turmoil of total unfulfillment, hanging out at "The Factory" with the likes of that creep, Andy Warhol, and all of his stooges, druggies, leeches, and other assorted opportunists, too. (Sheesh! What a seething nest of vipers that place was!)

*Note* - In 1974 - Candy Darling (29 at the time) died from cancer of the lymph nodes.
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