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Cynthia Carr’s Candy Darling

Andy Warhol and Candy Darling

Lou Reed wrote two songs about her, “Candy Says” and “Walk on the Wild Side.” Before she died in 1974 at the age of twenty-nine, Candy Darling briefly appeared in Alan J. Pakula’s Klute (1971) to share a hug with Jane Fonda’s Bree Daniels, and she had a supporting role in Werner Schroeter’s The Death of Maria Malibran (1972). She may be best known for her long scene with Joe Dallesandro, Jackie Curtis, and Geri Miller in Flesh (1968), but she also starred alongside Curtis and Holly Woodlawn in Women in Revolt (1971).

Both films were directed by Paul Morrissey, but more famously, they were produced by Andy Warhol, whose “writing about Candy is some of the most beautiful and trenchant he ever produced, in part because he was Candy, too: rejected and rejected and unreal to other people.” The observation comes from Hilton Als, who reviews Cynthia Carr’s Candy Darling: Dreamer, Icon, Superstar for the New Yorker.

“I can’t imagine a better or more honest writer for the task,” writes Als. “From the very beginning of the book, Carr, who wrote a powerful biography of another poetic outsider, Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz (2012), shows us how Darling’s story queers straight biography. ‘She began her life as a tortured effeminate boy because she wasn’t really a boy,’ Carr writes. ‘She was always a she, and I will be using she/her pronouns for her throughout.’ By honoring Darling’s disconnection from her birth name (what some trans people call their ‘dead name’), Carr not only meets Darling on her own terms but insists that we do, too.”

Writing in the Atlantic, Mayukh Sen finds that the “portrait of Darling that materializes is one of a woman who was inscrutable even when she lived—a resistance to being read that’s rare in modern celebrity, which might explain her abiding appeal.” In the New York Times, Alexandra Jacobs calls Carr’s book “compassionate and meticulous, reconstructing its brittle, gleaming subject as one might a broken Meissen figurine.”

Candy Darling had “a particular genius for interpreting and refracting the blonde goddesses of golden-age Hollywood,” writes Melissa Anderson in the new Bookforum. “Her greatest salve and a foundational influence was the Million Dollar Movie, a kind of precursor to TCM, in which starry productions from the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s were broadcast on television. Rapt in front of the TV set, Candy was especially besotted with one studio-era blonde in particular: Kim Novak, whose oeuvre, especially Picnic (1955), Jeanne Eagels (1957), and Bell Book and Candle (1958), would greatly inform her sardonic salute to highly stylized Tinseltown acting.”

At e-flux, McKenzie Wark notes that there’s a page in Darling’s diaries “that might provide a hint of how she thought about her art of appearances. Candy classifies movie stars as if they had two layers. There’s the basic butch with femme overtones: Raquel Welch, Joan Crawford, Jane Russell. There’s the basic femme with butch overtones: Greta Garbo is her only example. Then there’s the basic femme with femme overtones: Marilyn Monroe and Lana Turner.” Wark wonders where Darling might have placed Novak, or for that matter, herself.

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