It’s a cruel irony of the sixties Factory era that Andy Warhol considered the “superstars” of his films to be almost as interchangeable – and just as disposable – as his famous Campbell’s soup cans. Beautiful Darling, NewFest’s well-researched new documentary from director James Rasin, tells the story of transsexual performer Candy Darling, her all-consuming quest for fame and celebrity, and her ultimate estrangement from the man who gave her her career.
“All-consuming” is no exaggeration. Like a fabulous tranny Tosca, Candy really did live, and some say even died, for her art. Realizing she was different at an early age, Candy, nee Jimmy Slattery, would sit for hours behind closed doors in her parents’ Long Island home putting on makeup and rehearsing monologues by her idol, actress Kim Novak, convincing herself she was destined for stardom. But on whose terms? Rasin answers this as he chronicles Candy’s journey from Massapequa Park to Manhattan; from lonely boyhood to center stage at Max’s Kansas City; from starring performances in four Warhol films to her untimely death from lymphoma just months before her thirtieth birthday.
Though she was certainly smart enough to be in on the joke, Candy maintained an unerring sense of herself as the factory’s real-life incarnation of Novak to Warhol’s Louis B. Mayer, making her eventual fall from the artist’s graces that much more poignant. Rasin’s interviews with Jeremiah Newton, her former roommate and lover, highlight this period of uncertainty in the actress’ life. Though painted by other interviewees as a hanger-on obsessed with fame, it is Newton’s longtime loyalty to Candy’s memory that helps Rasin give due dignity to the one-of-a-kind, self-styled lady, nearly three-and-a-half decades after her death.
From our film guide: Andy Warhol superstar Candy Darling is resurrected through interviews with John Waters, Paul Morrissey, Jayne County and striking footage from The Factory era. Born James Slattery in suburban Long Island, Candy rose to fame as the lead actress in Warhol’s Flesh and Women in Revolt, was cast by Tennessee Williams in his play Small Craft Warnings and always dreamed of becoming a Hollywood star. In this revealing documentary Candy’s motives and story are given added dimension as her own words are brought to life by actress Chloe Sevigny reading from Candy’s private letters and diaries. Playing NewFest at SVA Theater 2, Friday June 4, 8PM.