Review: 'Beautiful Darling' Recalls the Legacy of a Warhol Star

by Roger Walker-Dack

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday January 12, 2021

When Candy Darling was a young, bullied child living in Long Island, she swore that when she grew up she was going to be a rich and famous star. She was so spot on, she became a Warhol superstar on and off the screen. Whilst she may never have attained the "riches" part in her traditional sense of the word, we learn from filmmaker James Rasin's documentary, her life was wealthy in every other way.

Darling, born James Slattery in 1944, idolized Hollywood actress Kim Novak so much that she created her whole persona around her. As a transsexual blonde bombshell, Darling was spotted in an off-off Broadway show by Warhol, who immediately cast her in his next film.

She has short comedic scene in "Flesh" with Jackie Curtis and Joe Dallesandro, which was such a success that Warhol gave her a starring role in "Women in Revolt." After that she became Warhol's muse, and the two were totally inseparable. We can see from some wonderful archival footage why, as the outrageous Darling was never ever off duty, always playing the biggest star in the room. She was really living her dream.

Most of Darling's story is told through the eyes of Jeremiah Newton, one of her best friends and ex-roommates who obviously adored her. The camera captures him finally arranging to have her ashes buried with those of his recently-dead mother. As he sits on his cramped Manhattan apartment reminiscing about Darling, it all seems more than a lifetime from those extraordinary Warhol factory days.

Rasin talks with the few members of the Warhol days who are still alive (the doc was made in 2010). People like Holly Woodlawn and actress Helen Hanft enthusiastically attest to how much this larger-than-life women was loved within their clique. As to why she was so glamorous and feminine, Fran Leibowitz suggests that, as Darling had never experienced girlhood, it was defined by the few years she spent as an adult. 

Darling died of cancer in 1974, aged just 29, with a wonderful legacy of being in six Warhol cult movies, as well as being the muse for Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side." She made her mark in so many ways, and this compelling and affectionate profile will be welcomed from those of us who can still remember, and others who need to appreciate what she is an icon in the LGBT community.

The movie is now being re-released on DVD this month. One disappointing note: There are parts of the film where the audio and video are so badly synched it can actually be off-putting.

"Beautiful Darling" is available now.

Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.