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#922581 08/21/17 01:22 PM
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"Max Factor and Hollywood: A Glamorous History" by Erika Thomas

Thomas is a magazine writer and her book reads like a magazine article; I finished it in about an hour. Thomas actually delves far more into the history of the Max Factor building than the personal history of the make-up artist and creator. Factor's building, which once housed a salon and factory, is now the Hollywood Museum (TheHollywoodMuseum.com is an entertaining website). I recommend the book for its great photos from film historian Marc Wanamaker's collection. The photos range from the silent era (Nita Naldi) to the 70s (Debbie Reynolds, Jacklyn Smith).


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"Circus of Ambition: The Culture of wealth and Power in the Eighties" John Taylor

This book includes a chapter on Hollywood in the Eighties. Taylor analyzes the films of Paramount producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, which include "Flashdance", "Top Gun", and "Beverly Hills Cop". Simpson, in particular, was famous for his outrageous pronouncements and when speaking to Taylor, he elucidated his feeling that "losers are boring". (Simpson was a victim of his own excess and died of a drug overdose in 1996.) It is fascinating to read Taylor's work in hindsight and see how right he was concerning the cultural and political currents in America.

Last edited by Angela - Drama Movies; 12/04/17 03:02 PM.

Angela K. Peterson
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"Hotel Scarface: Where Cocaine Cowboys Partied and Plotted to Control Miami" by Roben Farzad

This time the celebrity is a club and hotel - the Mutiny at Sailboat Bay. Oliver Stone modeled the Babylon Club in "Scarface" (1983) on this establishment. For a few years in the 80s, the Mutiny was a place where drug dealers, journalists, cops, and CIA agents mingled, plotted, and betrayed each other. Don Johnson partied at the Mutiny while Philip Michael Thomas moved into the adjoining hotel during the making of their television series "Miami Vice".

Farzad has some organizational issues and tends to repeat himself, but the book is an entertaining and informative snapshot of a specific time and place when people could become millionaires overnight.


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"Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood's First Openly Gay Star" by William J. Mann

I picked this up for 50 cents at a book sale and thought the author might have some illuminating thoughts on the silent film era. Instead, the biographer makes the mistake of assuming the biases of his subject. For example, Haines was no fan of author Elinor Glyn. Mann amplifies the disdain with sentences like this; "If a man showed no interest in her, she blamed not her age or hideous appearance but his presumed queerness." Mann also demonstrates a lack of knowledge about the film industry by stating that there were few women of influence during the silent era. He only mentions Mary Pickford in regard to her acting, omitting the fact that she had her own studio and was a co-founder of United Artists. He also seems unaware that during the time Haines was under contract, around 50% of screenwriters were women. I made it to page 135 and then stopped reading. Instead, I recommend Hillary Hallett's book "Inventing the It Girl: How Elinor Glyn Created the Modern Romance and Conquered Early Hollywood."


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"The Farrows of Hollywood: Their Dark Side of Paradise" - Marilyn Ann Moss (2023)

This book purports to be a biography of writer/director John Farrow, his wife Maureen O'Sullivan, and their daughter Mia Farrow. First problem: no personal interview with any member of the Farrow family is listed in the author's bibliography. Second problem: although the book is 296 pages, the actual biography is only 183 pages. The rest is filler such as appendices and filmographies. It is clear the author did not have enough material on her subject. Finally, I cannot fathom who the author imagined her audience is for this book. She is so repetitive - Irving Thalberg is referred to as an MGM producer and "boy wonder" every time his name is mentioned. Also, Moss states John Farrow's film technique in these simplistic terms, "He could manipulate [the camera] to get close-ups of actor's faces, and then suddenly pull far back for a long shot of the scene." No kidding - so can every other director! I was planning to write a full review of this bio for the Drama Movies page but the book doesn't justify it.

Next on my reading list is producer Carolyn Pfeiffer's newly published memoir "Chasing the Panther: Adventures & Misadventures of a Cinematic Live." On August 22nd, a new bio of actress Anna May Wong is being released. Will report on both of these.


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Eek! The book sounds dreadful. I hope the next one on your list is better!

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Hi Mona,

I've started reading Carolyn Pfeiffer's memoir and yes, thankfully, it is worthwhile. Organized and thoughtful.


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"Charlie Chaplin vs. America: When Art, Sex, and Politics Collided" by Scott Eyman (2023)

I'm not a Chaplin fan but I still found this book worthwhile. Eyman focuses on the late 1940s and early 1950s when Chaplin was targeted by rabid anti-communists and ultimately denied residence in the US, his home for over 30 years. US authorities conducted exhaustive investigations into Chaplin's life, both private and public. Eyman provides excerpts from Chaplin's voluminous FBI file and other sources. Chaplin was no communist, but he refused to play by Hollywood's rules. Columnist Hedda Hopper was particularly incensed by Chaplin's independence and dogged government officials, including Richard Nixon, about Chaplin's immigration status.

Eyman discusses his lifelong fascination with Chaplin in the acknowledgments section of the book, but he manages to be fairly even-handed in his treatment of this subject. He also makes cogent observations regarding America's relationship with authoritarianism. "Charlie Chaplin vs. America" is a valuable contribution to both film history and post-WWII American history.


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I often take in a biography. A window into the past.


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