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Essential Hollywood Books: Highlights from Issue 32: Hollywood Lost & Found

Highlights from Issue 32: Hollywood Lost & Found


Friday, November 02, 2007

The following piece appears in Issue 32: Hollywood Lost & Found. For more on this issue, click here



Taschen’s new digest-sized Movie Icons series celebrates the iconography of legendary actors like Grace Kelly, Marlon Brando, Cary Grant, Charlie Chaplin and Katharine Hepburn. With five new volumes released every six months — there are 15 titles in the series thus far — these flexicover guidebooks priced to please at $9.99 serve as the ultimate starter kit to your favorite star or starlet from the Golden Age of cinema. Each book is meticulously pieced together from captioned film stills and anchored by short, insightful essays and film chronologies. All you need is a Netflix account and you’ll be one step closer to becoming an amateur cinephile, as you cross each must-see film off your checklist. And as with all Taschen books, the Movie Icons series is typeset in English, German and French.

The ideal companions to the compact Movie Icons series are Taschen’s expansive meditations on essential filmmakers, from the oligarchy (John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Jean Renoir) to delightfully audacious contemporary picks (Michael Mann, Paul Verhoeven). Genre studies are also tackled in Film Noir and Erotic Cinema, which features an eye-popping Myra Breckinridge cover that begs to be unwrapped. The series is ongoing — there are currently a baker’s dozen to choose from — and offers such exclusive gems as on-set photographs from the filmmaker’s personal archives, as found in the 2006 edition for Roman Polanski.


In the 66 years since its publication, Hollywood has yet to be confronted by a more scathing tell-all about the sins and pitfalls of its ruthless nature. In What Makes Sammy Run?, Budd Schulberg spun gold from his experiences growing up as the son of Paramount Pictures head B.P. Schulberg by airing the dirty laundry of a business still untamed by unions, the blacklist and — shudder! — celebrity bloggers. Schulberg tracks the meteoric (and mediocre) rise of Sammy Glick from an impetuous copy-boy skidding across the floorboards of a New York newspaper to a Hollywood mogul resting his hand-cobbled wingtips on his desk while crushing the hopes and dreams of the discarded ghost-writers and trophy starlets at his feet. The narrator and moral compass of the story is Al Manheim, a sad-sack writer who confesses to harboring a morbid fascination with Glick’s rags-to-riches ascendance “in all its destructive brilliance, a blitzkrieg against his fellow men.” What Makes Sammy Run? remains the definitive Hollywood cautionary tale — though one that, in recent times, has been misappropriated by the Gordon Gekkos of the world: young up-and-comers who misinterpret Glick’s crimes as blueprints for how to chainsaw their way to the head of the class.


In the last year, Chronicle Books, in conjunction with Turner Classic Movies, has released two resourceful books about Old Hollywood stars and the studio system that manufactured them. The 50 Most Unforgettable Actors of the Studio Era: Leading Men (and Leading Ladies, respectfully) profile each actor with a short career overview, as well as an annotated list of essential films, behind-the-scenes facts, Academy Award nominations and wins, wives/husbands and children, the star’s astrological sign and original birth name (if applicable) and more. Each book retails for $19.95. In addition, these soft-cover coffee-table books include a foreword by TCM host and historian Robert Osborne, along with an introduction by film critic Molly Haskell. In the back there is an invaluable index of performances — alphabetically arranged by actor — that reads like a shopping list for a family of 10, cataloging how many films each of these studio-era legends were contracted to make, sometimes against their will. Quite a contrast to the Hollywood of today.


Mike Davis has held several titles over the years (long-distance truck driver, meat-cutter, historian, urban theorist, social commentator, political activist, professor) but it’s his work as an investigative writer that has broadened his appeal internationally. In the last 15 years, Davis has published 14 books, many of which deal with issues of social class and power in Southern California. Davis’ City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (1990) and its companion, Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster (2000), document an alternative “shadow history” of Los Angeles, imploring you to rethink why “no metropolis has been more loved or hated,” animating our “deepest fears in our culture,” as well as feeding our “fascination with dead cities.”



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