on 13 August 2012
I guarantee this will be the most unusual book you read about Hollywood's golden age. Packed into a relatively short, yet informative and very readable account, It uses multiple perspectives to fill in the breadth and depth of that era, never to return. One is based on reviewing a huge collection of what stars wrote about themselves and their lives, in both good and bad books, many now forgotten, but some were surprisingly good and not ghost written. Another is an expert examination (Bannock is a distinguished business economist as well as star-struck) of the economics and business aspects of the dream factory, before, during and after the studio system, including sketches of the moguls, and how and why it broke down. Another is looking at themes, such as the sadness of many private lives of the stars, how racial and ethnic prejudices were gradually overcome, a look at actors who went into politics, and a careful re-examination of the communist witch-hunt, and subsequent blacklisting in the 1940s and its aftermath. There's even a chapter on the meaning of acting. A few of the author's favourites get a whole chapter to themselves, including Errol Flynn, but there are many delightful short portraits, and shrewd judgements of character, acting ability, and career. There are a few superbly chosen photos, but small and black and white. The book is, admittedly, idiosyncratic, and a bit of a patchwork, but that is more of a strength than a weakness. All in all an engaging, enjoyable and educative read.
on 10 April 2012
This book explores the view of the film-making system during the Golden Age of Hollywood (from about 1930 to 1950) as seen from the point of view of the individual stars and expressed through their auto-biographies. Their anecdotes and opinions no doubt revealed the impact of the business environment in which they conducted their profession and through which they were reflected on the big cinema screens at the time; magnified by the projected skill of the publicity expertise of the big studios. For all the obvious shortcomings of such sources, nevertheless Graham Bannock's book is a good read and should find a place on the bookshelf of anybody interested in the history of Hollywood. It's a pity that the page numbering in the Index has all gone astray and could have benefitted from sharper editing.
on 3 March 2012
"Hollywood Lives" proposes that we read screen star biographies and autobiographies.
The author actually states that they 'seem remarkably truthful' but fails to convince this cynic and offers no evidence to confirm this statement.
Actors are people whose job it is to persuade us that they are someone other than who they are, whether they are in movies, on the stage or elsewhere.
In Hollywood they were well paid, cossetted and looked after even when they were not behaving as they should.
There appears to be a disregard for the theatre which many of them indulged in and many more failed totally to conquer.
Our author is still the little boy in an darkened Odeon who wants his stars to be as he saw them, whereas they were and are just like you and me.
Overall a good read but if you are looking for 'the truth' I fear you will not find it here.