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review 2020-04-19 20:09
An engaging and easy read for those who love a bit of scandal.
Hollywood's Dark History. Silver Screen Scandals - Matt MacNabb

I thank Rosie Croft from Pen & Sword for providing me a paperback ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review. This is the second book I’ve read by MacNabb (I read and reviewed A Secret History of Brands: The Dark and Twisted Beginnings of the Brand Names We Know and Love a while back and enjoyed it, and I looked forward to this book, as it’s on a topic I’ve always been interested in.

I found this book well suited to the circumstances we find ourselves in at the moment (I’m writing this review in the middle of our confinement due to COVID-19, in case somebody comes across it at some point in the future and wonders what I was talking about). It’s written in an straightforward and easy-to-reads style; it deals with a topic that a lot of people find interesting (not only the lives of film stars and directors in general but their scandals, in particular); it contains an introduction and thirteen distinct chapters, each one dedicated to a different star, so it does not require sustained attention, and it can be dipped into according to the interest or the mood of the reader. The book also includes beautiful black and white pictures (some that I’d never seen before) and a bibliography (with books, websites, articles, and even documentaries). Although many of the stars won’t be familiar to the younger generation (there is a heavy focus on actors, actresses, and directors from early Hollywood), I don’t think that will make the book less attractive. The author manages to bring to life an era in the history of cinema that many people know more through the movies and documentaries than through the actual films of the period, but I am sure many readers will be inspired to do more research and try to find more information about the protagonists and the time.

Personally, I had heard about quite a few of the people mentioned, and in some cases I had read or watched documentaries that contained more detailed information than that available in this volume, but others were new to me. As for others, I knew the people involved (Errol Flynn was one of my father’s favourite actors, and I’ve watched and enjoyed many of his movies in glorious technicolour), but I didn’t know much about the scandals they became entangled in. I don’t think this is a book I’d recommend to experts in Hollywood (especially old Hollywood) personalities, as they are bound to know everything contained in it and more, but it’s a good entry book for people interested in the topic but not very knowledgeable, or for somebody looking for a good read and happy to find out more about a historical period and a period in the history of cinema that helped create the cult of stars, and also about the role of the press in building them up or destroying them that we’re so familiar with to this day.

The chapters, that don’t follow a strict chronological order, are dedicated to: Evelyn Nesbitt, Thelma Todd, Jean Harlow, Charlie Chaplin, Mae West, Errol Flynn, Lana Turner, William Desmond Taylor, Joan Crawford, Barbara LaMarr, Mabel Normand, Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle, and Clara Bow. Some are more familiar than others, but overall, they provide an interesting array and sample of some of the events and scandals that have plagued Hollywood from the beginning. It’s impossible not to notice that many of the subjects of the book (not all, but a significant proportion) had suffered pretty traumatic childhoods, being brought up in pretty desperate circumstances, and sometimes subject to terrible abuse. It’s sad to think that after all their efforts to make a better living for themselves, some ended up either the perpetrators (alleged in most cases) or victims of violence, abuse, or crime in later life, and very few managed to lead a happy life. Although the book does not delve into the gore or the extremely salacious details, it does include enough information to make it not suitable for young children.

This is a book I’d recommend to people who enjoy reading about Old Hollywood, scandals, and stars, but haven’t read extensively on it, and also to people looking for a source of information about the era that is easy to read and entertaining, but offers an interesting insight into what life was like for the big stars of the era (and what falling from grace was like). An engaging and easy read and a good entry level for people looking for an introduction to the beginning of film star culture.

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review 2014-07-17 03:11
The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry
The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry - Legs McNeil,Jennifer Osborne,Peter Pavia

This book is a collection of interviews with different people connected to the porn scene/industry through out the decades. The interviews are spliced together under topics and decade, with their name next to their quote from the interview. I really enjoyed that format. It was like telling a story with different perspectives at once.

The people interviewed are former FBI agents, porn stars, producers, directors, partners of porn stars, and others I am probably missing.

The authors tried to remain unbiased as much as possible, and presented various opinions and stories.

It doesn't turn a blind eye to anything from drugs, abuse, scandals, murder, rape, death, and etc.

This book also references various different types of porn and porn acts, so it's not for minors. [I gotta put this disclaimer in. LOL]

It was really hard to pick a gif. I wanted something sexy but not to the degree where people would, ya know, freak out. :P

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review 2011-05-30 00:00
The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry - Legs McNeil,Jennifer Osborne,Peter Pavia The best thing about this book is the cover. The book consists of titillating but not terribly illuminating snippets of interviews that reveal little except most of these poor folks were borderline dysfunctional. Studs Terkel does oral history much better.

There are some funny scenes. “"When I arrived to shoot my first loop, Tina Russell was dressed like a hooker-in a short, short ribbed maroon miniskirt and a black pullover jersey and high heels. And no bra. Then a handsome, thin, bearded young man joined us. "Hi," he said. "I'm Jason. Tina's husband." My erection dropped like an express elevator. "Are you going to be in the film, too?" I asked Jason. "Nope. Not today."

The aggregate effect of the book is totally depressing. The average career for the women lasted two years; the men often much longer, and the involvement with the mob and how little money they made is dispiriting. Marilyn Chambers (remember the Ivory Snow box cover?) was an exception who managed to garner a percentage of the take from Behind the Green Door and the scandal surrounding her face on the pure soap helped push box office receipts. Linda Lovelace, real name, Linda Susan Boreman, who died quite young from a car accident at age 53, related a bizarre conversation with her father: My father went to see the movie-[guess which one] because he wanted to see if it was really me. And he came back and said, "Yup, it's her, but it's some kind of trick." Then he went and sat down on the couch with his peanuts and beer and watched Wild Kingdom."
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review 2008-07-01 00:00
The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry - Legs McNeil,Jennifer Osborne,Peter Pavia The best review I've seen of this--the review that sent me to the library to get (while the librarian looked on disapprovingly) and then read (very quickly)--is Jessica's, found at http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/21059851. Go read that.

My review's a meager "yeah, yeah" to everything she said. Vigorous head-nodding. Amens, if I was prone to amens. The accounts here are honest, funny, startling, dishonest, shattering, and always engaging. The editing is really superlative; I think it's hard in oral histories not to fall into redundancies or to sell short the narrative's structure, but McNeil et al. with great grace and momentum allow for the accounts to both unfold and speed along, plots emerging and yet anecdotes lingeringly, lovingly displacing such forward motion.

To Jessica's astute criticisms, pro and con (particularly around the loud absence of race), add only that I was startled at how impressive an account of the rise of a commercial film industry this was. Folded into the personal stories and the cultural shifts and the sleazy/seductive/exploitative sexual politics and the unblinking attention to addiction, there's also a great subtext detailing how technologies, cultural contexts, political forces, audience demographics, production financing (legal and, often, less-so), auteurs and hacks, economic factors, and legal philosophies structure and restructure the making of mass culture. (Even at the margins of the masses...)

I would note in closing my restraint, far more impressive than Jessica's as I am a far bigger doofus, at avoiding stupid puns, which was (ahem) very hard to do.
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