PERFORMING ARTS

Letters from Hollywood: Inside the Private World of Classic American Moviemaking

Abrams. 2019. 352p. ISBN 9781419738098. $40. FILM
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Before email, Hollywood notables kept in touch, made deals, and traded barbs using letters, telegrams, and memos. Scouring widely scattered archives and estates, Lang (Growing up Hollywood) and Hall (formerly, archivist & oral historian, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) reproduce 135 documents with informative sidebar commentary, producing an offbeat portrait of Hollywood from its early days to 1976. In these pages, Tallulah Bankhead unsuccessfully attempts to convince producer David O. Selznick that she should play Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, playwright Clifford Odets defends his unflattering portrait of gossip columnists to Hedda Hopper, and screenwriter Robert Sherwood urges producer Sam Goldwyn not to make The Best Years of Our Life, about returning World War II vets, which ironically, with Sherwood’s help, became one of the most honored films of its era. Also highlighted here are escape artist Harry Houdini, comedian and filmmaker Groucho Marx, and suspense master Alfred Hitchcock.
VERDICT Only dedicated film buffs will read this volume from cover to cover, but they will have a blast. Recommended for comprehensive film history collections.

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