2014: 78. Scandals of Classic Hollywood

"On July 26, 2006, Mel Gibson - '80s hunk, '90s director, '00s oddball -- was arrested for driving under the influence."

Scandals of Classic Hollywood, Anne Helen Peterson

This was a grand read. I bought it because I'd been a fan of Peterson's Scandals of Classic Hollywood column at the Hairpin, and once I heard she'd gotten a book deal I wanted to support her (along those lines, watch this space for a review of Mallory Ortberg's from the Toast's Texts From Jane Eyre, once I get a copy).  The basic gist of the on-line column was that Peterson, who has a PhD in media studies or cultural studies or some such thing, tells us about classic Hollywood stars, telling both the gossip, but also analyzing the meaning of the "scandal" - what, says Ingrid Bergman's leaving her husband said about changing morality of the 1950's, and what the changing views of Gary Cooper told us about masculinity.  They were great.  The book is along the same lines - just as well-written and well analyzed as the stuff on-line.  I very much enjoyed it.  If you don't know much about Hollywood, or want to understand how scandal/morality was packaged earlier in our history, I think you'd love the book.  

BUT, (isn't there always a but?) - I was a leeeetle disappointed by the book - if only because my expectations were so high!  The stories she told in this book, were ones that I was much more familiar with than those she told only.  I don't know if it was the pressure from the publisher, but she picked very familiar stars to write about - Fatty Arbuckle, James Dean, Mae West.  Online she wrote about slightly more obscure tales - Gloria Swanson or Hedy Lamarr.  So while I enjoyed her writing and analysis,  I was less excited by the material than her column.  Also, the online column was sprinkled with gorgeous photos of the subject, and the book was limited only to a mid-book picture insert.  So, while I am proud of AHP that she got a book deal, and I think the book is well written, I have to say that as much as I liked the book, I preferred her columns.  I suggest you read some of those first.  

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017