Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Review: Scandals of Classic Hollywood

Plume (9780142180679; $16.00) 

Last summer, my mother was sent a copy of Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Sex Deviance and Drama from the Golden Age of American Cinema by Anne Helen Peterson (formerly of academia, currently of BuzzFeed) to review shortly before the book's publication.  Since my yenta is legion, Mom passed the volume over to me and the book quickly became the season's dishy poolside read.  Somehow, between a short trip to visit my father and the beginning of a new school year, properly reviewing Scandals of Classic Hollywood was shoved further and further down on my Todoist list.  Now that we are properly ensconced in 2015, I finally have a spare moment to review the book. 

If you are a noob to the world of celebrity gossip, particularly of the classic variety-- if you don't know your Garbos from your Dietrichs-- this is a good place to begin your sojourn into the seedy underbelly of Ol' Hollywood.  However, if you know your way around a copy of the National Enquirer, have watched your fair share of E! True Hollywood Story, and have Celebrity Morgue bookmarked in Chrome Scandals of Classic Hollywood will probably be a re-hashing of the same sordid tales you have heard on more than one occasion.   

That being said, there are a few hidden gems in Petersen's book that were even new to me.  For instance, Petersen argues that the criminal case against Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was overblown and that the comedic actor became a scapegoat for pre-Hays Code Hollywood's decedent excesses.  Similarly, prior to reading this text, I had never heard of Wallace Reid (really, has anyone?) nor was I privy to his prodigious morphine addiction.  Reid was [in]famously Hollywood's first walking cautionary tale: seriously, they made a movie about the dangers of drug addiction because of his death starring his widow-- it's called Human Wreckage (sadly, the film has been "lost"). 

By today's standards, the scandals discussed in Petersen's book are tame; however, the foibles of the rich and famous and dead are still compelling, if only in a morbid, voyeuristic way. 

+A condensed version of  this review has been posted to my mother's Library Thing and Good Read's accounts 

*This book was sent to me/ my mom for review.  I am not being financially compensated for this content and the thoughts expressed herein are my own.