on September 26, 2002
This book is filled with photographs and essays about Hollywood and its stars. There is a wide variety of photographs exhibited here. My only complaint would be that they are not set up in any kind of order. A picture of Jack Nicholson playing golf on one page and then turn the page to find a picture of Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. I suppose they thought chronological or theme order would have been too predictable. My favorite photos are: Doris Day (p. 26), the essay and photo of Greta Garbo (pgs. 42-43), James Dean clowning (p. 47), Jayne Mansfield and Sophia Loren (p.158) the Malibu Beach drawing from 1933 (p.242), Sophia Loren (p. 247), Jackie Cooper and Mickey Rooney (p. 276), Loretta Young in 1935 and 1999 (pgs.292 and 293) and Olivia de Havilland (p. 310). As you can tell, my interests are toward vintage photos, but there are photos of today's celebs as well, such as Gwyneth Paltrow or Cameron Diaz and these are wonderful photos, too. The pictures in Vanity Fair are always unique and this is a great compilation.
Hollywood has always stood for dreams. Vanity Fair's take has always
been to turn the tinsel used to depict those dreams into glamor. This
book is very much in keeping with the magazine's slant and Hollywood's
most inflated view of itself. The book faithfully reproduces a
cross-section of Vanity Fair's 86 year history.
Before you read
further, let me caution you that this book teems with suggestiveness.
If that sort of thing isn't your cup of tea, skip this book.
photographs are the best part of thebook. There are large numbers of
outstanding examples of work by Edward Steichen and Annie Leibovitz.
The pages are oversized, and many images are done as double
spreads. This makes for seeing very large features of the stars
portrayed, and this has high impact effects on the viewer -- evoking a
sense of the wide screen. The editing was wisely done to select many
images that can be reasonably faithfully reproduced that way.
Unfortunately, many fine photographs were reproduced with the
middle fold through an important part of the image. Some of the
images that were not so spoiled also were overinked in a way that make
the details hard to discern. Inexplicably, there were no credits
listed for many photographs. I graded the book down one star for
being insufficiently well designed, credited and printed to portray
all of the photographs to their best advantage.
Except for this
very regrettable and significant set of flaws on the photography side,
the book is very well done. The selection of photographs was
brilliantly done to not only highlight great ones, but to create
interplay among them . . . and among themes . . . and among
generations of Hollywood performers. I found it all quite exciting
Some of my favorite photographs in the book
Jack Nicholson; Annie Leibovitz, 1992
Robin Williams, Eddie
Murphy, and Jim Carrey; Annie Leibovitz, 1997
Doris Day; John
Spencer Tracy and Katherine Kapburn; n.c., 1949
Nancy and Ronald Reagan; Harry Benson, 1985
Pee-Wee Herman; Annie
Walt Disney; Edward Steichen, 1933
Hoffman; Herb Ritts, 1996
Rita Hayworth; n.c., 1946
Redford; George Gorman, 1984
Meryl Streep; Annie Leibovitz,
Gloria Swanson; Edward Steichen, 1928
I also liked the
caricature of Greta Garbo by Miguel Covarrubias from 1932.
essays were more of a mixed lot. My favoite was D.H. Lawrence on sex
appeal. "Sex appeal is only a dirty name for a bit of life
flame." Other essays looked at Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo (by
Walter Winchell), the queens of gossip columnists, and agent Sue
After you have finished enjoying this close-up look at
Hollywood, ask yourself where your dreams come from. Then consider
where they should come from. Should Hollywood be the source of your
dreams, the reinforcement of your dreams, or simply be a source of
entertainment? You'll have to decide. But do so explicitly. Your
dreams are too important to turn over to others to create and
As the Everly Brothers used to sing: "Dream, Dream,
Dream . . ."
You won't need popcorn to enjoy this trip to the movies. And, what a trip it is - the classiest, glossiest, most glamorous photographic history of Hollywood to be found in print.
"Vanity Fair," the magazine that has kept an unerring eye on Tinsel Town for the past 87 years, has assembled a gallery of memorable images by such renowned photographers as Edward Steichen, Helmut Newton, Annie Leibovitz, Irving Penn, and others.
Luminaries of the silver screen are found at work and at play, in incredible photos that capture not only a visage but an essence: a clown costumed Al Jolson is poignant in song, an in your face bathrobe clad Jack Nicholson wields a golf club, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Joan Crawford laze on a sun kissed beach, a sensuous Johnny Depp challenges with his eyes, a bereft Steve Martin is the quintessential loser, and Mae West gives a boxer her heavy lidded once over.
Artfully and thoughtfully positioned, the photos themselves are a visual record of movie town's history: a black and white studio shot of Walter Huston faces a color portrait of jodphur clad Anjelica Huston, the Fonda family (Jane, Henry and Peter)offer congenial smiles, A piquant very young Drew Barrymore is partnered with a revealing backstage glimpse of John Barrymore, Harold Lloyd faces a bemused Tom Hanks.
Group photos also tell a story from Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall joining pals for a Sunday afternoon gin rummy tournament at Clifton Webb's house to the directors who made and are making cinematic history to the MGM musical starlets from the 1940s and 1950s. All here - a visual paean to the past and present.
Among the 292 iconographic photographs are found brief essays, the words of P. G. Wodehouse, D. H. Lawrence, Dorothy Parker, Walter Winchell, and Patricia Bosworth. Carl Sandburg devotes a poem to Charlie Chaplin, Clair Booth Brokaw Luce focuses on Greta Garbo, a woman of whom she writes, "Our generation's loveliest woman is but a phantom upon a silver screen." We go behind the scenes with the top gossip columnists of their day - Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper. One round and chunky, the other extravagantly hatted - the two amazingly powerful. We also discover that there is more footage to the dark, mysterious murder of Lana Turner's lover than we had ever imagined. Scandal, greed, cupidity aren't overlooked in this chronicle of the land of broken dreams.
Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter offers a succinct explanatory foreword in which he confesses to being "a simple unabashed fan. Of movies, of the people who make them, and of Hollywood." Confidante to the famous Dominic Dunne pens a telling afterword. in which he admits to being mesmerized by Hollywood. Aren't we all?
Remember the catchy "Hooray for Hollywood"? Now, it's hooray for "Vanity Fair's Hollywood", which is a great deal more than catchy - it's a wonder!
on February 13, 2002
A delicious, witty, immensely entertaining and amusing overview of the famous and talented of Hollywood. The photos are absolutely delightful as I imagine they would be by Edward Steichen,Herb Ritts, Irving Penn and (especially) Annie Leibovitz among (many) others. The photos seem to capture the nature of the subjects - Brando so anti glamour, Anjelica Huston so assertive, and Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon on the closing page, half naked and in drag, so so ... they're just great subjects/actors. The illustrations are also great as is the prose by Dorothy Parker, P.G. Wodehouse and others. The only disappointment is that in paperback the binding is so fragile that the weight of the pages pulls the book to pieces. My copy has broken completely away from the covers, and not from any rough handling. In hardcover this is a five star enterprise, perhaps one of the best I have seen considering the thousands of books that are associated with that place.
on October 31, 2002
While there were some great vintage articles and photographs, why are pages blown to show wastes like Gwyneth Paltrow, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, and other I-make -money- because- of- my- looks and not acting ability "artists?" Many obscure silent and early talking stars could've and SHOULD'VE been included. But that's the way it is- nobody cares for the old. Makes a great coffee table book. Get this from the library. I was disappointed. I was done with it in one afternoon.
on December 19, 2000
A wonderful book that portrays the glitz and glamour of Hollywood at its most glorious. Vanity Fair's best inspirational photos are presented from the distant and not-too-recent past. A perfect gift for that star follower in your world. Every page screams "Hooray for Hollywood", and the nostalgia of some will have you yearning for past times. It's possibly the most beautiful book ever made on the stars that captured our imagination and inspired us.
on October 17, 2000
This book is a pure delight. It captures the glamour and shimmering romance that is Hollywood. David Friends' brilliant picture editing showcases the best of Vanity Fairs' evocation of the dream factory, past and present. Each turn of the page elicits a gleeful chuckle or nostaglic sigh. There's enough star power here to illuminate a small town. God bless Vanity Fair and David Friend for giving us this book just in time for the gift giving season.
on March 13, 2001
Vanity Fair's Hollywood draws from the magazine's photo archive to reveal a century's worth of Hollywood images, choosing over 290 of its photos and pairing them with notable writers for added impact. A beautiful visual and verbal history of Hollywood results, suitable for art libraries and coffee tables alike. Well detailed in its essays, Vanity Fair's Hollywood is weightier and packed with information.
on June 22, 2002
I have always loved movie books, and this one on the stars is great. The pictures are really fabulous, and I have spent hours looking through it and reading the text over and over again. My only disappointment is that there is not enough old Hollywood in the book. But, for new Hollywood photos and gossip, this is a primo tome.
on October 10, 2000
The best and most beautifully produced book on Hollywood I've ever seen. Graydon Carter has drawn on Vanity Fair's own vast and unique archive of exquisite photographs to maximium advantage.