As everybody who's anybody knows (and the rest of us too), the most exclusive Hollywood party is Vanity Fair magazine's Oscar-night bash. Vanity Fair's Hollywood is like the ultimate movie party--and how inviting it all is! Flip through the thick, glossy pages and greet the greats of all ages. Lillian and Dorothy Gish share a spread with Blythe Danner and Gwyneth Paltrow. Ms. Deneuve, resplendent in scarlet, meet Mr. Valentino, in classy black and white. Claudette Colbert as Cleopatra, meet Liz Taylor as Cleopatra (and if it's not too catty, did you notice Claudette was better dressed?). The stunning photos are cleverly juxtaposed. Julia Roberts, posed naughtily in see-through undies in the water, is followed by a very properly attired Doris Day in a see-through skirt. Day holds six brightly dyed poodles by white leashes; the composition forms a visual rhyme with the six accusing fingers pointed at Peter Lorre in the next picture. The photo captions by Christopher Hitchens are as succinctly clever as Dorothy Parker, encapsulating entire careers in a punning paragraph. Even if you've seen a shot before, you learn things: in the most notorious still ever snapped at a Hollywood party--the one where Sophia Loren ogled Jayne Mansfield's voluminous bosom--Hitchens tells us the object of Loren's appalled regard was "the strategic dabs of makeup on [Jayne's] nipples."
Like any good party, this vast book offers sparkling talk as well as gobs of eye candy. The brilliant Peter Biskind evokes the '70s heyday of superagent Sue Mengers, D.H. Lawrence makes a stab at defining "sex appeal," Patricia Bosworth adds the patented VF dash of scandal in a piece on Lana Turner's gangster boyfriend's murder, and Hitchens gives a quickie history of the fabled Sunset Strip. Not everything rises to the august occasion: Carl Sandburg's poem about Chaplin and Clare Boothe Luce's snooty ode to Garbo are mostly of antiquarian interest. Most of the historic stuff is great (e.g., Fritz Lang directing a crowd scene in Metropolis), and the most austere cineaste should own this book. On practically every page, Vanity Fair's Hollywood dazzles. It's a keeper. --Tim Appelo
From Publishers Weekly
This lavish, photo-laden tour of Tinsel Town's history is coffee-table condensation of 87 years of Vanity Fair coverage of the Hollywood scene. Visually, it's a thrilling compendium of images that have defined not only the film industry and its workers but how the American public has understood them. Ranging from Edward Steichen's iconographic black-and-white portraits of Louise Brooks, Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg, and Gloria Swanson (which defined the "look" of Hollywood in its first half-century) to the contemporary and often shocking color photographs of Annie Leibovitz (of nearly everyone from Sylvester Stallone and John Travolta to Cate Blanchette and Johnny Depp)Dand peppered with shots by Bruce Weber, Irving Penn, Helmut Newton, Griege Hurrell and othersDthe book traces how these stars have come to embody pop mythologies of everyday life. The photos are interspersed among 13 (mostly short) essays by writers as diverse as Carl Sandberg, Patricia Bosworth, P.G. Wodehouse, Dorothy Parker, Peter Biskind and D.H. Lawrence, which range from the humorous to the illuminating. While serious film buffs will find nothing terribly new here, Vanity Fair's trademark mix of wit and style, chic and intelligence is guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser. (Oct. 23)
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