by Charles Lockwood ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 29, 1981
An agreeable, once-over-lightly look at movie-star real estate and interior decoration over the decades--best when sticking to homes and gardens, weakest when recycling hoary Hollywood anecdotes and scandals. Lockwood (Manhattan Moves Uptown) does a good, crisp job with the somewhat less familiar, far more diverting early material here: the vacant lots of 1903 Hollywood, promoted (by ""melodramatic and deceptive"" means) as a paradise to retired Midwestern farmers and L.A. businessmen; the arrival of the first movie folk (largely despised by the locals), along with such exotic castle-builders as Dr. Alfred Guido Randolph Schloesser; and the creation of an elegant alternative to the soon-rundown Hollywood streets--desolate Beverly Hills, carefully planned as an economically balanced community (by Wilbur Cook, an F. L. Olmsted colleague) and persistently hawked, thanks partly to the building of the Beverly Hills Hotel (a ""neo-Spanish pleasure dome rising above the bean fields""). Once Douglas Fairbanks buys a hunting lodge there in 1919--which will become the first dream palace, Pickfair--the pattern is set. And from there on Lockwood's book loses much of its charm, offering a literate but unexceptional mix of mini-guided tours and tinsel-town tattle. There's Gloria Swanson's peacock-silk reception room, Chaplin's pseudo-genteel manor, Tom Mix's his-and-her parlors (one Ã la Cowboy, the other Ã la French duchess). There's the amusing eclecticism of L.A.'s ""architectural identity crisis""--Spanish/Chinese kitsch--as well as oversized oranges, frogs, and derbies in the commercial district. And, with the Depression, there's a trend toward ranches, the beach, better taste . . . and a retreat from the epic scale that bankrupted some stars (or drove Harold Lloyd into his elevator, in search of coziness). Anecdotes galore, of course: Fatty Arbuckle, Marion Davies, vulgar Clara Bow, Doug and Mary (with their menus and houseguests), a dreary roundup of unhappy ends, etc. But, with 160 photos, the appeal here is the extravagant decor and the changing face of the neighborhood--nicely, if sketchily, captured despite the recurrent drag from those old, old Hollywood stories.
Pub Date: Oct. 29, 1981
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1981
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