Hollywood's Greatest Secret: Female Stars Who Loved Other Women
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 This trashy, scandal-mongering history of lesbian and bisexual women in Hollywood remains readable in spite of itself. Fran Lebowitz once said that ``if you remove all gay influences from Hollywood, all you've left is Let's Make a Deal.'' In his perfervid attempt to detail this influence, Madsen (Stanwyck, 1994, etc.) names names and dishes dirt with an almost gleeful Çlan. All the usual suspects are featured, including Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Barbara Stanwyck, and the remarkable Mercedes de Acosta, who seems to have slept with everyone. Thanks to Madsen's diligent research, more than a dozen celebrities are also publicly outed here for the first time. When he can't quite muster the factsand the celebrity in question is still alive and possibly litigiousthe author resorts several times to unpleasant nudge-and-wink innuendo. He also fails to make connections between a celebrity's sexuality and its inflection in her acting and choice of roles. Nor does he take full account of the homophobic text and subtext that runs through so many Hollywood films. Others, such as Vito Russo in The Celluloid Closet, have trod far more ably here. And for a history, this book is remarkably erratic, spending chapters on some actors and sentences on others and jumping from the talkies to Garbo to the silents with wild abandon. What is interesting in this account is how little has really changed. Production codes that allowed studios to fire an actor for ``moral causes'' may have disappeared, but it is still generally considered career poison for an actor to come out of the closet. In the end this book is little more than a who-slept-with-whom compendium; further proof of how ultimately unrevealing sexuality tends to be and, at least in Madsen's hands, how trite. (24 pages photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 1-55972-275-4
Page count: 368pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1995