PLAYLAND by John Gregory Dunne


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 A child movie star disappears and emerges 45 years later as a blue-haired trailer-park hag in Dunne's lurid tale of Hollywood sex, crime, and deception. In the 1930s, Blue Tyler was Tinseltown's highest paid ``cinemoppet''--Cosmopolitan Studio's meal ticket until she turned 23, when she fell from the biz and, to all appearances, off the planet. Decades later, researching a dopey cop movie, screenwriter Jack Broderick (back from The Red, White, and Blue, 1987) crashes into her accidentally in Detroit, where she is living in anonymous squalor. He alerts his producers that the real story is the discovery of the now elderly Blue Tyler, scraps everything else, and--helped by a vulgar extortionist policeman--gets the scoop on her life. All this is done through interviews with people who knew her, notably her ex-lover and publicist who afforded her a lifelong stipend, and her director, a one-legged war veteran and one of the only men in LA who didn't sleep with Blue (he's gay). Other sources include newspaper articles and court transcripts that reveal Blue's affair with vicious gangster Jacob King, who was gunned down in Playland, his tacky Las Vegas hotel, and various classified documents unearthed by shady connections. Interviews with brassy, foul-mouthed Blue herself (before she disappears again) offset the testimony of those who knew her. The result is an intriguing puzzle of identity. Does Blue's self-portrait match the image that friends and the public paint? Jack's compulsive fixation and frustration with her mount as he struggles to complete his research and cram her legend into a hit screenplay with integrity. At the end of the seamy story, the truth remains unclear, but nobody cares. The constant maybes and the run-on rants are made tolerable, even beguiling, by Dunne's bristling prose and savage cinematics. Dunne delivers grit with polish in this wicked celebrity archaeology. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-679-42427-X
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1994


FictionNOTHING LOST by John Gregory Dunne
by John Gregory Dunne
NonfictionMONSTER by John Gregory Dunne
by John Gregory Dunne