Monday, January 10, 2011

In and out of Hollywood: A biographer’s memoir

And Then Some Publishing Book Review Mondays

Book review by: Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

In and out of Hollywood: A biographer’s memoir
By Charles Higham

If you are interested in one person’s (an insider’s) personal reflections on some of the past (and current) stars of Hollywood, if you like knowing some of the secrets of the stars, and if you have an interest in the dangers and excitements of gay life in Hollywood before AIDS, then I highly recommend this book.  Forget about whether his insights are correct or whether or not he has evidence to back up his facts — if you just accept Higham’s views for what they are (personal reflections on his own and other’s lives), then this book will offer both an interesting and entertaining read.

Higham was born in England in an upper-class family and here describes his home: “We had a staff of eight, four living in and four, including a gardener and his assistant, housed nearby.  Those living in included a cook-housekeeper, a lady’s maid, a butler-chauffeur, and my latest nanny.  We traveled by Silver Phantom Rolls-Royce to and from our home at Savoy Court in London” (p. 6).

One thing I enjoyed throughout Higham’s book is his easy, comfortable writing style which is personal and engaging.  The stories are insightful and full of detail so that it is easy to picture what he describes, identify with the situations, and fully appreciate all his reactions and reflections.  Not being one who was intimately familiar with most of the people he writes about, and never having read any of Higham’s previous books — taking but a passing notice of the lives of Hollywood personalities in general — his book still held my interest (which is a bit unusual!).

Another discovery readers make as Higham describes his early life, is not only how he developed his interest in literature but, too, his fascination with detail: “I walked more miles all over the city [London], enjoying the sense of being lost, relishing every vista, peering into the windows of mysterious dark shops that sold a vast range of jumbled goods.  A favorite haunt was the Musée Grévin, the chilren’s waxworks museum, a place of magic that made Madame Tussauds seem merely humdrum” (p. 40).

As an author myself, I loved the way Higham told about the production of his many books and how, at one point in the development of his book, Errol Flynn, production was stopped so that he could pursue a couple of leads he had discovered.  It is this kind of insight and description that makes reading this book fascinating.  Those leads were the ties that Higham made between Flynn and the Nazis — Flynn’s documented aid to the Nazi regime.   That is but one example of how Higham revealed some of Hollywood’s best-kept secrets.

If you just enjoy pleasure reading and like good stories, this would be a great choice.  Gail Powers of Harbor County, Michigan, and North Naples, Florida, writes this in her review of Higham’s book that effectively summarizes my viewpoint: “Mr. Higham . . . discusses his career as a journalist, his varied projects, stories he couldn't use in the course of his research, and many interesting tidbits relating to the celebrities he came to know often on a social basis. And if that weren't enough, this book took many interesting twists and turns regarding odd fortune which resulted in some pretty heady stuff.”

In and out of Hollywood: A biographer’s memoir

No comments:

Post a Comment

Essays, SMOERs Words-of-Wisdom, Fridays Laugh, book reviews... And Then Some! Thank you for your comment.