Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger

Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger
Release Date - January 1, 1975 
Publisher Website - Penguin Random House
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 292 pages
My Rating - 2.5/5

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Originally published in Paris, this is a collection of Hollywood's darkest and best kept secrets from the pen of Kenneth Anger, a former child movie actor who grew up to become one of America's leading underground film-makers.

Hollywood Babylon is sort of treated as a gossip filled must read for those with an interest in the golden age of Hollywood. I had heard it talked about in near mythic terms. Kenneth Anger was synonymous with gossip. It was therefore no surprise that it could not live up to the hype.

I'll start by saying that it is an entertaining read but that it is pretty obvious that not all of it (in fact it appears a large part of it) is not true. It takes events that actually happened and mixes in rumour and innuendo as actual facts. Actual verifiable facts are ignored for snide comments and speculation. I wanted a dishy tell all and instead got something that felt a little incomplete and misleading.

Thr photos interspersed throughout are certainly eye catching and work with the flow of the story. They are used effectively and complement the way in which each chapter leads into the next. The photos are, however, often unlabeled making it harder to identify some of the subjects. This amount of effort also goes into the writing which is rushed and messy at times. 

The stories included are (mostly) worthy of a tell all. It is a testament to how underdeveloped some of the chapters are that it leaves the reader hungry for more and wanting to dive down many rabbit holes. There are some that stay with you, such as the unanswered questions surrounding the death of Virginia Rappe, but others leave only a fleeting impression. 

One positive is that the various sections are short making them easily consumed during a commute or on lunch breaks. The book itself reads very fast because, like the writing, a lot more style is put in place of substance. It makes it so that anyone midly curious could pick this up and finish it rather quickly.

I mainly wanted to read this before starting the You Must Remember This season that revolves around this book. I have to say that the podcast has made a perfect companion piece so far and has only served to increase my enjoyment of the book. 

If you are looking for a quick Hollywood read that has more lies than truth I would maybe recommend this one. I would certainly advise pairing it with a real deep dive into the stories explored in this book. Avoid the hype and you might enjoy it more than I did.

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