Beneath Mulholland: Thoughts on Hollywood and Its Ghosts

David Thomson, Author Alfred A. Knopf $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-679-45115-0
Prowling the darkened theaters and sun-scorched highways, gilded estates, sets and backdrops of Tinseltown, Esquire film columnist Thomson delivers an offbeat and often trenchant spin on the culture of Hollywood. This collection of essays and fictional riffs written over the last 20 years, mostly for such magazines as Film Comment and Movieline, depicts Hollywood as a ghost town--a place of artifice and illusion, haunted by dead movie stars, glamorized violence and sleepwalking executives: ""They know the art and business are dead, as dead as Norman's mother,"" Thomson writes in his freewheeling opening essay, ""20 Things People Like to Forget About Hollywood."" The title piece is a bittersweet hymn to Mullholland Drive, the highway cresting the Santa Monica Mountains and named after William Mullholland, the L.A. water department robber baron who inspired the screenplay of Chinatown. Other essays map out the terrain below: an abortive interview with a coked-up film diva; the diary of a hapless Japanese executive who watches his company, Sony, lose billions at the hands of producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber. A font of film lore and trivia, Thomson inflects his essays with details of his personal life, as well as with his sometimes tendentious opinions. Whether he's channeling the voice of Cary Grant or musing about the death of a friend, the breakup of his own marriage or the business of filmmaking and celebrity culture, Thomson remains a captivating critic of the dream factory--and an unabashed fan. (Oct.) FYI: In October, Vintage will reissue Thomson's Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles, a biography that PW called: ""A vast, almost novelistic examination of the showman's rich and ultimately deep and frustrating life."" ($15, 480p ISBN 0-679-77283-9)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
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