THE BAD & THE BEAUTIFUL: Hollywood in the Fifties

Sam Kashner, Author, Jennifer MacNair, Joint Author . Norton $26.95 (380p) ISBN 978-0-393-04321-1

The 1950s are often dismissed as a peaceful interval between the war-ravaged '40s and the socially stormy '60s. Not so, according to journalists Kashner and MacNair, who offer a juicy, gossip-gorged exposé of '50s Hollywood. They begin, appropriately, with the story of Confidential magazine, a publication that outed gays and revealed interracial romances, prison records and extramarital affairs. The chapter "The Lavender Closet" concentrates on homosexual scandals involving tennis great Bill Tilden, actress Lizabeth Scott and writer/actor/director Noël Coward. Kashner and MacNair comprehensively cover anticommunist hysteria, along with powerful studies of blacklisted screenwriter Alvah Bessie and actor Lee J. Cobb. The book's most striking subject is Nicholas Ray, director of Rebel Without a Cause. Inevitably, the authors emphasize the film's sexual backstory (Ray and Rebel cast member Dennis Hopper were both having affairs with Natalie Wood), but Ray's genius, his battles against the studio system and contribution to the fiery James Dean legend enhance the director's stature as a neglected immortal. Kashner and MacNair deal amusingly with Hollywood's religious period, ranging from Billy Graham's low-budget Mr. Texas to Twentieth Century Fox's Cinemascope circus, The Robe. Well-known anecdotes about Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Lana Turner are outshone by gritty profiles of legendary screenwriter Ernest Lehman (The Sweet Smell of Success), self-destructive novelist Grace Metalious (Peyton Place), anorexic actress Sandra Dee (Imitation of Life), suicidal playwright William Inge (Picnic) and cutthroat columnists Louella Parsons, Hedda Hopper and Sheilah Graham. These accounts, often dipped in acid, will keep readers flipping pages and highlight Kashner and MacNair's intention to write "a prismatic—rather than an academic—view of 1950s Hollywood." Photos. Agents, Joy Harris and Leslie Daniels. (May)

Reviewed on: 04/22/2002
Release date: 05/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-0-393-32436-5
Hardcover - 384 pages - 978-0-7515-3084-1
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