Tuesday, May 21, 2024


I've loved movies all my life and I work in the entertainment industry so it can be depressing and distressing when I get confronted with some big chunk of film history I know nothing about.  I enjoyed, for example, Ann's "Not Your China Doll: The Wild and Shimmering Life ..." because it was about a period that I'm very weak on -- the silent picture years and the emergence of the 'talking pictures.' So when I saw Keli Noury's THE DARK SIDE OF HOLLYWOOD on AMAZON's KINDLE UNLIMITED, I immediately wanted to read it.

The book focuses on three performers who were big in silent films and went on to be names when the pictures began to talk: Charlie Chaplin, Lupe Valdez and Jean Harlow.

There are some typos in the book and some 'logistos.'  The latter is especially true in the Jean Harlow section of the book.  'Logistos'?  Logic in sentence errors.  Jean Harlow, near the end of her career, begins losing her hair due to the bleaching to make it 'platinum blond.'  But the first sentence about her losing her hair somehow leaves out "hair."  And you're left to wonder what's being written.  It also has more "he" for "her" errors and vice versa.  

Jean Harlow was the prototype for the blond bombshells that followed -- including Marilyn Monroe.  Early on, critics loathed her.  But ticket buyers loved her.  The critics would come around slowly but probably the most amazing thing about Jean Harlow was that she started out pre-Code Hollywood and played women that would be thrown off the screen later.  Mae West started out that way as well.  They then tried to soften Mae and the films did less well.  When they tried to soften Jean, it didn't effect her box office.

Lupe Velez needed to care for her family and left Mexico for a job in Hollywood only to find out there was no real job.  That didn't stop her, she created an image and became a hugely popular film star. She would take her own life when she was pregnant and the father-to-be wouldn't marry her.

Both Lupe and Jean died young and died while they were still major film stars.  By contrast, Charlie Chaplin was 'run out of the country' at the height of his fame. 'Run out of the country'?  A British citizen, the US government waited until he was out of the country to announce that he could not return.  He ended up making a life in Europe.  In 1972, he was invited to the Academy Awards and returned to the US to accept an honorary Oscar. Five years later he was dead.

Each of the sketches goes over some of their big hits and their personal lives and scandals.  

It was an interesting book and I recommend it highly.

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