A Year in Books/Day 102: LIFE Goes to the Movies

  • Title: LIFE Goes to the Movies
  • Editor: David E. Scherman
  • Year Published: 1975/This Edition: 1986 (Time-Life Books, Inc./Pocket Books)
  • Year Purchased: 1990s
  • Source: On clearance at a forgotten store (likely Waldenbooks).
  • About: The binding of this book is falling apart; if you pick it up carelessly, random pages tumble to your feet. I’ve retrieved the disordered middle third of the book from the floor more than once. It’s that kind of volume-delightful, informative, unique and just damn good to ogle. It’s light on text but big on informatively captioned photographs. The staff of this quintessentially American periodical had a degree of privileged access to film studios and stars that today would be unthinkable. The best of forty years of their coverage is stuffed into 304 kaleidoscopic pages.
  • Motivation: LIFE magazine employed top-notch photographers; many of the images they published are instantly recognizable classics. I knew that I would never tire of looking through it, which I haven’t (apparently to the point of nearly destroying it from the inside out).
  • Times Read: Countless
  • Random Excerpt/Page 86: “In the Hollywood of the ’30s and ’40s, stars were not born; they were mass produced. The machinery that swallowed up legions of girls with pretty midwestern faces and that ground out sultry vamps and sexy hoydens gave each young hopeful a buildup that can only be described as relentless.”
  • Happiness Scale: 9

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A Year in Books/Day 88: Veronica

  • Title: Veronica The Autobiography of Veronica Lake
  • Authors: Veronica Lake with Donald Bain
  • Year Published: 1969/This Edition: 1972 (A Bantam Book)
  • Year Purchased: 1994?
  • Source: Antique Barn at the Ohio State Fair, Columbus, Ohio
  • About: Sultry movie star Veronica Lake’s autobiography attempts, as most memoirs do, to right a lifetime of perceived wrongs. The cover line tells us, in all-important CAPS, what we are in for: THE TRUE STORY OF THE STAR WHO WALKED OUT ON HOLLYWOOD. Whether or not you believe her version of events probably radically varies from person to person but one thing is for certain: by the time you close the back cover, you will have read your way through one hell of a wild and tragic story. Fun Fact: Her co-author (or ghostwriter, depending on your level of cynicism) Donald Bain  has ‘shared’ a by-line with Jessica Fletcher in the ‘Murder, She Wrote’ series of books since 1989.
  • Motivation: Oh, just some movies with titles you may have heard of: ‘Sullivan’s Travels’, ‘This Gun for Hire’, ‘I Married a Witch’, ‘The Blue Dahlia’. I really love Lake’s screw-you attitude to intrusive authority, which may or may not strike a strong cord with me. She’s also one of the few major stars in history as short as me, which made her a great example for this then-struggling young actress.
  • Times Read: 4 or 5
  • Random Excerpt/Page 214: “Merchant seamen look a certain way. Spencer Tracy? All the senior airline pilots in the world? All people cursed with premature wrinkling? Leathery skin? Romance through squinting eyes? I don’t know. But Andy was undoubtedly a seaman and so were his two friends. It wasn’t even debatable.”
  • Happiness Scale: 10 (whenever I am in the mood for a quick, vitriolic take-down of Hollywood’s superficiality by someone with a compellingly prickly persona)
    Studio portrait photo of Veronica Lake taken f...

    Studio portrait photo of Veronica Lake taken for promotional use. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)