Book Review ~ Celebrity Feuds!: The Cattiest Rows, Spats, and Tiffs Ever Recorded by Boze Hadleigh

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FEUD

Celebrity Feuds! dishes the dirt with in-depth stories of every word uttered, letter written, or fist swung from the cantankerous stars’ first calamitous encounters to their deathbed declarations. Exposing the shocking tactics of the most bitter rivals in the entertainment industry and the vindictive, unseen ire of our favorite stars, this book reveals Hollywood with all its claws bared.

I love reading books about arguments. Why? Because I’m not the one arguing. Heh, heh. That said, this one was a tad of an eye-opener. I knew about some of the feuds, but not all. I’d heard all about the Bette Davis-Joan Crawford one. Who hasn’t? There’s even a television series about it. But like the TV show, this isn’t the last word on their disagreement. They didn’t hate each other, but didn’t love each other, either. It was still neat to read about it. Then there was the series of disagreements between Shirley MacLaine and Warren Beatty. Hey, siblings fight, too.

This isn’t the most informative book. There are spots that are rather glossed over, but if you want an afternoon read about many people in Old Hollywood, then this is a good bet. If you’re wanting to know more than surface stuff about the players, then keep looking.

The Purple Diaries: Mary Astor and the Most Sensational Hollywood Scandal of the 1930s by Joseph Egan

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DIARIESOne of Hollywood s first scandals was nearly its last.
1936 looked like it would be a great year for the movie industry. With the economy picking up after the Great Depression, Americans everywhere were sitting in the dark watching the stars and few stars shined as brightly as one of America’s most enduring screen favorites, Mary Astor.

But Astor’s story wasn’t a happy one. She was born poor, and at the first sign that she could earn money, her parents grabbed the reins and the checks. Widowed at twenty-four, Mary Astor was looking for stability when she met and wed Dr. Franklyn Thorpe. But the marriage was rocky from the start; both were unfaithful, but they did not divorce until after Mary Astor gave birth to little Marylyn Thorpe.

What followed was a custody battle that pushed The Spanish Civil War and Hitler’s 1936 Olympic Games off of the front pages all over America. Astor and Thorpe were both ruthless in their fight to gain custody of their daughter, but Thorpe held a trump card: the diaries that Mary Astor had been keeping for years. In these diaries, Astor detailed her own affairs as well as the myriad dalliances of some of Hollywood’s biggest names. The studio heads, longtime controllers of public perception, were desperate to keep such juicy details from leaking.

With the complete support of the Astor family, including unlimited access to the photographs and memorabilia of Mary Astor’s estate, The Purples Diaries is a look at Hollywood s Golden Age as it has never been seen before, as Egan spins a wildly absorbing yarn about a scandal that threatened to bring down the dream factory known as Hollywood.

I never knew the lengths to which Mary Astor had to fight in order to gain custody of her daughter. If nothing else, this book put into perspective just how crazy the press can be and certainly was back in the 1930s when this story took place.

Mary Astor was a lot stronger than she looked. I remember her from the Maltese Falcon, but not many other films. Seeing her as a human, not just a star, like she’s portrayed in this book was a real eye-opener. She wanted what was best for her daughter. I commend her for that.

Gravy, though, the amount of publicity for the proceedings and how much the press fixated on Astor being a single parent. To modern ears and eyes, this seems silly, but back in the day it was scandalous. I can’t imagine the stress, struggle and strain she went through.

The author had a way with words, drawing me right into the story. Of course, I had to know what would happen. The photos only tell half of the story and I needed to know if the little girl ended up with her mother or father.

One thing this book put into perspective for me was the struggle to find the right parent and for the parents to behave in order to gain custody. Having never been through such a fight, I never realized just how much of a play it can be.

If you’re looking for a book that’s long on story and has heart, despite the courtroom antics, then this might be the one for you. If you love old Hollywood and want a better understanding of the stars at the time or the real struggles they went through, then this might hit the mark.

@MeganSlayer ‘s Wednesday Book Review ~ The Ice Cream Blonde: The Whirlwind Life and Mysterious Death of Screwball Comedienne Thelma Todd by Michelle Morgan

Every so often, I’ll post about books I’ve read. Mostly these aren’t in my writing genre. Why? Everyone needs a break and to read for pleasure. This is one of those reviews. I’m a sucker for old Hollywood bios and this one was no different.

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A beloBLONDEved film comedienne who worked alongside the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, and dozens of others, Thelma Todd was a rare Golden Age star who successfully crossed over from silent films to talkies. This authoritative new biography traces Todd’s life from a vivacious little girl who tried to assuage her parents’ grief over her brother’s death, to an aspiring teacher turned reluctant beauty queen, to an outspoken movie starlet and restaurateur.

Increasingly disenchanted with Hollywood, in 1934 Todd opened Thelma Todd’s Sidewalk Café, a hot spot that attracted fans, tourists, and celebrities. Despite success in film and business, privately the beautiful actress was having a difficult year–receiving disturbing threats from a stranger known as the Ace and having her home ransacked–when she was found dead in a garage near her café. An inquest concluded that her death, at age just twenty-nine, was accidental, but in a thorough new investigation that draws on interviews, photographs, documents, and extortion notes–much of these not previously available to the public–Michelle Morgan offers a compelling new theory, suggesting the sequence of events on the night of her death and arguing what many people have long suspected: that Thelma was murdered.

But by whom?

The suspects include Thelma’s movie-director lover, her would-be-gangster ex-husband, and the thugs who were pressuring her to install gaming tables in her popular café–including a new, never-before-named mobster. This fresh examination on the eightieth anniversary of the star’s death is sure to interest any fan of Thelma Todd, of Hollywood’s Golden Age, or of gripping real-life murder mysteries.

I’ve always loved the work of Thelma Todd. She’s a riot on screen and one of the gems Hollywood didn’t get to use nearly enough. When I saw this biography was available, I had to read it.

The author did her homework on Todd. I not only loved Todd more, I respected her as a person and businesswoman. Oh, sure. She had her moments, but who doesn’t?

The writing flowed well. Once I started the book, I couldn’t put it down. Nope. I had to know how it would end–okay, I knew…, but I wanted to see how the author put her spin on telling the tale.

My one quibble with the book was the author’s tendency to add speculation into the writing. No one knows exactly how Todd died. There are theories and she did suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning, but how she got there…it seemed like the author spent more time wondering than finding more information. Still, it was a good read and I’m glad I did.