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Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon Hardcover – 1975

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Originally published in Paris, this is a collection of Hollywood's darkest and best kept secrets from the pen of Kenneth Anger, a former child movie actor who grew up to become one of America's leading underground film-makers.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 305 pages
  • Publisher: Straight Arrow, 1975; Book Club Edition edition (1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0617344086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0617344087
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 7.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (150 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,323,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 69 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 27, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Kenneth Anger's trash classic is still worth a look after all these years. No, this is not the book for those tender and naive dears among us who still think "they wouldn't print it if it wasn't true." This is more along the lines of "they couldn't print it if they weren't dead!" Don't look here for an accurate history of Hollywood's Golden Age. What Anger serves up, in his own wasp-tongued way, is the true gossip of the day. True in the sense that it was actually circulated, not that it was accurate. That in itself gives the book its own kind of historical value: the tabloid trash a bygone era. If you've ever lingered over a particularly lurid headline in the supermarket check out line, this book may be for you. Go for it, nobody's looking!
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Susan Nunes on July 5, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Anybody who is considering buying this book (and its sequel, if one can find it) should know that it has absolutely no pretensions of being fair or accurate. Despite the wild inaccuracies of now-deceased stars' exploits, the book is still like seeing a car wreck: you know it's awful, but you can't resist looking at it. It's a fun book in spite of itself.
The photos are often tasteless, the prose is often tacky and sleazy, the research is put together with two nails and a hammer, and overall the book reminds one of the old "Confidential" magazines (the magazine is actually profiled in one of the book's chapters). Yet sleaze and tackiness are what Hollywood was all about, so the book seems fitting.
If you want accuracy in a book, go elsewhere. If you like gossip in the most vicious and slimy way possible, then this is your book.
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57 of 65 people found the following review helpful By rareoopdvds VINE VOICE on December 5, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Like any newspaper article, events are turned into "stories." These "stories", like any silver screen biography, tells the dramatic tale of a life in turmoil. Kenneth Anger's book, "Hollywood Babylon" takes the angle of a tabloid and digs up some old dirt of famous celebrity lives and puts it into a full collection of grime, grease and oil. This collection takes a chronological look at Hollywood's finest at the time beginning in the early twenties with such big names as Fatty Arbuckle whose drinking problem got out of hand at one of his big parties after signing a lucrative deal. Moving through time to the 30's, 40's, right up to the Sharon Tate murder, which Anger recognized it was no longer "Old Hollywood."
The book reads like a gossip column mixed with sleazy tabloid journalism, yet with the wit and humor of a prankster. It's an exploitation of exploited lives. To mimic tabloids further, the pages appear with large and sometimes disturbing photos of stars at their most inopportune moments.
While much of the material has already had its heyday in newspapers of the times, it has a new life today where many of these actors and actresses are virtually unheard of by the general public and rekindled new interest in their films. Just as watching and old O. J. Simpson football game may have the same appeal as watching Lana Turner in her debut "They Won't Forget."
The title to me is entirely fitting, as Hollywood is the "Babylon" of our society, one in which everyone has all their wants at their disposal. A place where hedonism is the religion and tragedy is only the end of a scene, for we know by the end of the movie everything will be all right.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kendrik Lau on December 17, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
From some of the reviews I have read, it is either you'll love this book for its contents or hate it for its contents.
Well, infinitely sarcastic and tsk tsking in tone, Kenneth Anger compiled a fascinating, if not nauseating tome of Hollywood gossip, mysteries and scandals; accompanied by a generous helping of equally fascinating and nauseating photos.
Just when you think that people are so moral back in the good ole days...well, surprise surprised!!!! Here comes Hollywood, the "cemetery of virtue".
Hollywood Babylon "documented", with frenzied glee, the various scandals that rocked the film industry, and in turn the world. First we are introduced to the death of Olive Thomas, then the now infamous Fatty Arbuckle trial. These two stories basically set the tone for the rest of the book....rapes, sexual indiscretions, drug overdoses, nervous breakdowns, orgies, murders, creative suicides and so on and so forth.
The photos themselves are not for the faint of heart.... featuring death photos of extinguished luminaries such as Thelma Todd, Marie Prevost,Bugsy Siegel, Jayne Mansfield (and her dog!).
Overall, if you like gossip and scandal and loves laughing at the misfortunes of others and have a taste for the morbid, this book is a delight...a delectable "box of poisoned bon bons" through which you can choose and pick at your leisure...with every juicy morsel is as good as the next.
Otherwise....this book will probably make you nauseous.
A sequel, Hollywood Babylon II is not as good as THIS one. But the zinger in that tome is photos of the infamous Black Dahlia murder. But that is another poisoned bonbon for another day.
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60 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Daniel J. Hamlow HALL OF FAME on September 22, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Reading this book probably wasn't the best way to learn of Hollywood's sordid trash, when I bought this ages ago, but I didn't have a movie encyclopedia at the time, which would have been useful, and I would've learned of the many tragedies that befell certain Hollywood stars in a more scholarly way. However, I didn't know that Peg Enwistle was the one who started a trend by diving off the LAND of the HOLLYWOODLAND sign, which now reads HOLLYWOOD.
The key scandals of the 1920's through 1950's are played out. The Fatty Arbuckle scandal of 1921, involving his alleged part in the death of starlet Virginia Rappe, was the O.J. Simpson of the 1920's is given a separate chapter. It took three trials to acquit him, but his career was finished. As Anger snidily writes, "The Prince of Whales had been harpooned." The others include Errol Flynn being accused of having sex with two underage girls, Mary Astor's diary, and the stabbing death of Lana Turner's lover John Stompanato by Cheryl Crane. Frances Farmer's nervous breakdown and collapse has some of snidiness in there, although he makes it clear that he does sympathize with her plight years before Nirvana did a song on her on their In Utero album.
Two mysterious and to this day still unsolved are probed, that of Thelma Todd, the Ice Cream Blonde, who may have been murdered by the mob instead of committing suicide, and the murder of director William Desmond Taylor, and those aren't as treated sensationally as other material.
Suicides are written with some embellishment in this book, i.e. Paul Bern, Jean Harlow's second husband, Marie Prevost, whose starving dog ate parts of her body, Lupe Velez, a.k.a. the Mexican Spitfire, and Carole Landis. Separate sections are written for Velez and Landis.
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