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The Way We Lived Then : Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper Hardcover – September 28, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1st edition (September 28, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609603884
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609603888
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 7.7 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #401,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In a previous incarnation, writer Dominick Dunne was the toast of Hollywood--entertaining movie stars and socialites and invited by moguls to clambakes and black-tie dances. Long before he started churning out his romans à clef set in the private recesses of Hollywood and penthouses of New York City and his dispatches from notorious murder trials, he spent his days on movie sets, producing films like Ash Wednesday and working as an executive at various studios. In the off-hours, he and his wife Lenny ate dinner with Vincente Minnelli, Jack Benny, Rock Hudson, and Elizabeth Montgomery. They went to beach parties hosted by Jane Fonda and Roddy McDowall--and threw not a few bashes of their own, attended by, well, everyone and often photographed for Vogue magazine. Dunne seemed to carry his camera with him everywhere and "was always sticking [it] into someone's face." Kirk Douglas biting into an oversized hotdog, a scantily clad Paul Newman perusing a picnic table, Princess Margaret smoking, Mia Farrow dancing, and Natalie Wood hamming. Each weekend he carefully arranged his snapshots along with the week's invitations, telegrams, and news-clippings into a set of scrapbooks.

The Way We Lived Then closely resembles those scrapbooks, filled as it is with images culled from them. Dunne sews the scraps together with a loose memoir that moves from the mundane (how the house was decorated for a certain party, how the subjects of a given photo were feeling about one another at the time) to the grand (meditations on his marriage and his children). All of these famous friends, glittery parties, and cozy evenings did add up to a picture-perfect life for a time. But by the mid '60s, Dunne was drinking hard, insulting acquaintances in public, and being a perfectly terrible husband to the lovely Lenny. He was soon arrested carrying drugs into the country from Mexico, divorced, nearly poverty-stricken, and living in a cabin in Oregon. But he lived to tell about it, and though his story is something of a cautionary tale about the dangers of success and excess, punctuated as it is by his dreamy photos, one can't help but wonder if he'd happily go back to the way he lived then. --Jordana Moskowitz

From Publishers Weekly

Before becoming a bestselling novelist (The Two Mrs. Grenvilles) and Vanity Fair correspondent noted for skeptical dispatches from the O.J. Simpson and Menendez brothers murder trials, Dunne was a TV and movie producer in the 1960s. Less a memoir than a scrapbook, this slim volume consists largely of Dunne's often appealing celebrity snapshots. There's a young Warren Beatty at the piano, Elizabeth Taylor in white mink and a gimlet-eyed Princess Margaret, poised with a cigarette holder. The book's subtitle is well-taken. Plenty of names are dropped, though there's a paucity of fresh or compelling anecdotes. Dunne notes the "deep devotion" of Nancy and Ronald Reagan; in person, Elizabeth Taylor "is even more breathtaking than on the screen"; Natalie Wood, who "always looked like a million bucks," checks her makeup in the mirror-bright blade of a butter knife. There are exceptions to the pat anecdotes: a vicious Frank Sinatra, for instance, makes a memorable appearance. The book is further distinguished by the pages that focus on Dunne's own capitulation to drugs, alcohol and promiscuity; the irrevocable damage his tailspin wrought on his heroic wife (herself suffering from MS); and his slow but determined recovery. But it's odd that the Hollywood elite that betrayed Dunne at the nadir of his life should be so unreflectively celebrated here. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Dominick Dunne (1925-2009) was the author of five bestselling novels, two collections of essays, and "The Way We Lived Then," a memoir with photographs. His final novel, "Too Much Money," will be published in December 2009. He was a Special Correspondent for "Vanity Fair" and lived in New York City and Hadlyme, Connecticut.

Photo (C) H. Thompson

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 47 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 1, 1999
Format: Hardcover
To anyone who can remember the Los Angeles of the 50s, 60s and 70s, this book is a treasure and a real piece of social history. It is wonderful to see how beautiful and stylish the women of that era were, and how the behind-the-scenes entertaining of celebrities was accomplished. The photo of Priness Margaret with a cigarette in her mouth is priceless, as is the shot of Natalie Wood fixing her makeup in the reflection of a dinner knife. Dominick's black and white ball, which preceeded the Truman Capote extravaganza held in New York, apparently was the prototype. It's a wonderful read that I would recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about behind-the-scenes Hollywood.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By "marrano" on March 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It wasn't Dominick Dunne's vintage photos that caught me -- although some of them are stunning -- but the delicious text of this book. There are some quotable lines, like this musing on Lana Turner: "I have always been intrigued by the kind of people who call their lawyers before they call the police after a murder. It's a rich-people thing." What's best, of course, is that Dunne manages to capture the guilty innocence in post-war Hollywood manners and morals. And then that exquisitely sad coda! This book will be a minor classic. Dominick Dunne, thank you.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Roger Dawson on December 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
A great book if you're a fan of Dunne's. To appreciate it, you have to read the text, not just look at the pictures. He gives interesting insights into the people on whom he based his book characters. For example, the Mendelsons in 'An Inconvenient Woman' were based on the Bloomingdales. The coke snorting movie director was based on Robert Evans (also much maligned as the character who Dustin Hoffman played in Wag the Dog).
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By anneelise on June 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I am probably Dominick Dunne's biggest fan, and having said that I was at first a little disappointed (prior to reading it) at his most recent book. It didn't seem like one of his usual, deep juicy stories - more a photo album. Which is exactly what it is, and so much more. Aside from all the personal observations and memorabilia, Mr. Dunne's ability to chop himself down to size is truly amazing. The reader observed some of this in "Another Town, Not My Own" when Mr. Dunne portrays himself as Gus Bailey. Aside from a writing style that I find particularly enjoyable to read, the highest compliment I can pay Mr. Dunne is that I believe every word he says, always. From his articles in Vanity Fair Magazine, to his novels, and now this memoir, Dominick Dunne is truly one of America's greatest authors. His ability to keep the reader engaged and entertained is not to be underestimated.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 1, 1999
Format: Hardcover
For the die hard fan of Dominick Dunne--including the little known "The Winners", His current offering is a crowning achievement. Sitting down and reading "The Way We Lived Then" is like stepping onto the set of an old movie, to where everyone is famous, or yearns to be famous--most notably, the author himself. The fuzzy quality of some of the photos adds much to the tonial focus of the writing, that the glamorous life is not always happy or fufilling. Mr. Dunne shines the spotlight on his own pain, and never tries to paint a sunny picture when the rain pours. Many of the memories are heartwarming, especially the photo of his daughter on his lap as a toddler. Real fans of Mr. Duune will be able to spot so many details that he had used in his novels, which to me made it interesting. I loved this book, and I love this author, and it will sit proudly on my coffee table for some time to come.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By "voychek" on February 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
...finds minor celebrity, AGAIN.
This book reads more like a synopsis than a complete memoir. And I would have liked some recognition of the brilliance of his sister-in-law, Joan Didion. The sibling rivalry with brother John Gregory, which he mentions in passing, shouldn't cheat the reader of at least a few glimpses of this unique couple.
There's a lot of hints at interesting revelations about himself and the mostly second-tier celebrities with whom he spent his days and nights--George Hamilton, Angie Dickinson, Joan Collins--but little in-depth analysis. Here and there Dunne manages a few flashes of what could have been a fascinating book: The Sinatra incidents reveal a nasty, power-mad socieopath. And his fleeting portrait of a cocaine-snorting Peter Lawford wearing the scarlet letter F for failure at the last "party" they attended together is sobering. Lawford was also a victim of Sinatra.
Yet another party at faded, semi- celebrity, Mary Livingston's, who invited Dunne because someone else cancelled and barely bothered to greet him as she rushed to fawn over the arriving Johnny Carson, sends Dunne to the hills of Oregon. Eureka! He's finally seen the light: Vanity, vanity. All is vanity. It took about twenty years of fiddling around with these schmucks for him to see: The horror. The horror. Maybe he's a slow learner.
Dunne should write another memoir. No photographs next time just self-revelatory text. He has a lot to reveal, both about himself, his family and those he wasted his time in Hollywood with. But to do it right, he needs that "courage" which O'Casey pleaded with the fates for.
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