120 of 124 people found the following review helpful
I read this book in its electronic galley format compliments of NetGalley and the opinions expessed here are mine alone.
Actor and author Robert Wagner teases in this book's dedication by telling his reader that no one in his family has ever heard these stories. A cute teaser which sounds naughty but in fact is innocently probably true. This book is not a celebrity tell all. Actually, it starts out describing in broad terms a Hollywood/Los Angeles of long ago that is seen through the eyes of Wagner. A transplant from Detroit, Wagner ventured west with his family in the late 1930's as a young child. The Wagners built a home in the Bel Air area which even back then reflected a certain prejudice against movie people. Wagner was lucky. He had yet to become an actor. Wagner describes an idyllic life with expansive vistas populated by nature and an occasional bridle path where he rode horses. In his youth, he would also spend time riding public transportation that was cheap, convenient, and well planned. Believe it, LA actually had a good transportation system back in the day. The air was smog free and you could gaze from the mountains to view Catalina some 20 miles offshore. Back then there was no Hotel Bel Air. It was where his family and others boarded their horses. Bel Air still had a small town feel back then.
After recalling the Los Angeles he came to know and love as his adopted hometown, he grew up and had some contact with film people through jobs he had as a teen. The reader starts getting an idea of how the celebs lived from the descriptive simplicity of a Cape Cod actor 'Jim' Cagney had built in contrast to a huge and over-the-complex actress Marion Davies resided in at the edge of Santa Monica on the beach. The Davies estate had all but disappeared by 1956 save for a 'cottage' that was still there the last time I looked. If you've ever seen that cottage you can understand why it's essential to have someone like Wagner to tell you about it.
Wagner and his co-author Scott Eyman dug into the Hollywood landscape with images of former actor turned interior decorator William Haines transforming mere houses into homes for people like Joan Crawford and Carole Lombard. The mansion/beach houses of Louis B. Mayer, Norma Shearer, and Douglas Fairbanks still remain but as Wagner cautions they have been remodeled to death by subsequent owners to reflect the changing times. The eateries and night clubs that Wagner enjoyed as a young star have fallen by the wayside with only a couple of exceptions. As I read this, I actually found myself yearning for things I had never known except from books. The overall effect was intoxicating as it filled my mind with heady details of a more glamorous time.
Wagner imparts beyond details (which were many) his memories of people he knew. While many were known commodities from the film community such as Norma Shearer and Clark Gable, it was often the more obscure personalities that made for good reading. Included were restaurateur and film rag publisher William Wilkerson who was a hard gambling guy and former Beverly Hills Hotel owner Hernando Courtright. Wagner made mention of Louis B. Mayer and his two warring daughters Irene Selznick and Edie Goetz. These gals made de Havilland and Fontaine seem like almost a congenial sister act. Edie at one time was a grand hostess and the Goetz home was punctuated with great art that no single collector could amass today. Irene was the literary sister who escaped to NYC and entertained intellectual types. While never getting nasty or snipe-ish, Wagner is very tactful yet honest and exactly what I'd expect in this charming memoir that often has his crisp recollections colliding with pricey real estate. Of particular interest to me was Wagner's love of architecture. LA at one time had more crazy and wonderful architecture than any other place in this country. Back then the golden age of films was still in full swing and the movie industry drove the LA economy. TV and digital media would put a huge dent into the studios profits and viability.
Overall, this is a delightful and informative book that is wonderfully descriptive and visual. I enjoyed it and was surprised that it kept pace throughout. Anyone familiar with LA architecture or the golden age of Hollywood will like this book. My only criticism is that I wish it had more pictures.
53 of 59 people found the following review helpful
I saw a review of this book and read it in two days. I have nothing to do with the movies, except watching them, mostly old ones. However, I have lived in Los Angeles since 1956 and the places Mr Wagner mentions are familiar. I remember Ciro's Nightclub although I was never in there. His memories of Bel Air and Hollywood bring back my own memories of when Los Angeles was a delightful city. The smog was here when I arrived so I did not see it as he did before the age of the auto. I remember the red cars although I never rode one. In 1961, I walked up the fairway of Bel Air Country Club during the Bel Air Fire to see if my in-laws house was still there. It wasn't and we saw other houses on fire along the fairway with no one around them. The firemen were miles away trying to create fire breaks.
I was in Don the Beachcomber one night in a party that included Jane Russell and her husband Bob Waterfield, retired football star. A fan came up to her and asked for her autograph and then called Waterfield, "Mr Russell." I didn't crack a smile.
It is fun to read about these places and these people, most of whom were gone by the time I came along. Still, we did have dinners at Scandia, preferably on Tuesday when the "Chef's Special Lamb" dish was served. I still don't know what was in it but it was the best dish I have ever eaten. I saw Van Heflin in there one night.
The description of the real casino that Eddie Mars' roadhouse, in "The Big Sleep," was based on, explained something to me. I remember when the Hollywood Freeway ended at Lankersheim Boulevard but didn't know where that real casino was located. Raymond Chandler was as much a historian of old Los Angeles as Dashiell Hammett was of San Francisco. I have figured out some of his locations in a city that has changed over the years far more than San Francisco has. Wagner writes about Fatty Arbuckle's home on West Adams Boulevard in 1920s Los Angeles. When I was in college, that house was the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house. It's gone now.
Wagner writes about all the old restaurants that are no longer here. He mentions Perino's, a very elegant place on Wilshire Boulevard that drew as many businessmen as movie industry people. When I was a cardiac surgery resident at Good Samaritan Hospital, on Wilshire a few blocks from Perino's, a wealthy patient in a corner suite ordered all her meals catered to the hospital from Perino's. When she went home after her successful open heart surgery, her husband complained that the hospital had not deducted the cost of meals from her bill.
The book is short and a delightful read. I may even read his biography, which I have not seen. I do remember seeing him and his wife Natalie Wood at Catalina Island many times although we never met. By that time they had a big powerboat named "Splendour" as I recall. I was more into sailing. The book is especially enjoyable for those who are familiar with Los Angeles in its days of splendor. They are gone with most of those people.
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2014
This was a delicious book of Old Hollywood - truly the Golden Age. It is not only a must-read for any film buff but for anyone interested in the creation and architecture of many of the landmarks in Southern California. Making it even better, is the, often, first-hand accounting of Robert Wagner, a gracious man with a way to tell a story about places he has been and people he has known. He intuitively tells us the fun stories and facts that make these golden stars come alive and he writes, much as a fan, telling us the things that we really want to know. I especially appreciated the way that he treats all of his subjects, with respect and love, none of the snarky commentary that so often passes for wit these days. He has truly bridged the gap from the early days to today. I only wish that so many of these places that he tells about were still here. This is just a grand read and Robert Wagner gives us an example again of a life well-lived much as he did in "Pieces of My Heart."
35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2014
What a great book! I love the way Mr. Wagner started with a little history, blended in a little old Hollywood, stirred in a little style, and came up with a book that reads like you're having a conversation with him. I loved all the anecdotes about the stars, the old homes, and insider tidbits that this book is full of. It's not a gossip book, it's a memory book of days gone by that will never be seen again, and that's sad.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2014
I was born in 1958, which by my estimation, is 25 - 30 years too.late. I love old Hollywood movies and their stars much more than most of today's. I missed out on the heyday of Hollywood, and this book let me live it out in my head. Well written, and a lot of fun. Classic, just like the author himself.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2014
Robert Wagner follows up with his excellent autobiography "Pieces of My Heart" with even an more enjoyable work of Hollywood history. The best thing about "You Must Remember This" is he actually walked, ate, danced, and partied in that places he writes about in the book. It is obvious that he and his co-writer did research into those places but the most enjoyable things are the tales that Wagner himself tells from his own history. This isn't a chronological history of Hollywood (or even overly gossipy) but is a focus on the hot spots, homes and sporting venues enjoyed by the likes of Gable, Grant, Astaire, Taylor, etc... Wagner was a good friend of one of Hollywood's best storytellers David Niven and Niven's skills as a raconteur must have rubbed off on Wagner. This book is so engrossing and entertaining (and Wagner is honest and pulls few punches) that one wishes it would never come to an end. Also, download the audiobook version, read by Wagner. His narration adds even more entertainment value to this great book.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I can understand Robert Wagner's title, "You Must Remember This." It's hard to see the places you have lived in and loved change or disappear. This is an old man's book -- but an old man with wisdom, charm and humor. Anyone under 40 or 50 might find the book dull. Some reviewers have called the book boring. I think that's because some people do not have the interest in or the imagination for description. Wagner gives us descriptions in droves so that we can "see" just how those old mansions and restaurants and landscapes once looked. He writes at length about interior decorating, and I, for one, enjoyed that. It was really interesting to discover one Paul Revere Williams, an interior designer who successfully created the ambience of the famous Beverly Hills Hotel -- and who happened to be black. You will be disappointed if you expect pages and pages of gossip. There is very little and what there is happens to be widely known.
The writing style is easy to follow and I "heard" Wagner's voice in my head the whole time, which made the reading even more personal. Once in a while he gets a little serious about comparisons. He comments on lifestyles, paparazzi and celebrity as it was then and how it is today. I only wish he had put more of this thoughts on these subjects in the book. He's been around long enough and is smart enough to have made some good observations, some with wit. For example, "--the Kardashian sisters are the new Gabor sisters, but less amusing." About conspiracy theories, he notes, "you can never use facts or logic to argue somebody out of a position that fantasy got them into."
So if you enjoy saying to somebody, "Hey, remember when that used to be a soda shop?" then you will enjoy Wagner's book. If you remember who Basil Rathbone was or Carole Lombard (her kind of parties would have suited me down to the ground!), then you will enjoy Wagner's book. If you love savoring the doings of stars you once loved you will enjoy Wagner's book. And, if you want to know more about "old Hollywood" and how it came to be, this is the best book to start with. It will give you lots of ideas for further research. In the end, though, what holds the book together is the love that Wagner put into it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The words that come to mind to describe this book are "pleasant" and "easy." No one is harmed by this book because quite obviously Mr. Wagner chooses to caste his friends and acquaintances only in the golden glow of his memories of them. I respect him for respecting his friendships with those people and not using his memories to cast his old friends in anything but a favorable light. As a long time film buff and reader of books and articles about Hollywood, I didn't read anything in this book that I didn't know in regard to people or even many of the places around LA and I think that will be the reaction of most people who've read a lot about the history of filmmaking and the history of LA. Wagner arrived in LA in the thirties and due to his father's business connections, he very early became acquainted with some stars and their families and those connections to the "Golden Era" stars of film expanded when he became an actor and those stars became co-stars as well as friends and dinner companions.
Frankly, I think this book is the result of the material that was left over from his memoir which was published a few years ago and I think it would have been better to have included this material in his original book rather than to use it in a second book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2014
Robert Wagner has written two books, to my knowledge, and I've read them both. The first was more autobiographical; this current one I would term as more sociological. His stories can largely be categorized as how much the times have changed for the stars. No longer do the stars have safe-havens, classy little hide-a-ways where they can relax among their own and be themselves (within reason) and not be accosted by overly-familiar fans or deliberately intrusive reporters and photographers. His stories about Chasen's Restaurant, the Brown Derby (-ies) and the Coconut Grove of the Ambassador Hotel are more than entertaining. I could have read much more about the ambience and experiences he has had at these and other Hollywood watering holes.
If I had a criticism (as apart from a critique) it would be that the book is neither long enough nor detailed enough. His first-hand experiences with some of the greatest names in motion picture history must be legion. So many of these fine actors (like Norma Shearer: who of the modern movie-goers remembers her?) are passing out of all consciousness. It's a shame that that is happening. Only veterans with good memories, like Robert Wagner, can perpetuate the glory and glamor that was once Hollywood. I hope he has a follow-up.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2014
I have always been enamored with the Golden Age of Hollywood. The movies, the movie stars, the mystique that surrounded them all is something I adore learning about. So when I spied this book by Robert J. Wagner I didn't hesitate to buy it. And I was not disappointed.
Mr. Wagner takes his readers back to the early days of Hollywood - back when there were open fields between homes and back to a time before Beverly Hills. He shares his knowledge of everyone and everything in a laid back manner and the reader can imagine Mr. Wagner sitting in their parlor and telling his stories. I was captivated from the first word straight through to the last.
The stories are broken up into several groupings that make things easy to follow. The insights into the people who made Hollywood what it was and is are witty and informative. The entire book kept my interest.
If you are an aficionado of Hollywood, the movie industry, or Robert Wagner you won't want to miss reading this book.