- Audible Audiobook
- Listening Length: 8 hours and 12 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Abridged
- Publisher: Tate Publishing
- Audible.com Release Date: February 1, 2011
- Language: English
- ASIN: B004LVYTRE
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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The Father of Hollywood Audible Audiobook – Abridged
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The book paints a picture of a shrewd businessman, a visionary, who would develop a creative strategy to attract movie directors to the west coast with the sole purpose of selling his housing development, "Whitley Heights."
As it happens, Hollywood the housing development did become the home to many stars of Hollywood the film capital. And H.J. Whitley was a mover and shaker in his day, best friends with Teddy Roosevelt for one. Whitley may even have financed the first telemarketing sales campaign.
The author, Gaelyn Whiley Keith, is H.J.'s great-great-grandaughter and she tells his personal story as well as his the story of his business adventures. This includes the story of his wooing and marriage to a woman who knew her own mind. They had a loving marriage, but the clash of wills started on their honeymoon, which is one of the engaging stories Gaelyn tells.
In putting together this book, Gaelyn had access to family papers, including her great-great-grandmother's daily diary. I found that the first half of the book was a bit overblown with too many superlatives. But this settled down in the 2nd half of the book, and overall, this is an interesting story with lots of historical tidbits.
I do prefer my non-fiction books to be better documented, with a bibliography at the least.
I received a free copy of "The Father of Hollywood".
It was an enjoyable 3.8 stars (better than OK) rounded up to 4.
HJ was born in Toronto in 1847, but by the time he was twenty-three he was heading West to make his fortune in the United States. He was a visionary genius. It was an astonishingly rare type of genius that would enable him to put "over a hundred and forty-one towns on the map," (p. 334) including his own special creation, Hollywood. Even as a young man he inspired faith in others and his leadership abilities enabled others to shine equally in the limelight of his creations. Some later attempted to take credit for his accomplishments, but he merely shrugged it off, inately knowing that charlatan-like behavior would eventually be uncovered. There was only one thing that he hestitated to attempt once again and that was to love, but a special young woman caught his eye.
Gigi, who had also lost her parents at a young age, had a "refined upbringing and southern charm." She was feisty, strong willed but "questioned if she would ever understand how to handle a man that had a will that matched her own." (p45) Together they completed one another and although nothing is ever perfect, they formed a lifetime partnership. HJ was all business and in time, after building up parts of the Oklahoma Territory, they made their way to California, a state that seemed to mesmerize both their spirits. HJ "was considered one of the greatest developers in the United States, even at [an] early state of his career." (p108). He looked into the valley and could envision what would become of the land. A handshake cemented the deal to buy the land, but Mina Hurd declined the offer when she was unexpectedly widowed. HJ was patient and when Mina was ready he paid her in $22,500 in gold coin for her estate. The Whitley's owned nearly 500 acres in Hollywood. HJ had a vision and it was time to begin work. The city of Hollywood was soon to be born and Hobart Johnstone Whitley's dream was simply the trailer to those who would follow on the silver screen.
This fascinating look into the life of HJ Whitley, the "Father of Hollywood, is a astounding look at a hithertofore unknown facet of American history. I was quite mesmerized by this biographical history of how the actual town of Hollywood started. The author made if very clear in her introductory book that it was "a book of stories about the family that influenced the founding of Hollywood. It is not a formal discourse of Hollywood life." If the reader approaches it as if he or she were going to have a movie marathon of stars marching through its pages, they will be sorely disappointed. I loved the American pioneering spirit that burst through these pages as I read about HJ and how he envisioned and created not only Hollywood, but other towns across the U.S.
What I especially liked was that this material for this book was essentially drawn in its entirety from primary source materials available to Gaelyn Whitley Keith through the family archives. Liberty was taken in the creation of certain verbal exchanges, but because much of it was taken from her great-grandmother's diary and own memoir it had a lovely notalgic "flavor" that I particularly enjoyed. For example, there was delightfully intricate details mentioned in such lines as, "At her advice, HJ picked out and had planted over ten thousand trees and shrubs to beautify the young town of Hollywood." History uncovered in this manner can't get much better than that. We do learn such tidbits as to how Grauman's began, but until the end there is not a great deal about the star-studded Hollywood we think about when we hear the name. There are numerous interesting photographs, including one from the early 1900s overlooking the valley where Hollywood would eventually be built. If you are a stargazer you'll be sorely disappointed, but if you want an exceedingly interesting slice of Americana this book will amaze you!
This book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.