- Paperback: 268 pages
- Publisher: Classichollywoodbios.com Publications (August 30, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0615572693
- ISBN-13: 978-0615572697
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 179 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #913,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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True Hollywood Noir: Filmland Mysteries and Murders
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From Kirkus Reviews
Truth is wilder than fiction in this fast-paced journey through 80 years of Hollywood mayhem. The lives of many Hollywood celebrities were as dark and twisted as the plots of their noir films; sometimes, they even died in a noir-ish explosion of violence. That mirroring of life in art—or perhaps vice versa—inspires Di Mambro’s book, a journey through celebrity bedlam, from the fatal shooting of director William Desmond Taylor in 1922 to the assassination of actor Robert Blake’s grifter wife Bonnie Lee Bakley in 2001. The author asks: “Could it have been the plots [the stars] played out during the day at the studio that contributed to the sense of drama and roller coaster emotions in their private lives?” Di Mambro has some tough acts to follow, since many of the cases she explores have been the subjects of entire books or lurid TV documentaries, including Taylor’s death, Natalie Wood’s drowning and the demise of Hogan’s Heroes star Bob Crane. But in briskly written chapters, she captures much of the scandal and corruption underlying the glamor of Hollywood, a world in which the studios—with the help of the cops, lawyers and prosecutors they controlled—were often able to stifle scandal at the expense of truth To the author’s credit, she doesn’t rely solely on secondary sources, getting some of her material from her own interviews. “I could have put an ice pick in her eyeball,” Blake confidant John Solari says of Bakley. “I couldn’t stand her.” Di Mambro also finds cruel irony in the stars’ lives. For instance, Gig Young, eventually an apparent suicide victim himself, once lamented, “[Y]ou play a loser long enough, and you end up a loser—at least you are convinced you are a loser.
Noir films showing the seamy side of glittering cities such as Los Angeles were a staple of Hollywood in the 1940s through the early 1960s. But Hollywood has always had its own dark underbelly, with crime, corruption, and murder among both the lowest and the highest. Journalist and film historian Di Mambro guides readers through a walk on the wild side with tales of strange deaths among the beautiful people, from the unsolved murder of director William Desmond Taylor in 1922 to the mysterious death of "Superman" George Reeves to the messy tragedy of actor Robert Blake and his grifter wife, Bonnie Bakley. A number of stories have been told before (there are even whole books devoted to some), but the author is delightful company and includes the latest information on several cases, including the deaths of Johnny Stompanato, Bob Crane, and Natalie Wood. She ends with Mickey Cohen, the famous mobster and friend of Hollywood; the chapter feels a bit tacked on, but the thread of Mafia involvement that runs through these accounts is just enough to tie it in. VERDICT An engaging, gossipy stroll through back lots and back alleys that will delight fans of the Hollywood Golden Age as well as true crime buffs.—Deirdre Bray, Middletown P.L Library Journal
In Hollywood, murder and mystery are par for the course, and in this fascinating true crime compendium, Di Mambro explores a host of famous scandals—some as old as the movie industry itself. Sex, drugs, and money have always had incendiary consequences in Hollywood, and Di Mambro provides backstories of some of Hollywood's most sordid affairs—the death of Gig Young, the murder of Bonnie Lee Bakley, and many more—inviting readers to make up their own minds about what really happened. Di Mambro has clearly done her research, and the versions of events she pieces together are entertaining and plausible. While her prose tends to meander at times, readers who are enthusiastic true crime aficionados or Hollywood scandal fans will enjoy this book immensely.
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Top customer reviews
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This book tell the stories pf some of the key unsolved crimes from early Hollywood history. if you enjoy a good mystery,
and love the movies, you will enjoy this book. If you like the feel of film noir, to you I strongly recommend it, and think
you will find it a very enjoyable and informative work.
I've always been fascinated with Marion Davies, the beautiful, boozy, effervescent blonde ex-showgirl mistress of the power driven San Simeon’s William Randolph Hearst. The tycoon was obsessed with Davies, constantly in a jealous rage over her illicit affair with cinematic genius Charlie Chaplin. On Hearst’s 280 foot luxury yacht on a weekend cruise the mysterious death of honored guest Thomas Harper Ince occurred. Jean Harlow, the ‘30s incandescent, platinum blonde beauty sets of the trend for actresses like Monroe for decades to come died at the young age of 26. In addition there was the death of her husband Paul Bern just a couple of months after their marriage. The controversy over Bern’s death of a bullet in the head added to her mystique, was it suicide or murder? Rumor has it said that MGM producer Louis B. Mayer covered up a lot of the gory details. The torrid, violent affair of Lana Turner and the abuse Johnny Stomponato inflicted on Turner ended in Stomponato’s demise. It was rumored that Lana's daughter Cheryl Crane fell from grace to clear her mother of murder.
It seems that most of these victims were molested by family members in childhood born of abusive parents. For the talented, pretty, brown eyed Natalie Wood it was her final voyage. A gypsy cautioned Wood’s mother “be aware of dark water for you are going to drown”. Natalie's mother instilled that fear in her that lasted a lifetime. The cruel stage mother manipulated her young daughter before a crying scene, tearing the wings off of a butterfly and forcing her to relive the memory of her beloved dog being run over and killed. In one incident Natalie fractured her wrist and is almost drowned while filming and her monster of a mother refused to take the suffering child to a doctor and the actress lived to her dying day covering up her crooked wrist with a bracelet.
Gig Young, Robert Blake and Bonnie Lee Bakley were molested and tortured as children. Later on in life Blake was accused and acquitted of killing Bakley, a grifter and con artist who fleeced men of their money and property. After being charged with illicit activities she graduated from nude modeling. Bakley may have been married as many as 10 times. The legality of these marriages questionable.
Dina Di Mambo fleshes out fur draped dollies, starlets, show girls, strippers and the jewels of Hollywood Golden gods and goddesses with pathos. The café society, gossip columnists the likes of Luella Parsons who lunched at Romanoff’s, chatting at Chasen’s and sipping martinis at the Coconut Grove and Stork Club. The memories of those stars that shone so brightly on the silver screen will remain timeless in the archives of our minds.
On a personal note, I was 17-years old when the press reported George Reeves committed suicide. Since Superman was one of my favorite early TV shows, I was very disturbed by this event. It was hard for me to process how a man who had so much going for him would commit suicide. In this book, the author proves Reeves' was murdered and points to the likely suspect. The author's excellent analysis transformed what appeared to be a suicide, which I found unsettling, into a murder that, while sad, is understandable.