Reviewer Christine Zibas has spent all of her life in love with books, and most of her life working with words. She has a B.A. in Political Science from Western Illinois University and did advanced studies in politics and publishing at WIU, Oxford University, George Washington University, and Stanford.
For many years Christine was an editor in the
think tank world, editing books and reports on international
relations and military studies. She worked at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. and the Johns
Hopkins Foreign Policy Institute, where she served as director of
publications. In London she was the editor at the International
Institute for Strategic Studies. To read more of Christine's Reviews CLICK HERE
McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers
In this comprehensive overview of the development of Hollywood (particularly between 1917-1941), author Brett Abrams demonstrates how those who crossed the boundaries of the society’s sexual norms had a unique role to play in creating the image we have today of Tinseltown. Today most people’s image of Hollywood is one of a laissez faire, “anything goes” town dedicated to the movie business. Yet it wasn’t always that way.
Cross-dressers, gay and lesbian actors and actresses, as well as those who engaged in adulterous affairs all challenged the societal norms of early Hollywood, and in many ways, those attitudes remain unchanged even now. Yet these individuals helped to form Hollywood into the city it is today, known around the world for its daring, exciting milieu of glamour and stardom.
This outsider behavior allowed the middle class to get a glimpse into the exotic, then retreat back to their comfortable world. It began with “slumming,” when average folks would visit the highly charged nightclubs of early Hollywood, enjoying the titillation of seeing these “sexual deviants” from a distance, then returning to the safety of their homes. This exposure to performers, wrapped up in the glamorous veneer of clubs like the Coconut Grove or hotels like the Ambassador, gave ordinary citizens a chance to be daring without truly altering their own life styles. In fact, there was even a popular guidebook called “How to Sin in Hollywood” that served as a Fodor’s to these very Hollywood hangouts.
Movie stars and studios similarly used this daring lifestyle (if not outwardly endorsing such outlandish behavior) to gain attention for upcoming movies or make stars’ lives into more dramatic (and attention-getting) activities than they might otherwise be. Coupled with coverage in movie magazines, industry newspapers, and eventually TV coverage, it all helped build an image to sell the Hollywood product.
In his book, author Brett Abrams has done an incredible job of laying out the story of early Hollywood and detailing just how sexual transgression (whether through homosexuality, adultery, or other taboo behavior) helped to challenge society‘s boundaries and build an image for the movie business of excitement and daring.
As an archivist at the National Archives, Abrams’s research for this book is impeccable, with 35 pages of notes and bibliography alone. From White House inaugurations to newspapers’ society pages to the cross-dressing stars of early Hollywood, he has painted a fascinating portrait of an industry (the movie business) and city (Hollywood) that most of us take for granted. It’s a stunning effort to go inside a historical experience rarely covered by the general media, one that can be enjoyed by all.