Author: Dina Di Mambro

ISBN: 978-0615572697

Publisher: Publications

Younger pop culture fans might find it hard to believe, but there was once a time when a hint of scandal could ruin a career. In our present era of celebrity reportage - from the sleaziest websites to respected news networks – readers and viewers are provided endless coverage of Celebrities Gone Rogue, perhaps giving credence to the adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Substance abuse and sex scandals are one thing, however; shootings, murder and suicide belong to another realm. Dina Di Mambro’s True Hollywood Noir examines the toll scandals of violence and murder took on the lives and careers of eleven well known actors (and a director) from the early years of the industry up through the recent Robert Blake murder trial.

Thelma Todd and William Desmond Taylor may no longer be household names, but these early cases involving foul play show the protective role played by executives and operatives from the studios. Eager to protect their “properties” and maintain an air of respectability for the industry as a whole, lawyers and execs would often receive the first call when there was a “problem.” By the time the police arrived, evidence would often be altered or removed altogether. Law enforcement officials were also quite willing to allow the studios’ input in the investigations, sometimes collaborating with them on theories and suspects, putting distance between the film stars and the crime scene.

With all of this subterfuge, it’s no wonder that many of these crimes remain either unsolved or inconclusive. Did Lana Turner’s daughter really kill mobster-connected Johnny Stompanato or was she taking the rap for the actress? Was George (Superman) Reeves’ death really a suicide? The author lays out the official verdict in each case, but provides information which conflicts with those conclusions, leaving it to the reader to weigh other possibilities.

Jean Harlow, Marion Davies and William Randolph Hearst, Joan Bennett, Natalie Wood, Gig Young, and Bob Crane are among the other subjects covered in ‘True Hollywood Noir.’ To the author’s credit, besides providing the biographical and career highlights of each subject, she also offers an appreciation of the actor’s talent or character, balancing the sensational aspects of the scandal with a personal glimpse of the person.

There is a final chapter based on interviews with an associate of Mickey Cohen, whom Hearst euphemistically referred to as a “professional gambler,” a shadowy figure who drifts in and out of some of the other chapters. This could have been a book unto itself, but here serves to provide some balance to offset the urban myths that have accumulated over the years regarding Cohen’s misdeeds and Hollywood connections. This account is another reason why Ms. Di Mambro’s collection stands apart from similarly themed books.

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