By: Stephen Schochet
Publisher: BCH Fulfillment & Distribution
Publication Date: June 2010
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: December 16, 2010
Did you know that Vincent Price once took the place of one of his wax dummies at the Hollywood Wax Museum and squirted unsuspecting victims with water from his prop hypodermic syringe as they passed? Or did you hear the story about Marlon Brando and a female fan/clerk who was screaming in excitement over the movie star’s appearance in her store and then asked for ID when he wanted to write a check? What about the fact that Robert Altman, director of the movie MASH, hated the television show that sprung from the movie? Why? You’ll have to read Hollywood Stories to learn the whole story, as well as tales of many other celebrities, their lives, and their hijinks on and off movie sets.
The book is divided into chapters that separate the tales into related topics. Chapters include: comedians, science fiction/horror, westerns, television, singers/dancer and even drinking tales. Within each chapter are dozens of stories. True to the title, each story is fairly brief, with one to three paragraphs on average recounting the event. After each anecdote are a few related “extras.” These extras give the reader an additional peek into the lives and behaviors of each celebrity. There is a bibliography and extensive index in the back, making it easy to look up your favorite star.
Hollywood Stories offers a plethora of tales about many, many celebrities. The focus is on stars of the past (Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Jimmy Stewart, etc.) and not-too-distant past (Robert Mitchum, Burt Lancaster, Steve McQueen, etc.). While there is a spattering of stories about present stars, those looking for the scope on their current on-screen heartthrob or favorite pop star may be disappointed.
The author, who works as a professional tour guide in Hollywood has certainly done his homework as he has collected an amazing assortment of stories. If you’re a huge fan of one (or more) of the stars mentioned in this book, you are likely to have heard at least some of the stories related to said star recounted in this book. However, I’m willing to bet the majority of stories will be new to you. For example, as a “Trekkie,” there’s not much I haven’t heard about the show/movies/actors. But I didn’t know that for Star Trek II, William Shatner wanted to portray the famous captain as robust and hearty. The actor didn’t want to play an aging Kirk as the producer requested until the producer told him of other actors who aged gracefully on screen. Shatner didn’t fall for the ploy until the producer mentioned Spencer Tracy as one of those actors. Unbeknownst to the producer, Shatner was a huge fan of Tracy, having co-starred alongside him in Judgment at Nuremberg. The ploy worked and the producer got the performance he wanted from Shatner.
There are a few stories spattered about the book that are not as noteworthy and may appear more as filler. For example: “When Michael Caine was a struggling actor, he sometimes met very wealthy people. They would tell him, “Michael, being rich doesn’t make you happy.” After Caine became a well-to-do movie star, he concluded that those people were wrong.” (pg. 40) The vast majority, however, are fun, interesting, and sometimes touching. Take for example Mel Blanc, the wonderful voice of Bugs Bunny and so many others. Alan Reed, who voiced Fred Flintstone admitted he found Blanc to be a “stuck-up little jerk.” That was until Blanc’s near fatal car accident. Seeing how hard the voice actor worked, while in a full body cast, gave Reed a new respect for the man and the two became fast friends.
Quill says: A rollicking fun ride through the world of Hollywood.