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William J. Mann (1) (1963–)

Författare till Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood

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Om författaren

William J. Mann is an American novelist, biographer, and Hollywood historian best known for his studies of Hollywood and the American film industry, especially his 2006 biography of Katharine Hepburn, Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn. Kate was named one of the 100 Notable Books of 2006 by the New visa mer York Times. Mann was born in Connecticut and received his Master's degree at Wesleyan University. His first novel, The Men From the Boys, was published by Dutton in 1997. His other biographies include How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood, and 2014's New York Times bestseller: Hello Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand. (Bowker Author Biography) visa färre
Foto taget av: Photograph by Michael Childers, courtesy of the the author


Verk av William J. Mann

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Allmänna fakta

Vedertaget namn
Mann, William J.
Namn enligt folkbokföringen
Mann, William J.
Palm Springs, California, USA
Provincetown, Massachusetts, USA
Wesleyan University (MA)
Priser och utmärkelser
Lambda Literary Award 1999
Malaga Baldi Literary Agency
Kort biografi
William J. Mann, born August 7, 1963, is an American novelist, biographer, and Hollywood historian. Earlier in his life, he worked as a Capitol Hill aide in Washington, D.C.



Yet another literary exploration (the fourth, I gather) of the notorious, still-unsolved 1922 murder of Hollywood producer William Desmond Taylor, proving that you can't keep a good unsolved murder down! Can't compare this reconsideration to the other three as I haven't read any of the others (except to share that each of them posits a different murderer), but this appears to be a tolerably well-researched and highly readable work of historical re-creation with a dash of true crime thrown in to keep things interesting.

In other words, come for the murder mystery, stay for the intriguing overview of the emergence of the film industry in the U.S.! Definitely enjoyed learning more about early Hollywood: the business models, the scandals, the stars, the lifestyles, the symbiotic relationship between stars & studios, the studio bosses, the emerging feud between Hollywood and Progressive Era reformers intent on "cleaning up" Hollywood's perceived sordid excesses, etc. Taylor's many "secrets" (bisexuality, blackmail, a war against drug dealers preying on Paramount stars) provide an ideal trellis, allowing the story to branch off in all sorts of intriguing directions. By focusing on the mystery's major players - to include starlet Mabel Normand, Taylor's best friend; nymphet Mary Minten Miles, Taylor's devoted but unrequited admirer; aspiring, morally flexible actress Gibby Gibson, desperate for fame; and Adolf Zukor, head of Paramount Studio, determined to protect the industry and his own monopolistic ambitions at almost any cost - Mann is able to justify a deeper exploration of the whole 1920s Hollywood milieu than a simple history of the period might do.

Mann's writing is brisk, biased (he's definitely vested in pushing his solution, not above twisting facts to fit his proposition and downplaying facts that don't!), and heavy on cliff-hangers, which I might otherwise ding but in this case feels like a homage to the breathlessly melodramatic films that Hollywood was churning out at this time. This is definitely intended as entertainment, not investigative journalism. (Though, to be fair, he does include an appendix containing scores of footnotes and an extensive bibliography.) His proposed solution has some holes, yes, but it's certainly plausible, and after so many years it's impossible to know which evidence to trust.

Fans of the true crime genre are likely to find this a bit slow, wordy, and overstuffed. Despite the title, there's not a whole lot of sordid and even less horror. It definitely doesn't deliver the thrills of modern day true-crime podcasts or cable TV reinactments. But that's actually what I liked about the book - the opportunity to "glimpse behind the curtain" and learn more about a fascinating time, not just a fascinating crime, in America's history.
… (mer)
Dorritt | 18 andra recensioner | Jun 12, 2024 |
A deeply-researched, engaging nonfiction work on William "Billy" Haines, a major star of the silent era and the start of the talkies, whose unwillingness to play the Hollywood game of a straight man ended his career in movies--and took him to an incredibly satisfying career as a top interior designer for Hollywood.

Haines is a complicated man. Born in a rural Virginia town, he was bullied as effeminate from an early age, and grew up in the shadow of his Confederate-hero grandfather. He ran away from home--with a boyfriend--as a young teen, and after a brief return home, went to New York City, where he relished in the sexual freedoms of Greenwich Village. His beautiful face garnered him a ticket to Los Angeles and a movie contract, but he had to first learn how to act. Once he did, though, he began to repeatedly play a certain type, an arrogant man who eventually humbles and gets the girl. He also soon fell for a former sailor, Jimmie Shields, and began to enjoy the wild night life the city offered, much to the chagrin of producer Louis B. Mayer. Other gay stars were willing to at least marry a woman or pretend an interest in the other sex, but Billy wisecracked, dodging the issue by making jokes. This strategy could only last for so long.

I read this for research, and I found an incredible amount of useful material. Mann did an amazing amount of research on his book; it came out in 1998, and he had the benefit of speaking to a few people still alive who knew Billy well. Do be aware that there is a lot of sexual discussion in this book, some quite graphic, as Billy and Jimmy treated their exploits as something of an avocation for much of their lives. They were together for almost 50 years. There is one particular matter in their lives that remains vague, though, and that is what truly happened in El Porto, California, where Jimmie was accused of molesting a young boy and a mob descended on the two party houses of gay men and ran them out of town; the details there are particularly disturbing, in regards to the inciting incident and the almost-lynch mob afterward.

If people are reading this for the Hollywood gossip a century after the fact, there's a lot of that, but I also found the details about his interior designing career to be interesting. His work with the Reagans--their politically duplicitous nature, and Ronald Reagan's small show of humanity after Billy's death--were insightful. Really, Mann explores human psychology with a deft touch. You really feel for the people he writes about, like Cary Grant, who does what Billy does not and sells his soul to have his career, and ends up a lonely, bitter man.
… (mer)
ladycato | 2 andra recensioner | May 28, 2024 |



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