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Author Topic: Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood  (Read 55 times)
jdv
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« on: June 16, 2020, 02:25:03 PM »

I'm usually not one for murder mysteries, having dealt with the real thing from time to time as a lawyer.

BUT as there was that whole apocalypse thingy, it's about Hollywood, and my wife had a copy from the library, I read "Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood" by William J. Mann.

The books purports to solve the first big real life Hollywood murder mystery of director William Desmond Taylor, who directed over 40 films and was still one of the premiere directors when he was murdered at age 50.



Mann displays an amazing amount of research in the richly detailed account of a young film industry firmly becoming centered in Hollywood, having moved their from New York City.  Mann describes not just the people - whom he breathes life into - but Hollywood & New York, which of course are characters onto themselves.  He even knows what the weather was like on any given day, or what they were wearing - just an insane level of detail.

This detail helps him reach a conclusion solving a murder which - like the Black Dahlia - spawned a mini-industry onto itself.  Everyone from director King Vidor to a website called "taylorology" has tackled the mystery.

Mann breaks down each suspect effortlessly, from Taylor himself to the founder of the Hollywood system, Adolph Zukor, who ruled Paramount all the way up to the release of JAWS (a person who almost certainly knew who the murderer was).  Zukor - and his contemporary moguls - is a fascinating character, the one person most responsible for how Hollywood became Hollywood.

The first mogul, Adolph Zukor


And it's the back story about Zukor which was most interesting to me.  Again, the solving of murder - particularly one now nearly 100 years old - only has so much appeal to me (Crow might dig this aspect more), but the ways that Zukor ruled Hollywood with an iron fist - which included dealing with the "Hayes" code was even more interesting.

Mann's a great writer, one willing to do the hard work to enable him to flesh out places which have completely changed since the events he writes about.  What's as amazing as his level detail & skill is the fact that not much seems to have changed in Hollywood - beautiful & talented people brought low by deviant sex, hard core drugs, awful decisions, and generally hell bent on being as crazy as possible.

A great, hard to put down read for anyone interested in the roaring 20's, the birth of Hollywood, or murder mysteries.  It's prolly at your local library, but it's also pretty cheap on Amazon ($10).

« Last Edit: June 16, 2020, 03:02:52 PM by jdv » Logged

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