Thoughts on books, often interpreted through the high-brow prism of cartoon (read: Archer) references. Wait! I had something for this...
Self-righteous parents blaming the media for society's moral decay; young starlets vying for the attention of the same man; a once-beloved comedic icon falling from grace following revelations about his sordid past; celebrities suspected of committing murders most foul; stints in rehab being kept on the DL; overbearing stage mothers; and a news-hungry public with“sanity and sympathy” in short supply watching as it all unfolds. Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood has all the makings of an issue of US Weekly (though William J. Mann's writing is, I would argue, of a superior quality).
Unbeknownst to me, the 1922 case around which the book is centered has been famous for quite some time, with a dedicated following of armchair sleuths obsessed with each and every aspect of Taylorology (yes, that's a thing).
As the headlines suggest, the victim in this case was none other than Hollywood director William Desmond Taylor.
Of course, none of this would be half so intriguing without a lineup of suspected celebrity murderesses, namely: Mabel Normand, Margaret “Gibby” Gibson, and Mary Miles Minter.
Each character has a story all their own– secrets, sordid pasts, weaknesses for an illicit substance or two. Like poor little Gibby, who was driven by a promise made to her mother that someday that would “have nice things.” But, it would seem, that (at least as far as “the Church Ladies” were concerned) all of this was pretty par for the course for young starlets in the den of sin known as Tinseltown. After all, they couldn't risk being cast aside for a newer, younger model by gentlemen of loose morals.
All of this indignation ties into the larger story of the fight for the very survival of Hollywood, and the men (yes, they were pretty much all men) involved. For me, these pioneering movie moguls (primarily Adolph Zukor and Marcus Loew) weren't all that compelling. However, my heart did go out to poor Will Hays, who was charged with the near-impossible task of “cleansing” the movies of their corrupting content to the satisfaction of producers and censorship advocates alike.
As a Serial fan, I found myself impressed by just how much information has been compiled and assembled about the case over the years (see the map of the who, what and where in Alvarado Court the night of the murder, below), all done without the luxury of a single pinging cell phone tower.
A lack of time precludes my giving a more comprehensive tour of all the intrigue involved, but suffice it to say, that if “the Dawn of Hollywood” piques your interest, you won't be disappointed.
Bonus Archer gif:
[Sidenote: This belongs in a series of what I will refer to as “half-baked reviews.” There are more than I care to admit (some from so long ago that I barely remember where I was going with them), but, at this rate, by the time I actually finish them, books probably won't even be “a thing” anymore.]