The best books about real Hollywood and the movie industry

Tom Santopietro Author Of The Sound of Music Story
By Tom Santopietro

Who am I?

Tom Santopietro is the author of eight books, including the New York Times Editor’s Choice Considering Doris Day, The Importance of Being Barbra, Sinatra in Hollywood, Why To Kill a Mockingbird Matters, and The Godfather Effect. A frequent media commentator and interviewer, he lectures on classic films and over the past thirty years has managed more than two dozen Broadway shows.

I wrote...

The Sound of Music Story

By Tom Santopietro,

Book cover of The Sound of Music Story

What is my book about?

Very few films transcend enormous initial popularity to become both legend and a permanent part of American cultural life, but The Sound of Music has done just that. Great Hollywood filmmaking at the tail end of the golden era, casting debates, location set-tos, and critical controversy- The Sound of Music had it all. When I read that then President Ronald Reagan did not read a specially prepared G-7 Summit Briefing because he wanted to watch The Sound of Music on television instead, I knew I wanted to write about the extraordinary hold this film classic continues to exercise upon audiences around the world.

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The books I picked & why

The Movie Musical!

By Jeanine Basinger,

Book cover of The Movie Musical!

Why did I love this book?

Film historian and professor Jeanine Basinger covers the entire history of the movie musical with scholarship, laugh-out loud asides, and a love of film that shines through on every page. No one knows more about film than Basinger but she wears her knowledge lightly, inviting the reader to join in the fun.

By Jeanine Basinger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Movie Musical! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Irresistible and authoritative, The Movie Musical! is an in-depth look at the singing, dancing, happy-making world of Hollywood musicals, beautifully illustrated in color and black-and-white--an essential text for anyone who's ever laughed, cried, or sung along at the movies.

Leading film historian Jeanine Basinger reveals, with her trademark wit and zest, the whole story of the Hollywood musical--in the most telling, most incisive, most detailed, most gorgeously illustrated book of her long and remarkable career.
     From Fred Astaire, whom she adores, to La La Land, which she deplores, Basinger examines a dazzling array of stars, strategies, talents, and innovations in…

Book cover of Indecent Exposure: A True Story of Hollywood and Wall Street

Why did I love this book?

McClintick makes the Hollywood boardroom scandal that began with David Begelman’s forgery of Cliff Robertson’s name on a $10,000 check, into a compulsively readable account of power run amok amongst  Hollywood-Wall Street executives. An expose of theft, cover-up, and blackmail, it is also a beautifully written, incisive portrait of men and women seduced by the glamor and power of Hollywood fame.

By David McClintick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Indecent Exposure as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When the head of Columbia Pictures, David Begelman, got caught forging Cliff Robertson's name on a $10,000 check, it seemed, at first, like a simple case of embezzlement. It wasn't. The incident was the tip of the iceberg, the first hint of a scandal that shook Hollywood and rattled Wall Street. Soon powerful studio executives were engulfed in controversy; careers derailed; reputations died; and a ruthless, take-no-prisoners corporate power struggle for the world-famous Hollywood dream factory began.

First published in 1982, this now classic story of greed and lies in Tinseltown appears here with a stunning final chapter on Begelman's…

Book cover of Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer

Why did I love this book?

Film Historian Eyman eschews the tired caricature of Mayer as a cigar-chomping Hollywood mogul, instead delving into his immigrant roots and love of America, all of it informing Mayer’s tyrannical approach to running MGM, an approach that, unlike today’s dealmakers, was always leavened by a genuine love of movies. In the process, Eyman delivers a sweeping history of Hollywood’s outsized impact upon 20th century American life, filtered through the life story of a studio head who greenlit Ninotchka, The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis, and An American in Paris.

By Scott Eyman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lion of Hollywood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Lion of Hollywood' is the definitive biography of Louis B Mayer, the chief of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer - MGM - the biggest and most successful film studio of Hollywood's Golden Age.

An immigrant from tsarist Russia, Mayer began in the film business as an exhibitor but soon migrated to where the action and the power were, Hollywood. Through sheer force of energy and foresight, he turned his own modest studio into MGM, where he became the most powerful man in Hollywood, bending the film business to his will. He made legendary films, including the fabulous MGM musicals, and he made iconic stars:…

Book cover of The Devil's Candy: The Anatomy of a Hollywood Fiasco

Why did I love this book?

Granted unlimited access to the film production of Tom Wolfe’s best-selling The Bonfire of the Vanities, Salamon serves up a fascinating portrait of one of Hollywood’s most notorious flops. Miscast (Tom Hanks as an arrogant Wall Street heel?) and tone-deaf, the resulting film ran roughshod over Wolfe’s satire and Salamon was there to record every juicy and head-scratching nugget explaining just how the disaster unfolded. Detailing the head-on collision between ego, money, and power in smooth, vivid prose, Salamon will keep any reader interested in Hollywood turning pages long into the night.

By Julie Salamon,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Devil's Candy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Brian De Palma agreed to allow Julie Salamon unlimited access to the film production of Tom Wolfe's best-selling book The Bonfire of the Vanities , both director and journalist must have felt like they were on to something big. How could it lose? But instead Salamon got a front-row seat at the Hollywood disaster of the decade. She shadowed the film from its early stages through the last of the eviscerating reviews, and met everyone from the actors to the technicians to the studio executives. They'd all signed on for a blockbuster, but there was a sense of impending…

Book cover of Marlene Dietrich: The Life

Why did I love this book?

When a Hollywood legend’s child writes a biography of his or her parent, the result usually ends up as either a hatchet job (Mommie Dearest) or candy-coated alternative history. But here, Marlene Dietrich’s daughter Maria Riva delivers a loving but warts and all portrait of her complicated, fascinating mother. Dietrich’s career combined sex, allure, and world-weary refinement to revolutionize our very concept of femininity, in the process fascinating audiences around the world. The only biography of Dietrich to draw upon the star’s own letters and diaries, Riva delivers the ultimate insider’s portrait of both the warmth and suffocating shadow cast by a legend upon her own child. 

By Maria Riva,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Marlene Dietrich as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Wildly entertaining, Maria Riva reveals the rich life of her mother in vivid detail, evoking Dietrich the woman, her legendary career, and her world. Opening with Dietrich's childhood in Berlin, we meet an energetic, disciplined, and ambitious young actress, whose own mother equated the stage with a world of vagabonds and thieves.

Dietrich would quickly rise to stardom on the Berlin stage in the 1920s with her sharp wit and bisexuality-wearing the top hat and tails that revolutionized our concept of beauty and femininity. She would play vulgarity but not become in; startle the world but still maintain the aloofness…

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