The Best Books On Hollywood Glamour And Sleaze

The Books I Picked & Why

Out With the Stars: Hollywood Nightlife in the Golden Era

By Jim Heimann

Out With the Stars: Hollywood Nightlife in the Golden Era

Why this book?

It doesn't matter that it was patently phony: The glamour that was Tinseltown in Hollywood's golden age was impossibly romantic and utterly irresistible. Much of it had to do with the social lives of movie stars, and in particular the shenanigans they got up to in swanky nightclubs where they danced, courted, and made merry. Jim Heimann is a superb chronicler of Los Angeles's architectural and cultural past, and this beautifully illustrated book is crammed with images of the likes of Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich, Charlie Chaplin, Lucille Ball, Humphrey Bogart, and Lauren Bacall patronizing such swell spots as Mocambo, the Trocadero, Ciro's, the Coconut Grove, the Player's Club, and many others. They're all gone now, but this collection of hundreds of photos of the clubs, inside and out, and the patrons, dressed as if for a royal wedding, brings them back to vibrant life.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper

By Dominick Dunne

The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper

Why this book?

Before he became a writer of potboiler novels and true-crime journalism, Dominick Dunne was a film and television producer and a social butterfly who also happened also to be an avid amateur photographer. This memoir of his Hollywood days, which resulted in a crash-and-burn from which he emerged as a writer, is filled with intimate, candid images of such friends (not all faithful) as Jane Fonda, Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, Paul Newman, and Frank Sinatra, as well, of course, as Dunne and his family. There are dreamy and even eye-popping tales throughout, and if you're at all familiar with Dunne's books or magazine writing, you'll marvel at how so much of it so neatly dovetails with the life he actually lived and, thankfully, captured on film and in these frank and candid pages.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Masters of Starlight: Photographers in Hollywood

By Linda Rich, David Fahey

Masters of Starlight: Photographers in Hollywood

Why this book?

We call them 'movies' as a nickname for 'moving pictures,' and the immense importance of the 'pictures' part of that phrase is underscored by this lavish and gorgeous book celebrating the work of Hollywood's classic glamour photographers. In brief lives and portfolios of the likes of George Hurrell, Peter Stackpole, Phil Stern, Sid Avery, and Ruth Orkin, we see hundreds of photos of such icons as Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, James Dean, Judy Garland, Marlon Brando, and Shirley MacLaine on the set and off, posed for sumptuous portraits or grabbing coffee and a smoke between takes, in iconic images and remarkable candids. David Fahey and Linda Rich, important photographers themselves, are ideal guides to this gallery, pointing out aspects of the photographers' technique and craft without losing sight of the remarkable subjects of these memorable shots.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Easy Riders Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-And Rock 'n Roll Generation Saved Hollywood

By Peter Biskind

Easy Riders Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-And Rock 'n Roll Generation Saved Hollywood

Why this book?

The Hollywood dream factory has always been composed of varying parts art, business, glamour, and sleaze, and very few of the thousands of books written about it have captured that recipe so vividly and well as Peter Biskind's definitive history of the filmmaking generation that gave us such movies as Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Jaws, and Star Wars. In telling the stories of the life and times of such rebels as Warren Beatty, Dennis Hopper, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and the actors, executives, and women in their lives, Biskind reveals a wild world of creative energy, cultural revolution, and lurid lifestyle choices. It's a book teeming with gossip and news, insight and scandal, Olympian glories and dashed hopes, capturing a time when Hollywood seemingly set aside artifice and glamour to make, almost despite itself, genuinely groundbreaking art at a high level.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Hollywood Babylon: The Legendary Underground Classic of Hollywood's Darkest and Best Kept Secrets

By Kenneth Anger

Hollywood Babylon: The Legendary Underground Classic of Hollywood's Darkest and Best Kept Secrets

Why this book?

It must be said out loud and straightaway that much of this classic, influential book is, as the kids say, bullshit. But it is iconic bullshit, hair-raising bullshit, bullshit that you simply cannot ignore or pretend away. Anger, an avant-garde filmmaker whose work teems with sexual and occult content, published this book in 1965 when many of the stars of classic Hollywood whose hidden proclivities he discusses were still either alive or part of a revered pantheon: Marilyn Monroe, Errol Flynn, Lana Turner, Judy Garland, Charlie Chaplin, and so on. And his claims about their sex lives, criminal activities, and their, shall we say, 'flexible' morals were groundbreaking. It doesn't matter that much of it isn't true: the urban legends it inspired still walk the earth. And the lurid photographs of death scenes and stars at their most vulnerable, though often nightmarish, have also become iconic. As a journalist, I don't trust a word of it on faith. As a devotee of dish, I find it completely addictive. (Consumer alert: DO NOT MISTAKE IT FOR THE SEQUEL, Hollywood Babylon II (1984), an inferior work in every way, even in veracity, which is really saying something!)


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Random Book Lists