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As everybody who's anybody knows (and the rest of us too), the most exclusive Hollywood party is Vanity Fair magazine's Oscar-night bash. Vanity Fair's Hollywood is like the ultimate movie party--and how inviting it all is! Flip through the thick, glossy pages and greet the greats of all ages. Lillian and Dorothy Gish share a spread with Blythe Danner and Gwyneth Paltrow. Ms. Deneuve, resplendent in scarlet, meet Mr. Valentino, in classy black and white. Claudette Colbert as Cleopatra, meet Liz Taylor as Cleopatra (and if it's not too catty, did you notice Claudette was better dressed?). The stunning photos are cleverly juxtaposed. Julia Roberts, posed naughtily in see-through undies in the water, is followed by a very properly attired Doris Day in a see-through skirt. Day holds six brightly dyed poodles by white leashes; the composition forms a visual rhyme with the six accusing fingers pointed at Peter Lorre in the next picture. The photo captions by Christopher Hitchens are as succinctly clever as Dorothy Parker, encapsulating entire careers in a punning paragraph. Even if you've seen a shot before, you learn things: in the most notorious still ever snapped at a Hollywood party--the one where Sophia Loren ogled Jayne Mansfield's voluminous bosom--Hitchens tells us the object of Loren's appalled regard was "the strategic dabs of makeup on [Jayne's] nipples."
Like any good party, this vast book offers sparkling talk as well as gobs of eye candy. The brilliant Peter Biskind evokes the '70s heyday of superagent Sue Mengers, D.H. Lawrence makes a stab at defining "sex appeal," Patricia Bosworth adds the patented VF dash of scandal in a piece on Lana Turner's gangster boyfriend's murder, and Hitchens gives a quickie history of the fabled Sunset Strip. Not everything rises to the august occasion: Carl Sandburg's poem about Chaplin and Clare Boothe Luce's snooty ode to Garbo are mostly of antiquarian interest. Most of the historic stuff is great (e.g., Fritz Lang directing a crowd scene in Metropolis), and the most austere cineaste should own this book. On practically every page, Vanity Fair's Hollywood dazzles. It's a keeper. --Tim Appelo
Vanity Fair has, from the start, made Hollywood its stomping ground. For its readers, this star-studded book encapsulates a century of the movie mecca's glory, glamour, and scandal. Garbo and Grant, Tracy and Hepburn, Fairbanks and Pickford, Taylor and Burton, the Gishes and the Barrymores rub shoulders with today's cinematic giants in an incomparable collection of luminous images, classic essays, and delightful caricatures from the archives of Vanity Fair from as far back as 1914.
Surrveying the brightest stars, moguls, directors, and writers, Vanity Fair's Hollywood is a stylish and definitive focus on timeless glamour, mythic beauty, and unquenchable celebrity.