REGRETS, THEY'VE HAD A FEW
Actor Peter Turner's slim memoir Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool recalls his time in the 1970s with former lover Gloria Grahame, and again when she took ill in England shortly before her death in 1981. The book was reissued this spring in anticipation of Annette Bening's upcoming take on the inscrutable Grahame (Crossfire, The Big Heat, In a Lonely Place), a fascinating actress who flourished in 1940s film noir and had a reputation as an off-screen femme fatale.
The feature film adaptation also stars Jamie Bell, Julie Walters and Vanessa Redgrave and will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September before hitting cinemas later in the fall. Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool should offer a reappraisal of Grahame's Academy Award-winning talent and of her scandalous personal life (she married Nicholas Ray, then later married his son). And this meaty role, one she was born to play, may finally land Bening an Oscar of her own.
While at RKO, boss Howard Hughes was Grahame's nemesis and forced her to make films she didn't want to do (like Macao). One can only imagine the dinner table conversations in the Beatty-Bening household, what with Beatty's long-simmering project on enigmatic inventor and mogul Hughes finally released last year.
They're probably a lot less polite than Robert Wagner's latest remembrance I Loved Her in the Movies. The Hollywood zelig—seriously, the man knew everyone—gallantly cover friends and onetime leading ladies like Barbara Stanwyck, Marilyn Monroe and Raquel Welch, while the upcoming Miss D and Me is former assistant Kathryn Sermak's memoir of the witty. In it a far more candid Bette Davis (out September 12) is in the last decade of the legend's life when she was looking back on her career and had nothing to lose.
Layered in with the many nods, winks and inside jokes of the Coen brothers' Hail, Caesar! is a plot about fear-mongering and the Hollywood Ten, the most famous consequences of political bullying that Trumbo explicitly explored. Wryly played for laughs, the serious undertone that recalls the treacherous time isn't treated lightly and is alert to the challenges of the present day in Martin Turnbull's latest novel, Tinseltown Confidential. He has cleverly set his series in and around the Garden of Allah (the notorious West Hollywood complex where stars like Greta Garbo, Frank Sinatra and Humphrey Bogart lived), and imagine the inner lives of stars and the powerful operators—the screwballs, rivalries, upward climbs and downward spirals that the House on Unamerican Activities precipitated.
Another heaping of this history can be found in Glenn Frankel's High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic. Former agent turned novelist Clancy Sigal died in July 2017 at the age of 90, just after his Black Sunset memoir of that time was published. It reads like a classic pulp novel, with enviable turns of phrase and plot twists, but it's all true. And Sigal's plot of censorship, personal politics and treachery isn't in the past—political patriotism getting out of control is all too socially relevant today, as is the lack of decency fuelled by greed, anger and blind prejudice.
Next: In praise of complicated women...
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