As research for my new book, THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO—the story of a legendary actress who goes on the record about her tumultuous life—I did a deep dive into the best biographies and tell-alls of the classic Hollywood era. There’s nothing better than losing yourself in the stories of glamorous, sensational celebrities. Here are 7 of my favorite books about real-life celluloid scandals.
Back in the late 1980’s, Ava Gardner hired a ghostwriter and spilled the dirt on Mickey Rooney, Lana Turner, Frank Sinatra, Howard Hughes, and more. But by the end, she got cold feet and called it off. In 2013, her story finally made its way into the world and boy, is it juicy.
Anne Helen Petersen has a PhD in Celebrity Gossip (really!) and she puts it to good use analyzing celebrity scandals of the classic film age. What makes this book impossible to put down is that Petersen not only shares the dirt on the scandals themselves, but also considers what the actions, coverage, and public perceptions tell us about the times.
When it comes to beauty, talent, and sheer determination, it doesn’t get much better than Lucille Ball. In her autobiography, Lucy shares what it takes to make it up the mountain, how she navigated the Hollywood Blacklist, and some of the torment and heartbreak of her marriage to Desi Arnaz.
A Hollywood producer in the 1970s who would one day run Paramount Studios, Robert Evans has been married seven times and is a completely bewildering character. His biography lets loose on many fascinating moments in film history, including the filming of The Godfather and what happened when Ali MacGraw left him for Steve McQueen.
When it comes to great Hollywood loves, it is hard to beat these two. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton sure knew how to drive each other crazy and fascinate the public. This book tells their often-outrageous love story with a surprising amount of intimacy and humanity.
I’ve been on a nonfiction binge lately, particularly savoring in-depth looks at major cultural events or figures of the twentieth century like Walt Disney, Audrey Hepburn, and Truman Capote. Furious Love would be the perfect addition to my reading pile: what screams Hollywood glamour and American culture more than the epic, romantic, tempestuous, and controversial marriage and remarriage of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton? Stocking stuffers, for any friends who might be reading this(!), may include a DVD of Cleopatra (on the set of which the two stars met) and a strong holiday cocktail to toast the drama. —Julianna
Just as interesting as who was hiding what and why, is who was doing the hiding and how. Bribing corrupt cops, threatening reporters, and convincing starlets to hide their pregnancies were just the tip of the iceberg for MGM back in the 20s, 30s, and 40s.
The Golden Age of Hollywood eventually gave way to the grittier movies of the 1970s. That scene, and how the attitudes of Hollywood changed with the times, are all captured here in this fascinating book that includes juicy first-hand gossip from Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and more.
For fans of “Bret Easton Ellis”
If you enjoy Bret Easton Ellis’s conversations with the entertainment industry’s top echelon in this “weekly glimpse into one of popular culture's most fascinating minds,” you’ll love Peter Biskind’s EASY RIDERS, RAGING BULLS, a juicy, drug-fueled, intensely gossipy roller coaster through late 60s/70s cinema.