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Vanity Fair's Hollywood

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2001

    A Gorgeous, Glamorous Glance at Glitter

    Hollywood has always stood for dreams. Vanity Fair's take has always been to turn the tinsel used to depict those dreams into glamor. This book is very much in keeping with the magazine's slant and Hollywood's most inflated view of itself. The book faithfully reproduces a cross-section of Vanity Fair's 86 year history. Before you read further, let me caution you that this book teems with suggestiveness. If that sort of thing isn't your cup of tea, skip this book. The photographs are the best part of thebook. There are large numbers of outstanding examples of work by Edward Steichen and Annie Leibovitz. The pages are oversized, and many images are done as double spreads. This makes for seeing very large features of the stars portrayed, and this has high impact effects on the viewer -- evoking a sense of the wide screen. The editing was wisely done to select many images that can be reasonably faithfully reproduced that way. Unfortunately, many fine photographs were reproduced with the middle fold through an important part of the image. Some of the images that were not so spoiled also were overinked in a way that make the details hard to discern. Inexplicably, there were no credits listed for many photographs. I graded the book down one star for being insufficiently well designed, credited and printed to portray all of the photographs to their best advantage. Except for this very regrettable and significant set of flaws on the photography side, the book is very well done. The selection of photographs was brilliantly done to not only highlight great ones, but to create interplay among them . . . and among themes . . . and among generations of Hollywood performers. I found it all quite exciting and entertaining. Some of my favorite photographs in the book are: Jack Nicholson; Annie Leibovitz, 1992 Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, and Jim Carrey; Annie Leibovitz, 1997 Doris Day; John Florea, 1953 Spencer Tracy and Katherine Kapburn; n.c., 1949 Nancy and Ronald Reagan; Harry Benson, 1985 Pee-Wee Herman; Annie Leibovitz, 1984 Walt Disney; Edward Steichen, 1933 Dustin Hoffman; Herb Ritts, 1996 Rita Hayworth; n.c., 1946 Robert Redford; George Gorman, 1984 Meryl Streep; Annie Leibovitz, 1982 Gloria Swanson; Edward Steichen, 1928 I also liked the caricature of Greta Garbo by Miguel Covarrubias from 1932. The essays were more of a mixed lot. My favoite was D.H. Lawrence on sex appeal. 'Sex appeal is only a dirty name for a bit of life flame.' Other essays looked at Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo (by Walter Winchell), the queens of gossip columnists, and agent Sue Mengers. After you have finished enjoying this close-up look at Hollywood, ask yourself where your dreams come from. Then consider where they should come from. Should Hollywood be the source of your dreams, the reinforcement of your dreams, or simply be a source of entertainment? You'll have to decide. But do so explicitly. Your dreams are too important to turn over to others to create and manipulate.

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