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Posted September 28, 2011
Reviewed by Anne B. for Readers Favorite
Jimmy Stewart, Janet Gaynor, Mary Pickford were all stars of the Golden Years. Michael Thomas Barry transports readers back to 1927 - 1950 where he introduces readers to the Hollywood Greats. I must admit that I was not familiar with some of the actors. It was entertaining to read the biography of each one.
Janet Gaynor was a familiar name to me, but I knew little about her. She was described as "The classic virgin-heroine type on screen, her personal life mirrored her onscreen persona." I find this refreshing, I do not know of any actors today who can claim the title of classic virgin-heroine. Mary Pickford was another name that jumped out at me. She was labeled "America's Sweetheart." This award-winning actress was surrounded by controversy for campaigning for votes. As a silent film star she did well, but the move to talkies was not kind to her. The author has included a picture of her and Douglas Fairbanks at their home along with their five dogs. For many, the name Lionel Barrymore will be familiar; he is the great uncle of lovely Drew Barrymore. Helen Haynes is another name that most readers should recognize. This beautiful woman continued to act until 1985.
I could continue dropping names like Katharine Hepburn, Clark Gable, and Walter Brennan, and Betty Davis but that wouldn't be fair. Barry's book not only took me back in time but brought back fond memories of some of the greatest movies ever made: The African Queen, Meet John Doe, A Star is Born and Rear Window. It is obvious that Barry spent much time in research for this book. He includes photos of the stars and often they are laid to rest. This is not a tell-all book. Barry is very respectful of each star's reputation. He also shares information on the creation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science. This book would be a perfect gift for a fan of old movies.
Posted May 30, 2011
Author Michael Thomas Barry offers readers a guided tour through the golden years of Hollywood movie making in his book, Fade to Black: Graveside Memories of Hollywood. The book recounts the formation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science and the Academy Awards ceremonies from 1929 - 1950. Barry also offers biographic sketches of the major Academy Award winners during this time period. Barry begins this Hollywood journey by delving into the creation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science. The idea for the organization originated with the head of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio, Louis B. Mayer. In 1926, Meyer met with three Hollywood powerhouses, an actor, director and producer, to discuss the problem of unions in the film industry. As a result of this meeting, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science was formed to mediate union disputes and to improve the image of the movie industry. Celebrating movie stars, directors and producers for their work became a part of the Academy's agenda three years later. There were initially 231 members. As the awards become a larger part of the Academy, Barry provides biographical information about the winners of the major award categories: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and later Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. These sketches of the lives of Hollywood's elite from the 1920s to 1950s are the meat of this book. Many of the major stars spanning this time frame are featured including Mary Pickard whose self-campaigning for her 1930 Best Actress award prompted the Academy to alter the voting rules for the awards; Clark Gable, Best Actor in 1935, who like many of the featured stars in this book had multiple marriages; and James Stewart, the decorated Army Colonel who captured the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1941. Barry informs readers about the artists' lives, their work, and where they were laid to rest. This is a fascinating, historical piece about old Hollywood filled with beautiful black and white photographs of some of the top stars of the movie industries golden age. The book sheds light on how the film industry survived from World War I through the Great Depression. The book illustrates the evolution of performers and studios through "talking pictures" to television. Barry does a thorough job of educating the reader about this period in entertainment including the legal consequences of the monopolies the major studios of the time had on movie theaters that eventually led to a huge loss of revenue and the demise of the studio system with the long term contractual obligations required by actors. For Hollywood buffs and those looking for a lovely coffee table book that will spark conversation, Fade to Black is an exciting and captivating read. I highly recommend it. Melissa Brown Levine for Independent Professional Book ReviewersWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.