Hollywood: Mecca of the Movies

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Overview

Blaise Cendrars, one of twentieth-century France's most gifted men of letters, came to Hollywood in 1936 for the newspaper Paris-Soir. Already a well-known poet, Cendrars was a celebrity journalist whose perceptive dispatches from the American dream factory captivated millions. These articles were later published as Hollywood: Mecca of the Movies, which has since appeared in many languages. Remarkably, this is its first translation into English.

Hollywood in 1936 was crowded with stars, moguls, directors, scouts, and script girls. Though no stranger to filmmaking (he had worked with director Abel Gance), Cendrars was spurned by the industry greats with whom he sought to hobnob. His response was to invent a wildly funny Hollywood of his own, embellishing his adventures and mixing them with black humor, star anecdotes, and wry social commentary.

Part diary, part tall tale, this book records Cendrars's experiences on Hollywood's streets and at its studios and hottest clubs. His impressions of the town's drifters, star-crazed sailors, and undiscovered talent are recounted in a personal, conversational style that anticipates the "new journalism" of writers such as Tom Wolfe.

Perfectly complemented by his friend Jean Guérin's witty drawings, and following the tradition of European travel writing, Cendrars's "little book about Hollywood" offers an astute, entertaining look at 1930s America as reflected in its unique movie mecca.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
Though Cendrars 1887-1961 is best known as a modernist French poet and novelist, he was also a journalist who chronicled for Paris-Soir a two-week visit to Hollywood in 1936. The pieces, later published as a book in several languages, are only now translated into English; and White, a freelance film journalist, provides an extensive, thoughtful introduction to this only fitfully interesting book. The familiar paradoxes that animate the text-Hollywood is an "illusion factory" where commerce reigns, a "New Byzantium" that is a quintessentially American mix of cynicism and joy, vulgarity and beauty-are largely bereft of the details or wit that would make them fresh. And although Cendrars's novel Sutter's Gold was the basis of a film, in these pages he distances himself from Hollywood. He seems to have met no one of note during his visit, nor does he leaven his superiority with any expression of admiration for the stars who made Hollywood glamorous.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Though Cendrars (1887-1961) is best known as a modernist French poet and novelist, he was also a journalist who chronicled for Paris-Soir a two-week visit to Hollywood in 1936. The pieces, later published as a book in several languages, are only now translated into English; and White, a freelance film journalist, provides an extensive, thoughtful introduction to this only fitfully interesting book. The familiar paradoxes that animate the text-Hollywood is an ``illusion factory'' where commerce reigns, a ``New Byzantium'' that is a quintessentially American mix of cynicism and joy, vulgarity and beauty-are largely bereft of the details or wit that would make them fresh. And although Cendrars's novel Sutter's Gold was the basis of a film, in these pages he distances himself from Hollywood. He seems to have met no one of note during his visit, nor does he leaven his superiority with any expression of admiration for the stars who made Hollywood glamorous. (Apr.)
Janet St. John
Translated into English for the first time, this "Hollywood" seems an unearthed treasure. Cendrars, French writer and a central figure in France's modernist literature, wrote brief impressions of Hollywood for "Paris-Soir" during a two-week stay in 1936. His visit clarified for him the role Hollywood plays in shaping the American identity and the American Dream. With sarcasm and a slight European superiority, Cendrars created a wry portrait of the movie industry with all its illusion, of California with its artifice and isolationism, and of the American landscape from Depression-era backdrop to corporate towers to the glamorous dreamscape of Hollywood. Many of Cendrars' observations are especially poignant today--the reality of how few can actually attain the American Dream as presented by Hollywood; the American love for and reliance on automobiles as exemplified in California; the grand scale of buildings and concepts in America as compared with other countries; the police brutality of innocents as witnessed by residents of L.A.; and the underlying disillusion and desperation of a large percentage of people as substantiated by suicide statistics. Cendrars captured the surface look, overall feel, and subliminal activity of America at one point in our history. His conversational language, wit, and uncanny renderings are precious, highly entertaining, and still current.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520078079
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 4/3/1995
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Blaise Cendrars (1887-1961), poet, novelist, essayist, cineaste, is a central figure in French modernist literature.
In 1992 California published his Complete Poems. Garrett White has written on film/art for The Los Angeles Times and Premiere.

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