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Hollywood Rides a Bike

If you’re anything like me, you love photos of classic movie stars engaging in very normal, unglamorous activities. Although many were staged for studio publicity, it’s nice to pretend these are candid images from the private family album. Cary and Randolph washing dishes, Bogie and Bacall lounging on the sofa, Katharine on a skateboard, Shirley and Sachi with matching hairdos and pearls– all well known “home life” photos. Steven Rea, film critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer, has assembled an impressive collection of images featuring beloved icons alongside one of the simplest modes of transportation: the bicycle.

Hollywood Rides a Bike is a quirky pictorial containing over 125 prints of stars pedaling around backlots, soundstages, and winding roads. Marlene Dietrich likes to ride her bike in elaborate dress, while Don Ameche prefers to cruise around in his skivvies. Alfred Hitchcock looks his usual cheery self on a bike made by Peugeot. James Stewart gives Grace Kelly a lift on the handlebars. Even Carole Lombard’s dachshund Fritz hitches a ride on the back of her cruiser.

Classic film fans and vintage bicycle enthusiasts alike will appreciate Rea’s attention to detail as well as his sense of humor. For those who cannot get enough of this unique pairing, Rea maintains the Tumblr blog Rides a Bike. One could easily spend hours scrolling through all the marvelous photos. I certainly did!


Hollywood Rides a Bike: Cycling with the Stars
ISBN: 9781883318635
Angel City Press
February 2012
160 pages

Disclaimer: I purchased this book from Amazon.com

Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital 1928-1937

Courtesy of Angel City Press
Courtesy of Angel City Press

 

Jean Harlow epitomizes the essence of old Hollywood glamour and stardom. Although she died young, she has an  immortal presence that has lasted for over 70 years. Perhaps it’s because we never saw her grow old. Her youthfulness, beauty, and sexuality are all perfectly preserved as if she were truly alive and breathing. Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital (1928-1937) is a loving and dedicated tribute to “The Baby.”  The book is filled with photos from author Darrell Rooney’s personal collection (one of the most complete Harlow collections in existence),and a well written biography by Mark A. Vieira that only a fan could compose. Vieira describes Harlow as intelligent, well-read, friendly, and loving–and always seeking love.

Harlow rose to stardom in Hollywood rather quickly, had a solid work ethic, and always did what the studio asked of her. Although she often portrayed women of a certain character, audiences absolutely loved her. This proved to be especially true when her second husband, MGM producer Paul Bern, committed suicide. A scandal of this sort was considered a career killer, but not in Harlow’s case. She had achieved ultimate star status and was granted a level of immunity.

In addition to various marital/relationship troubles, Harlow had a controlling and demanding mother. Jean Bello regularly took advantage of her famous daughter, often without Harlow even recognizing it. Vieira largely portrays Mother Jean and her husband Marino Bello (Harlow’s step-father) in a less than positive light, as he should. All accounts state that the Bellos were greedy, manipulative, and exploited Harlow for their own personal gain.

Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital (1928-1937) is one of the most beautiful and thoughtfully designed books I have ever read. From her first days in Hollywood, to her final photo shoot with friend Clark Gable, and ending with her devastatingly premature death, Rooney and Vieira manage to capture the essence of Harlow’s spirit. The photo for the front cover features a goddess-like Harlow in a slinky satin gown–her trademark. What lies within that cover exceeds even the highest expectations. Each page is filled with lovely photos, some rare, of Harlow and her family, friends, and co-stars. The attention to detail is noticed in even the smallest touches, like the design for the page numbers, font, and coloring.

I did not want to put this book down. I stayed up very late to finish it, and when I was done I was in tears. It haunted me. When I fell asleep I dreamed of Harlow’s death. When I woke in the morning, I felt like I had been right there with her. As I wrote in my review of the stellar Judy: A Legendary Film Career, I am often hesitant to embrace so-called “gift books.” Many times, these types of books feature low quality photos and text. Fortunately, that is not the case here.  Harlow in Hollywood is an essential for Jean Harlow and classic film fans alike.

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Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital (1928-1937)
ISBN: 9781883318963
Angel City Press
March 2011
240 pages

Full disclosure: I received a copy of Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital (1928-1937) directly from the publisher Angel City Press. I thank the publisher for the opportunity to review this book.

Gary Cooper: Enduring Style

From Gary Cooper: Enduring Style by G. Bruce Boyer and Maria Cooper Janis, published by powerHouse Books
From Gary Cooper: Enduring Style by G. Bruce Boyer and Maria Cooper Janis, published by powerHouse Books

When thinking about men’s fashion in old Hollywood, there are two actors who immediately come to mind: Cary Grant and Gary Cooper. Both had impeccable taste and appreciated high quality, custom tailored clothing, and both had wardrobes inspired by European fashion. Although Grant looked great in everything, he didn’t always look comfortable in more casual attire. This is not the case with Gary Cooper. He somehow made a cowboy hat and jeans look attainable to the every man, yet kept a look of sophistication.

Gary Cooper: Enduring Style is a lovely collection of private family photos showcasing Cooper’s sartorial elegance, beginning from his days in a prestigious private school in England, up to and around the time of his death in 1961. The book is reminiscent of a family album, with one or two photos to a page. Images of Gary and his wife Rocky relaxing poolside, on hunting trips with Clark Gable, and skiing with Ingrid Bergman are all wonderful additions.  The captions are minimal, allowing the photos to speak for themselves.

With a foreward by Ralph Lauren, a brief yet thorough biography by G. Bruce Boyer, and afterward by Cooper’s only child Maria Cooper Janis, Gary Cooper: Enduring Style is a wonderful tribute to a beloved Hollywood icon. I appreciate the artistic quality of the book in the images selected. For the serious Gary Cooper fan,  Enduring Style is a must have.

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Gary Cooper: Enduring Style
ISBN: 9781576875865
PowerHouse Books
November 2011
200 pages

Full Disclosure: I received a copy of Gary Cooper: Enduring Style for review directly from the publisher, powerHouse Books. The book is available for purchase here. I would like to thank the publisher for the opportunity to review this book.