Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Book Reviews: Hollywood Poolside and Sunkissed

This summer was the perfect time to catch up with two photo books which have been on my wish list for some time: HOLLYWOOD POOLSIDE: CLASSIC IMAGES OF LEGENDARY STARS by Franz Evenhuis and Robert Landau, and SUNKISSED: SUNWEAR AND THE HOLLYWOOD BEAUTY 1930-1950 by Joshua James Curtis.

HOLLYWOOD POOLSIDE was first published in 1997; I read the updated 2004 edition which is described as an "Updated Edition With More Photos" on the cover. It's a 136-page 10" x 7-1/2" softcover with very attractive cover art (seen here). The publisher is Angel City Press.

The photos are grouped by decade. They're mostly studio publicity shots or photo shoots for movie magazines, mixed in with the occasional movie still, such as a shot of Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake poolside in SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS or a scene from Esther Williams' BATHING BEAUTY.

The pictures are well-chosen and attractively displayed. One of my favorites is of William Powell standing next to his new swimming pool, blueprints in hand. Jack Benny rowing a boat in his pool is another great shot, and there's a cute picture of Robert Mitchum and his two little boys on a diving board. Of course, many of Hollywood's loveliest actresses are also pictured. In addition to enjoying looking at film stars, it's fun to take in the various fashion styles and swimming pool designs.

Beyond the individual pictures, the book as a whole gives a good overview of how the Hollywood publicity machine worked, churning out what must have been thousands of photos of movie stars in appealing settings.

There is a fair amount of text and detailed captions. On my first quick read-through I only noticed one typo, so some care seems to have gone into the preparation of the book. An index at the back is quite helpful.

My one complaint is I didn't care for the last picture in the book, a back shot of Burt Lancaster in THE SWIMMER. I'd just as soon that one had been omitted. Otherwise, HOLLYWOOD POOLSIDE is most enjoyable summer reading and browsing.

SUNKISSED: SUNWEAR AND THE HOLLYWOOD BEAUTY 1930-1950 is a larger hardcover with a dust jacket, measuring roughly 9-1/2" by 10-1/2"; it's 160 pages including the index. The publisher of this 2003 title is Collectors Press.

This is a lovely book which makes a great summer coffee table book...although one does have to get past "FOREWORD" being misspelled "FOREWARD" on the front cover and elsewhere! If FOREWARD is an alternate spelling, I couldn't find it in my Webster's.

The foreword, in fact, is by Ann Rutherford (who, incidentally, will be appearing in Santa Monica on August 19th). The captions are very brief, but the photos on glossy pages are great fun to look at -- and didn't seem duplicative of those in HOLLYWOOD POOLSIDE. While HOLLYWOOD POOLSIDE is entirely black and white, SUNKISSED mixes in a handful of color photos along with the black and white pictures. HOLLYWOOD POOLSIDE features male and female stars, while SUNKISSED focuses on actresses.

SUNKISSED features not only poolside photos, but actresses enjoying the out of doors, gardening, playing croquet and tennis, bicycling, and even reading -- there's a great color photo of Paulette Goddard lying on the grass reading Balzac. One of my favorite shots is a 1941 black and white picture of Susan Hayward holding a giant beach ball while standing on a rock next to the ocean. Again, one can see that the Hollywood publicity machine was relentless in thinking up ways to showcase studio stars in the great outdoors...or a studio facsimile of same.

Both books are recommended.


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