Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Book Review: Hollywood Cafe: Coffee with the Stars

Classic film fans will enjoy HOLLYWOOD CAFE: COFFEE WITH THE STARS, an engaging new photo book by Steven Rea.

Cups of coffee were poured in countless classic-era films, and copious amounts of java were also consumed in studio publicity photos. Both aspects of Hollywood's obsession with coffee are covered in HOLLYWOOD CAFE's beautifully reproduced stills.

The book's well-chosen pictures are great fun. I particularly enjoyed the publicity photos, whether it's Hedy Lamarr pouring out coffee at home, Jan Sterling making herself a cuppa next to the donuts on the craft services table, Ginger Rogers helping herself from a Thermos in her dressing room, or a much more glamorous staged shot of Dorothy Lamour pouring coffee into lovely china cups. It's fun to see how coffee was used as a prop to help convey to the public that, despite their glamour, actors are "just like us"!

The movie stills are also chosen with care. Favorites included a shot of waitress Ella Raines seen through a cafe window in THE WALKING HILLS, Jobyna Ralston serving Harold Lloyd coffee and donuts at the mission in FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE (1926), Robby the Robot pouring for Anne Francis and Jack Kelly in FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956), and Franchot Tone served by a waitress at a diner counter in I LOVE TROUBLE (1948). (I've noticed that a lot of coffee seems to be consumed in film noir!)

Since I'm interested in china and mid-century dishware, I also enjoyed closely examining the varied styles of cups in which coffee was served!

Each photo is accompanied by commentary with interesting tidbits about the stars or movie, and in some cases the original publicity blurb printed on the back of the photo is included as well.

Two photos from the book are seen here. Hedy Lamarr and James Stewart are above in COME LIVE WITH ME (1941), while below Robert Taylor is seen pouring a cup for Ava Gardner on the set of KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE (1953). Dick Powell and Ellen Drew are hiding behind the coffee cups on the book's cover, in publicity for CHRISTMAS IN JULY (1940).

The pictures are beautifully reproduced on glossy paper. The book is lovingly designed, down to a small illustration of a coffee pot on a black page when the cover is opened; there's a coffee grinder illustration in the same spot inside the back cover.

HOLLYWOOD CAFE: COFFEE WITH THE STARS is a hardcover book which is 192 pages long, including the index.

The text font under the photos is small, the better to make more room on the page for the pictures themselves. My one criticism of this lovely book is that darker print would have been helpful, given the small print. I can imagine that a few readers might find a magnifying glass in order for reading the text.

A recommended title, this is one of the most attractive and enjoyable books I've read in the last couple years. It's also a great illustration of the fact that there are countless potential topics awaiting exploration by film historians!

Thanks to Schiffer Publishing for providing a review copy of this book.


Blogger KC said...

I liked this book too. It had more substance than I expected. Also: a coffee table book about coffee--ha!

9:23 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

Looks like fun! I always associated old Hollywood stars with cigarettes (!) but coffee is a much healthier indulgence. :-) I will check this one out.

9:39 AM  

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