Cover image for Tinseltown : murder, morphine, and madness at the dawn of Hollywood
Title:
Tinseltown : murder, morphine, and madness at the dawn of Hollywood
Author:
Mann, William J., author.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, [2014]

©2014
Physical Description:
xi, 463 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Summary:
Hollywood chronicler William J. Mann draws on a rich host of sources, including recently released FBI files, to unpack the story of the enigmatic William Desmond Taylor, the popular president of the Motion Picture Directors Association, and the diverse cast that surrounded him before he was murdered in 1922-- including three beautiful, ambitious actresses, the ruthless founder of Paramount locked in a struggle for control of the film industry, a grasping stage mother, a devoted valet, and a gang of two-bit thugs, any of whom might have fired the fatal bullet.
Language:
English
Contents:
Preamble to intrigue -- A cold morning in Southern California -- Suspects, motives, and circumstances. A man called Creepy ; Babylon ; three desperate dames ; The orator ; A race to the top ; Mabel ; Gibby ; Mary ; Rivals and threats ; Good-time girl ; Locusts ; The maddest woman ; Impudent things ; Dope fiends ; Greater than love ; The sex thrill ; Prying eyes ; So this is what is going on ; five thousand feel of immorality ; Bunco babe ; Among the lions ; Depravity ; Questions of loyalty ; A cluster of calamities ; A product of the gutters ; Riding for a fall ; Bad checks ; The highest possible standards ; On edge ; A work so important ; A ghastly strain ; A house in the hills ; Last day ; A shot -- Hunting, hustling, and hiding. The dead man on the floor ; Reactions ; King of the cops ; The moral failures of one concern ; ; "Do you think that I killed Mr. Taylor?" ; Powder burns ; Evidence found ; Dames even more desperate ; The need for vigilance ; Taking him for a fool ; Mr. Hays goes to work ; The morbidly curious ; Her own boss ; No time to talk ; A great injustice has been done ; A question of motives ; A company of outlaws ; The savior ; The sky's the limit ; The spirits speak ; Last chance ; Evidence missing ; Trigger happy ; A cold-blooded business ; No happy endings ; Raising capital ; A new man on the job ; Unfair competition ; Trapped like rats ; Coming out of hiding ; The end of the road ; Readjustments ; Unexpected developments ; Manhunt -- Closing the case. three dames no longer so desperate ; End of an era ; "We are making real progress" -- A confession -- What happened to everyone else.
ISBN:
9780062242167
Format :
Book

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Central Library HV6534.L7 M36 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Julia Boyer Reinstein Library HV6534.L7 M36 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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Summary

Summary

New York Times Bestseller

Edgar Award winner for Best Fact Crime

The Day of the Locust meets The Devil in the White City and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in this juicy, untold Hollywood story: an addictive true tale of ambition, scandal, intrigue, murder, and the creation of the modern film industry.

By 1920, the movies had suddenly become America's new favorite pastime, and one of the nation's largest industries. Never before had a medium possessed such power to influence. Yet Hollywood's glittering ascendency was threatened by a string of headline-grabbing tragedies--including the murder of William Desmond Taylor, the popular president of the Motion Picture Directors Association, a legendary crime that has remained unsolved until now.

In a fiendishly involving narrative, bestselling Hollywood chronicler William J. Mann draws on a rich host of sources, including recently released FBI files, to unpack the story of the enigmatic Taylor and the diverse cast that surrounded him--including three beautiful, ambitious actresses; a grasping stage mother; a devoted valet; and a gang of two-bit thugs, any of whom might have fired the fatal bullet. And overseeing this entire landscape of intrigue was Adolph Zukor, the brilliant and ruthless founder of Paramount, locked in a struggle for control of the industry and desperate to conceal the truth about the crime. Along the way, Mann brings to life Los Angeles in the Roaring Twenties: a sparkling yet schizophrenic town filled with party girls, drug dealers, religious zealots, newly-minted legends and starlets already past their prime--a dangerous place where the powerful could still run afoul of the desperate.

A true story recreated with the suspense of a novel, Tinseltown is the work of a storyteller at the peak of his powers--and the solution to a crime that has stumped detectives and historians for nearly a century.


Author Notes

William J. Mann is an American novelist, biographer, and Hollywood historian best known for his studies of Hollywood and the American film industry, especially his 2006 biography of Katharine Hepburn, Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn. Kate was named one of the 100 Notable Books of 2006 by the New York Times. Mann was born in Connecticut and received his Master's degree at Wesleyan University. His first novel, The Men From the Boys, was published by Dutton in 1997. His other biographies include How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood, and 2014's New York Times bestseller: Hello Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In this gripping true-crime narrative, Mann reopens an unsolved murder case from the early silent-film era. On a chilly February evening in 1922, an unknown intruder brutally murdered successful film director William Desmond Taylor in his Hollywood home. Despite promising leads at the time, the murder remained unsolved, partly due to a severely compromised crime scene. However, film buffs have kept the mystery alive for decades, and the author presents a compelling and meticulously researched theory for what happened on that fateful night. Woven throughout the story is the equally fascinating history of the rise of Hollywood at the dawn of the Roaring Twenties as seen through the eyes of one of its most influential architects: Adolph Zukor, eventual founder of Paramount Pictures. While battling fierce censorship attempts and the backlash caused by successive scandals (wild parties! rampant drug use!), Zukor was instrumental in creating the industry that exists today. Mann expertly juggles the various threads of the narrative to a satisfying conclusion that is sure to please both true-crime and film-history enthusiasts.--Price, Kerri Copyright 2014 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Many readers will come away from this stellar and gripping true-crime narrative utterly convinced by Mann's solution to the unsolved 1922 gunshot murder of William Desmond Taylor, president of the Motion Pictures Directors Association, in Hollywood. Mann (Hello, Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand) hooks the reader from the start, describing the discovery of Taylor's corpse by his valet in a prologue that reads like fiction. The author then provides the backstory with an engrossing and comprehensive look at the birth of the motion picture industry and the highs and lows it faced in the early 1920s, including the economic downturn of 1920--1921 and increasing efforts to censor its productions. Mann weaves these dynamics into the portrayals of Taylor and other key players, including movie baron Adolph Zukor, and three actresses, all of who become suspects in the crime. With a gift for evocative phrasing (one figure is described as having a face like a "living mug shot"), Mann has crafted what is likely to be a true-crime classic. Agent: Malaga Baldi, Baldi Agency. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Hard-core old-movie heads and Hollywood true crime fans know about the 1922 murder of director William Desmond Taylor (formerly William Deane Tanner), which remains unsolved 90 years after the crime. "Hollywood chronicler" Mann (Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969) posits his own theories about whodunit in this overwritten, overlong title. The breathless writing style conjures scandal rags of the past, but the staggering succession of cliff-hanger chapter endings and one-sentence paragraphs, along with the many leaps of faith and major conjecture, become tiring rather quickly. However, Mann's thorough examination of the many suspects and the (always intriguing) underbelly of Hollywood at the time are done well. The author's seemingly intense personal dislike of Paramount Pictures founder Adolph Zukor grates a bit, but the chapters about "movie czar" Will H. Hays, who was hired by the studios to sanitize the industry after so many scandals, shine a new light on the man and his work. While Mann claims to have solved the case, his conclusions are unconvincing; however, his characterization of Tinseltown and its denizens is flavorful. VERDICT Fans of historical true crime and those who enjoy Old Hollywood gossip will like this title, which could spur the curious to further research of the Taylor case.-Liz French, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


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