For millions of movie lovers, no era in the history of Hollywood is more beloved than the period from the 1930s through the 1950s, the golden age of the studio system. Read more...
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The legendary actor and bestselling author of "Pieces of My Heart "offers a nostalgic look at Hollywood's golden age
For millions of movie lovers, no era in the history of Hollywood is more beloved than the period from the 1930s through the 1950s, the golden age of the studio system. Not only did it produce many of the greatest films of the American cinema, but it was then that Hollywood itself became firmly established as the nation's ultimate symbol of glamour and style, its stars almost godlike figures whose dazzling lives were chronicled in countless features in magzazines like "Photoplay "and "Modern Screen."
While these features were a standard part of the work of studio publicity departments, they told eager readers little about what life was really like for these celebrities once they stepped out of the public eye. No one is better qualified to tell that story than Robert Wagner, whose own career has spanned more than five decades and whose "New York Times" bestseller, "Pieces of My Heart," was one of the most successful Hollywood memoirs in recent years. "You Must Remember This" is Wagner's intimate ode to a bygone time, one of magnificent homes, luxurious hotels, opulent night-clubs and restaurants, and unforgettable parties that were all part of the Hollywood social scene at its peak.
From a dinner party at Clifton Webb's at which Judy Garland sang Gershwin at the piano to golf games with Fred Astaire, from Jimmy Cagney's humble farmhouse in Coldwater Canyon to the magnificent beach mansion built by William Randolph Hearst for Marion Davies, from famous restaurants like the Brown Derby and Romanoff's to nightspots like the Trocadero and the Mocambo, Wagner shares his affectionate memories and anec¬dotes about the places and personalities that have all become part of Hollywood legend.
As poignant as it is revealing, "You Must Remember This" is Wagner's account of Hollywood as he saw it, far from the lights and cameras and gossip columns--and a tender farewell to the people of a mythical place long since transformed, and to a golden age long since passed.
- ISBN-13: 9780670026098
- ISBN-10: 0670026093
- Publisher: Viking Books
- Publish Date: March 2014
- Page Count: 262
- Reading Level: Ages 18-UP
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-12-09
- Reviewer: Staff
With great affection and a twinkle in his eye, veteran actor Wagner (A Kiss Before Dying; Hart to Hart) recalls Hollywood’s glory days of the 1940s and early 1950s, when class, manners, friendship, and a code of values ruled the city of stars. Although Wagner regales readers with tales of many of his Hollywood friends—from Mary Pickford and Harold Lloyd to Andy Williams and Jimmy Stewart—he never stoops to kiss-and-tell gossip about the stars nor does he wax nostalgic about a past for which he desperately longs. An expert storyteller, Wagner entertains with tale of restaurants like the Brown Derby—where the Cobb Salad was invented—the Trocadero, and the Mocambo, where elegance, entertainment, and great food filled a triple bill every night; in their day, restaurateurs such as Mike Romanoff and Dave Chasen were stars as big as Frank Sinatra and Bette Davis. Wagner fondly recalls growing up in a Hollywood where there was still land and space enough for him to have a horse named Sonny, and he looks back warmly on the various hotels and houses that sprang up in Hollywood and Beverly Hills as the area became a magnet for the movies. As he takes us on a trip down memory lane, showing us how deeply Hollywood has changed, he concludes that “nothing lasts forever, except the movies.”Eyman also worked with Wagner on the actor’s autobiography, Pieces of My Heart, published in 2008. Agent: Mort Janklow, Janklow & Nesbit. (Mar.)
An intimate look at classic Hollywood glam
One of those guys seemingly born to wear a tux, Robert Wagner proves an expert tour guide in the sometimes dishy, always perceptive You Must Remember This: Life and Style in Hollywood’s Golden Age.
In recent years, Wagner has come to be known for small screen roles on “Two and a Half Men” and “NCIS”—as well as deadpan appearances in the “Austin Powers” film franchise. He was married to the luminous Natalie Wood (for the second time) at the time of her still-puzzling 1981 death. But Wagner also enjoyed movie stardom in the ’50s and early ’60s. And he has long mingled with the rich and famous, having grown up in swanky Bel Air.
And so, with historian-critic Scott Eyman, R.J., as he’s known, has written what he calls “a mosaic of memory.”
The book was inspired, in part, by the wacky 2002 wedding of Liza Minnelli and David Gest. Though “not exactly a Fellini movie, it was close,” Wagner says, recounting how Liz Taylor kept a church filled with guests waiting, because she didn’t like her shoes; when the ceremony at last concluded, Gest “tried to suck the lips off Liza’s face.” (“Ewww, gross,” whispered actress Jill St. John, Wagner’s wife since 1990.)
To document a lifestyle “that has vanished as surely as birch bark canoes,” Wagner gives us a mix of history and I-was-there recollections. Like the dinner party at Clifton Webb’s home, where guest Judy Garland gave an impromptu serenade at the piano—for nearly an hour—as 15 other attendees gathered ’round. Once a caddy for Fred Astaire, Wagner went on to become a regular golfing buddy; he played softball with John Ford’s “group,” which included Duke Wayne and Ward Bond; and he spent New Year’s Eves at Frank Sinatra’s famed Palm Springs digs.
Wagner tells us about favorite decorators (the gay Billy Haines ruled), fashion trendsetters (the Duke of Windsor), the liveliest and even most unlikely night spots (including how Don the Beachcomber’s came to be), all the while dropping yummy nuggets. (Sinatra’s aftershave was witch hazel, or Yardley’s English Lavender.)
Wagner does it all with grace—never taking overt shots at today’s Hollywood, but making one thing clear: The so-called golden age was no cinematic fantasy.