Sometimes you just want to sit down with a good book. Not an electronic book. Yes, they are wonderfully convenient. But a book is something that you hold up. When I am lucky enough to travel to places like Los Angeles, I find myself in Larry Edmunds bookshop on Hollywood Blvd. I am sure many readers of this blog have been there before and have their own memories.
The first time we went was a total accident. I had looked up the address, thinking it was far away from our hotel, when i found myself staring at a display of Halloween Horror books in a large window. Stills laid out with biographies, large format books on genre history and actors. I said that I should probably go into this place, when I stepped back to find the store name. The large sign said Larry Edmunds and I said, “Well, that was quick.” The same sudden discovery happened to us when looking for Amobea Records and Kat Von D’s High Voltage tattoo shop. What does all this have to do with Lana Turner and the picture of her book? It was on a visit when I saw the hard cover book jacket on the shelf, thumbed through it and decided that Miss Turner had long been an interest of mine. I also called out at the cash register a few other titles off the top of my head and they magically appeared in front of me, spirited into location by the very helpful staff. We were also standing in a group of people that nodded their heads when I called out a title; one of whom was a fellow in full red serge suit with Elvis hair style and sideburns in over eighty degree heat.
Books on screen history, actors and genre are nothing new. The resurgence of hard covers from vintage printing with bright book jackets has a special allure. I would love to find a first or vintage edition of biographies such as Errol Flynn’s MY WICKED WICKED WAYS. It is also debatable if Mary Astor’s infamous THE PURPLE DIARIES actually existed or is merely the stuff of bedroom legend. Pat O’Brien’s hardcover bio THE WIND AT MY BACK is available for purchase on line as a vintage book.
Books such as the original stories of films also abound if you look. I was given a copy of Guy Fowler’s novel THE DAWN PATROL that contained stills from the Richard Barthelmess version, produced eight years before Errol Flynn took flight. I also came upon a novelization of THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN by Michael Egermont.
When you get these vintage books, they may be a bit bashed up or have dangerously small print: you are in for an adventure. Silly to say, but sometimes the odor of the old paper in a book can be a bit like exploring an ancient ruin. I suggest that you feel closer to the source of the Hollywood myth. The fountainhead, if you will, of what many of us enjoy about Hollywood and its myths are the stories. You might get sanitized versions of people’s lives and places; however, that offers a bigger picture of a person or place by seeking various editions of a biography. These materials were monitored by the studios at the time, so one gets different interpretations and sometimes omissions in the text.
Let’s not forget the vintage books in the world of new editions, startling new evidence of events in Hollywood. It’s great fun to prowl the shelves and suddenly find something. I haven’t even mentioned vintage fan magazines and film scripts, either. Read on if you get a chance.