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#Bookreview FALLEN IDOLS: A CENTURY OF SCREEN SEX SCANDALS (IMAGES OF THE PAST) by Nigel Blundell (@penswordbooks) Great pictures and a reminder

Dear all:

I bring you another one of Pen & Sword’s books, one for those of you who love movies and photographs of the Hollywood of the Big Studios and its tarnished stars.

Fallen Idols. A Century of Screen Sex-Scandals (Images of the Past) by Nigel Blundell
Fallen Idols. A Century of Screen Sex-Scandals (Images of the Past) by Nigel Blundell

Fallen Idols: A Century of Screen Sex Scandals (Images of the Past) by Nigel Blundell (@penswordbooks) Great pictures, some amusing and some dark stories

It’s a scandal! How often we use that phrase and what a catalogue of sins it covers. That’s what this book is all about. It is literally a catalogue of sins – committed by some of the most celebrated names on the planet.

Within these covers are startling stories of scandals during a century when screen idols seemed to vie with each other in outraging public decency. It was an age when fan fever was at its height and an endless supply of shocking revelations emerged to fuel the frenzy.

Because of the perpetrators’ superstar status, the shame of exposure was often heightened, not only wrecking reputations but often harming careers and, at least, ensuring very public humiliation.

The lessons learned from these cases of celebrity scandal (though often, it seems, not by the celebrities themselves) is that the bigger the star, the harder the fall … and that deceit and intrigue so often turn hard-won fame into instant infamy.

Links:

Paperback:

https://www.amazon.com/Fallen-Idols-Century-Screen-Scandals/dp/1526742144/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Images-Past-Fallen-Century-Scandals/dp/1526742144/

e-book:

https://www.amazon.com/Fallen-Idols-Century-Screen-Scandals-ebook/dp/B07NJ5PMV2/

Author Nigel Blundell
Author Nigel Blundell

About Nigel Blundell

Nigel Blundell is a journalist who has worked in Australia, the United States and Britain. He spent 25 years in Fleet Street before becoming an author and contributor to national newspapers. He has written more than 40 books, including best-sellers on crime and royalty. He co-wrote the Top Ten exposé Fall of the House of Windsor, which first revealed the so-called ‘Squidgygate’ tape and the infidelity of both Princess Diana and Prince Charles. His other factual subjects have included military history, celebrity scandals, and ghosts and the paranormal.

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Images-of-the-Past-Fallen-Idols-Paperback/p/15651

My review:

Thanks to Rosie and the whole team at Pen & Sword for providing me a paperback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

A while back I read and reviewed a book in the same series ‘Images of the Past’, called The British Seaside, and I enjoyed the combination of the wonderful images and the informative and humorous text, fairly light on reading but high on entertainment value. In this case, the same is true, even with the serious subject and the unavoidable reflections on how times don’t seem to have changed so much, although now we get to hear about many of the details that in the past would have remained hidden from the general public.

I’ve always been fascinated by the history of cinema, and Hollywood, from its beginnings to now, although times have changed somewhat, and tinsel town is not what used to be (if it ever was). I have watched documentaries and read magazines about the industry, particularly about the era of the big studios, when everything seemed more glamourous and shiny than our everyday lives.

This book looks, mostly at past scandals, from the early history of Hollywood to some more recent ones, but does not include the XXI century, and although some of us, who grew up watching reruns of classics, will remember many of these stars (and some have become icons, like James Dean or Marilyn Monroe), to the youngest generation most of them will sound like ancient history. Only Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, and the TV preachers are still alive, and although their controversy remains alive, it seems to have been dwarfed by most recent scandals.

This is not an in-depth study of any of the cases, but rather a quick survey with a few details of the biographies and circumstances of some of the stars, whose lives became as well-known and exposed to the public attention as that of their characters. Despite that, although I thought I was familiar with the majority of the actors and actresses the book talks about, I discovered I didn’t know many of the details, perhaps because they were not discussed at the time or have been revealed later, and many of the pictures were totally new to me (and I thoroughly enjoyed them, especially those showing the stars when they were young). I am sure, though, that experts or true fans of these actors and actresses will not learn anything new, but I enjoyed the combination of text and pictures (and I particularly relished the introduction, which offers interesting insights into the effects of some of these scandals, like the Hays Code, that went beyond the content of the movies and affected the personal lives of the stars as well), that makes it ideal as a present for people of a certain age who enjoy celebrity magazines of the time, and also for the younger generation who might not have been exposed to these stories and the old-fashioned notion of celebrity and stardom.

It is impossible to read this book without comparing many of these scandals to some of the recent ones. The big studios spent a lot of money on lawyers, on keeping the press at bay, and of course, power has always talked. Thankfully, some of the things that were considered normal practice at the time have now become unacceptable and are the subject of legal procedures.

To give you a better idea of the content, there are fourteen chapters, each focused on one of these stars: Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, Jean Harlow, Errol Flynn, Grace Kelly, Lana Turner, Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Elvis Presley, Roman Polanski, Joan Crawford, Rock Hudson, Jim Bakker & Jimmy Swaggart, and Woody Allen.

I thought I’d share a couple of the quotes I’ve highlighted, so you get some idea of what to expect. Here, referring to James Dean:

“The star of East of Eden and Rebel without a Cause was bisexual and had affairs with actresses Pier Angeli and Ursula Andrews but when asked if he was gay his reply was: “Well, I’m certainly not going to go through life with one hand tied behind my back!” (Blundell, 2018, p. 8).

In the chapter about the TV preachers Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart (a fascinating phenomenon that seems pretty unique to the USA), it explains that Swaggart confessed and apologised to his congregation and the viewers of his TV channel the first time he was caught with a prostitute. But the second time, he truly spoke his mind:

“This time, rather confessing to his congregation, Swaggart brazened it out with the rebuff: ‘The Lord told me it’s flat none of your business’ (Blundell, 2018, 143).

In sum, this is a fun book for people who love anecdotes and to peep into the lives of the Hollywood famous, especially those from the era of the Hollywood big studios. If you want a brazen and amusing book, with its dark moments and plenty of pictures to get the conversation going, or are looking for a present for somebody who loves movie memorabilia, I recommend it.

Blundell, N. (2018). Images of the Past. Fallen Idols. A Century of Screen Sex Scandals. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword.

Thanks to Rosie, Pen & Sword, to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keep smiling!

 

 

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview Images of the Past: The British Seaside By Lucinda Gosling (@penswordbooks) Oh, I like to be beside the seaside. And I love this book! #photographs

Hi all:

Recently I’ve had not had much time to read and there are not as many reviews coming at you (I’m sure you’ll be relieved to hear that), but this one is a visual feast and I had to bring it to you.

Images of the Past. The British Seaside by Lucinda Gosling
Images of the Past. The British Seaside by Lucinda Gosling

Images of the Past: The British Seaside By Lucinda Gosling 
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Series: Images of the Past
Pages: 189
ISBN: 9781473862159
Published: 15th May 2017

Drawing on the archives of Mary Evans Picture Library, ‘Images of the Past – The British Seaside’ is a nostalgic promenade through the history of Britain’s seaside resorts from their early genesis as health destinations to their glorious, mid-20th century heyday, subsequent decline and recent regeneration.

British coastal resorts developed during a period of vast expansion and social change. Within a century, the bathing phenomenon changed from a cautiously modest immersion in the sea to a pastime that prompted the building of vast art deco temples dedicated to the cult of swimming. Once quiet fishing villages mushroomed into bustling seafronts with every conceivable amusement and facility to entice visitors and secure their loyalty for future visits. Where transport to the coast may have once been via coach and horses or boat, soon thousands of working class day-trippers flooded seaside towns, arriving by the rail network that had so quickly transformed the British landscape. This fascinating book follows these shifts and changes from bathing machines to Butlins holiday camps, told through a compelling mix of photographs, cartoons, illustrations and ephemera with many images previously unpublished.

Covering every aspect of the seaside experience whether swimming and sunbathing or sand castles and slot machines ‘The British Seaside’ reveals the seaside’s traditions, rich heritage and unique character in all its sandy, sunny, fun-packed glory.

In the press!

As featured by;

  • The Sun – Charming vintage photos show the bliss of a traditional British seaside holiday from donkey rides and sandcastles to ice-cream treats on the beach

 

  • Mirror – Seaside holiday snaps from bygone age show how bikinis, animals and health and safety on beach has changed

 

  • Mail Online – Nostalgic pictures show Britain’s love of a beach holiday before the age of budget airlines lured us to sunnier destinations

 

  • Daily Express – Vintage snaps of Great British holidays: Pictures from 1930s Butlin’s to Bournemouth beach
Author Lucinda Gosling
Author Lucinda Gosling

About the author

Lucinda Gosling studied history at the University of Liverpool and has worked in the picture library for 23 years, most recently at historical specialist, Mary Evans Picture Library. She is a writer and public speaker, contributing to various publications including History Today, Tatler and Majesty and is author of over ten books on a wide variety of subjects from historic London to Great War knitting. (Yes, I had to check and add the link. How could I possibly resist?)

She lives in Wanstead, East London with her husband, three children and a cat called Cholmondeley.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lucinda-Gosling/e/B001JP2GD4/

My review:

My thanks to Pen & Sword for offering me a copy of this book that I freely (and gladly) chose to review.

I discovered Pen & Sword thanks to a writer I had met through blogging and I am regularly kept informed of their new books through their catalogues. Although I don’t have the time to read as many of them as I would like, when I saw this one, I could not resist.

I am not British but I have lived in the UK for almost twenty-five years now. As luck would have it, my first job in the UK was in Eastbourne, and I spent quite a few years in that part of the UK (working in Eastbourne, Hastings, and later studying at Sussex University and living in Brighton for a while). Although my experiences of the British seaside are fairly recent in comparison to the pictures in this book, I am fascinated by the peculiarities of the British seaside. And, over the years, I have listened to many conversations and stories of childhood holidays and memories of happy times spent at a seaside resort or other.  When I saw this book I thought it would be fun, and a perfect way to put images to the stories I had heard and to learn new ones.

Lucinda Gosling, the author, works for the Mary Evans Picture Library (check their website here) and she has done a fantastic job of curating a great variety of images, ranging from personal photographs to postcards and advertisements, from the very late XIX century to the 1960s and 70s. They are mostly in black and white (although there are the odd colour picture and some old hand-coloured ones, some in wonderful sepia, and some colour illustrations) and they go from the funny amateur pic  taken at an amusement fair to some truly beautiful professional pictures (like some by Roger Mayne or Shirley Baker).

There is little text, other than an introduction to each part of the book, which is divided thematically into six chapters, and brief notes to identify the pictures (and on some occasions, to add a bit of background).  Although concise, the writing is excellent, as it manages to be informative, entertaining, and at times truly humorous. There is a great picture of a man (probably in his early forties, in my opinion pretty formally dressed, although he’s not wearing a jacket, so it’s probably rather informal for the period, as it is dated 1911). The description of the picture is as follows:

A relaxed looking chap sitting outside a tent at the Lucas Holiday Camp in Norbreck, Blackpool, 1911. The camp was a ‘summer holiday camp for young men’ and the location of the holidays taken by the wholesome-sounding ‘Health and Strength League’. It was described as ‘a camp for young men of good moral character who are willing to observe a few simple rules necessary for good order’. (p. 102) Your guess is as good as mine. 😉

The chapters cover: the beach (the increase in popularity of first, sea water, later swimming, and even later, sunbathing and tanning), entertainment (once you had all these people there, you had to keep them entertained, and although some of those complexes have disappeared, we still have Blackpool!), crowds and solitude (the touristic and less touristic places), travel and accommodation (once the railway made travelling easier, people flocked to the coast, but there had always been ways to get there, and people who saw an opportunity to set up bed and breakfast, and, of course, the wonderful Victorian hotels that grace many seaside towns), piers & promenades (I love piers and it was sad to read about how many have disappeared, but a joy to recover pictures of some of  them and learn more about their architects), and water (with its fascinating images of the Victorian bathing machines, and the fabulous changes in swimwear).

I am not sure what I could highlight, as I adored (adore, and I’m keeping it for life if I can) this book from beginning to end. I love the pictures of the early seaside tourists, dressed to the nines because it was a day out and you were supposed to wear your best clothes. There is a fabulous pic of a lady riding a tricycle from 1886 (I think it’s the oldest picture in the book), I love the pics of young children, especially those wearing knitted swimming suits. There is also a very touching picture of two young girls holding hands and looking towards the beach, blocked by barb wire during World War II. There are some fabulous images of incredible rides (I’m sure Health and Safety would have a fit), some fascinating pics of beauty contests (oh, how much those vintage swimming suits would fetch today), and much to make think those interested in social history.

I’ve been carrying the book with me and pestering everybody I’ve met, showing them some of my favourite pictures. I even talked about it on the radio programme I host (I know, I know, pictures on the radio…) at Penistone FM. Who would I recommend it to? Everybody! For some, it will bring memories, either of things they’ve experienced, or of things they’ve been told, and will help them tell their stories. For others, it will be a compelling slice of social history. If you like the seaside, you must check it out. If you’re interested in social history, you must check it out. If you love pictures and postcards, check it out. If you are intrigued by changes in fashion, transport, entertainment… check it out. If you love donkeys, check it out. Last but not least, if you want me to shut up about it, check it out.

Links:

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Images-of-the-Past-The-British-Seaside-Paperback/p/13447

https://www.amazon.com/British-Seaside-Images-Past/dp/1473862159/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/British-Seaside-Images-Past/dp/1473862159/

Thanks very much to Pen & Sword (and especially to Alex, who always manages to locate me, wherever I go), thanks to the author for this fabulous book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and REVIEW!

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