Thoughtful, readable survey of 20th-century Hollyw
Margaret Talbot probably started out to write a biography of her movie-star father, Lyle Talbot (1902-1996). Lyle was a pleasant-looking character actor in the Warner Bros. studio in the early days of talkies, playing opposite such classic stars as Barbara Stanwyck, Carole Lombard and Bette Davis, becoming a charter member of the Screen Actors Guild, and performing on 1950s-era TV. Unfortunately, he is chiefly remembered today for his roles in Ed Wood’s incredibly low-budget “horror” films of the 1950s – a body of work mentioned only fleetingly by the author. Fortunately, the author expanded to a panorama shot of Hollywood in her father’s lifetime, and this is the real glory of the book. She describes trends and demographics with just enough attention to detail to make a wonderful, readable narrative. I loved her depiction of the traveling circuses and magicians of the early 20th-century Midwest, where Lyle got his start, and the personal details from movies like “Ladies They Talk About.” I didn’t quite share her sense of the social significance of “Ozzie and Harriet,” but it did occasion a trip down memory lane. All in all, I relished the personal accounts, the movie synopses and the feel of lost Hollywood. It’s a great read for all movie fans.
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