Some notable and noteworthy new Hollywood-oriented books are making their debuts just in time for the holidays.
The heaviest and most hernia-inducing is “Oscar Night: 75 Years of Hollywood Parties” from Knopf -- subtitled (for extra clout), “From the Editors of Vanity Fair” and weighing almost as much as a Mercedes-Benz.
It’s the Vanity Fair flair that makes this mammoth, classy tome unique, its authorship credited to Graydon Carter and David Friend and its 384 pages filled with full-page and, often, double-page candids of famous faces on Oscar nights from the first giveaway in 1929 to the most recent one in February. There’s also a spunky afterword supplied by the most essential ingredient of every V.F. issue, Dominick Dunne.
The book’s short on copy (Oscar details are for other books); this is primarily a dizzying visual look at various A.A. parties through the years, covering those given by the Academy until the likes of Swifty Lazar and, later, Vanity Fair itself began tossing its own private parties and grabbing a slice of the post-Oscar spotlight.
The images here are at once eye-popping (Elizabeth Taylor wearing a 69.42 carat diamond as she enters the 1969 Oscar party with husband Richard Burton), intriguing (nearly everybody in the early years is smoking a cigarette), elegantly dressed and attractive (from Vivien Leigh placing her Oscar on a mantle in 1940 to Cary Grant coupled with Kim Novak in 1959 to Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon this year).
It’s also revealing: By the mid-1970s, the glamorous icons of Hollywood, with few exceptions, seem to have been replaced by a great many ordinary people.
Photos tell the storyAnother book worth checking out is “The Bad & the Beautiful” (Abrams), a gorgeous compilation of 160 photographs by Ellen Graham covering a wide range of faces, including Lena Horne, Joe Louis, Jack Nicholson, Marlene Dietrich, Carmen Dell’Orefice, Al Hirschfeld, Sophia Loren, Gloria Swanson, Bernadette Peters and Kevin Kline and Monaco’s Prince Albert, as well as various socialites and street subjects.
One particular jewel: sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine joyously embracing and laughing with their mother, Lilian, in Beverly Hills in 1972; it’s now part of Hollywood’s folklore that the siblings are no longer friendly.
Most of Graham’s photographs have never been published before; each has a strong point of view and reflects most of its subjects in unguarded, revealing moments. The main temptation with this book will be to razor out various images and frame them.
For those with a fascination on how Hollywood lives -- and once lived -- in more private moments, check out “Hollywood Life: The Glamorous Homes of Vintage Hollywood” (Greybull), featuring photographs by the late Eliot Elisofon. It contains extraordinary glimpses, in gorgeous color, of such showplace homes as those of George Cukor, Bill and Edie Goetz, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Rock Hudson, Kirk and Anne Douglas, Edith Head, Natalie Wood, Cecil B. DeMille, Charlton and Lydia Heston, Gypsy Rose Lee, Jennifer Jones and David O. Selznick, Bobby Darin and numerous others. It’s a feast for the eyes and the imagination; there’s also a formidable introduction by Gavin Lambert.