By now, our perception of Hollywood’s “golden” age, when stars were born in the studio era of the 1920s through the ‘50s, has been thoroughly tarnished by the awakenings of the #MeToo era. The sordid, sexually abusive history of powerful men, their casting couches and exploitation of female talent, is being writ large – if all too belatedly.
None of it is described more compellingly than in Karin Longworth’s new book, “Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood” (Custom House, 560 pp., ★★★★ out of four).
This is a first-rate work of cultural curation, in which Longworth combs the countless stacks of Hollywood memoirs and biographies, with a focus on the pathological predations of Howard Hughes, Texas millionaire, star maker and film producer.
Film critic and creator of the popular Hollywood-themed podcast “You Must Remember This,” Longworth delivers much more than a warmed-over recounting of the eccentric Hughes saga and the famous women who helped define it.
Written with forceful style and a passionate regard for the forgotten hopefuls who came to California seeking success in a thoroughly sexist era, the book casts a feminist eye on the dark decadence of early Hollywood – from silent-era orgies at the Ambassador Hotel to the impunity with which the founding studio heads manipulated starlets.
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