Fade to Black: Graveside Memories of Hollywood Greats, 1927-1950

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Fade to black is indeed an illuminating collection of short memoirs about the academy awardees of cinema during the golden age of film from 1927 to 1950. Starting at the end of the silent films, this period continued to the dissolution of the studio system with the passing of the imperious movie moguls. Hollywood was the celebrity center of the entertainment world and while many films were produced, some still remain as classics that set the tenor for the movie industry. With the academy awards serving as the focus, Michael Thomas traces the careers of the academy awardees for almost a quarter century and follows them to their burial sites. While this may sound ghoulish, this quest is done in the effort to pay homage to these megastars, whose memories remain imprinted on the film world.

This is a book that will appeal to movie buffs and all those viewers of ancient film classics who are too young to have seen these stars in their heyday, as well as those of us who recall these personalities with reverence. The classic Norma Shearer beat out Gloria Swanson for best actress in the 1920’s. In the following decade, so many remembered names like Lionel Barrymore, Marie Dressler, Frederic March, Helen Hayes, Charles Laughton were awarded best thespian honors for their gender. Among directors, Frank Capra, John Ford, and John Huston. along with others, stand out. And who can forget the poignant Judy Garland as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and if you follow her genealogy tree, she shares a branch with Ulysses S. Grant. Continue on with the familiar names of the indomitable Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Greer Garson, Jennifer Jones, Laurence Olivier, Ronald Colman, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Vivien Leigh. More recently, but still in the past, the iconic Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman, who shocked the country with her independent life style and survived the furor her affairs aroused. Read the book to recapture the magic that these, and so many more, brilliant players bequeathed to the public.

The author draws a compassionate composite outlining the careers and influences of the Academy awardees. Like the rest of us, the stars experienced the joys and tragedies so characteristic of life. We see them at their most radiant, but they too underwent the vicissitudes of time and fortune. Reportedly, their deaths are recorded as due to cardiac attack, strokes, cancer, accidents, suicide, and natural aging processes. Remarkably, now nonagenarians, the famous feuding sisters Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland are living quietly in separate locations.

Reflecting the black and white of this film era, the text is fittingly grey toned with wonderful reproductions of the stars in their glory and finally accompanied by photos of the gravesites. Each of the luminaries is succinctly described, from birth to film career tidbits and family life. There are tasty morsels of gossip peeking at the peccadillos of some of the stars, which makes them all the more appetizing.

This charming recollection of movie greats captures the history of the cinema along with the mixed personalities that endowed it with greatness. It is fitting that we smile in tribute to their memories by reviewing their contributions. This is our inheritance and one that the reader will enjoy.


Reviewed By:

Author Michael Thomas Barry
Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 160 pages
Publisher Schiffer Publishing
Publish Date 10-Feb-2011
ISBN 9780764337093
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue November 2011
Category History
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