Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Sex, Deviance, and Drama from the Golden Age of American Cinema by Anne Helen Petersen

Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Sex, Deviance, and Drama from the Golden Age of American Cinema” by Anne Helen Petersen. Plume, 2014. $16.00, 289 pages.

Celebrity gossip seems to be everywhere these days. From CNN to TMZ to the grocery store checkout lanes, you can barely turn around without seeing a headline about someone’s baby bump, marriage woes, or rehab stint. But gossip and speculation about movie stars is nothing new. For as long as Hollywood has been producing “It Girls” and matinee idols, there have been magazines like Photoplay and US Weekly to report on every aspect of their lives from the mundane to the scandalous. The difference is that now anyone with a smart phone and an internet connection can contribute to the ever growing cache of celebrity gossip.

In the early days of Hollywood, a star’s image was more often than not a carefully crafted piece of fiction specifically designed to appeal to the movie going public. The studio system controlled most of the information and could therefore mold the public’s opinion.

But when scandals arose, it was the gossip industry that held the reigns, and it was all about perception. A drug addiction could be spun into a heroic battle to overcome weakness. A shocking extramarital affair is turned into a romance for the ages. A perpetual bachelor with close gentlemen friends is given a wife and a squeaky clean public persona.

In “Scandals of Classic Hollywood,” Anne Helen Petersen takes us through the controversial lives of some of Tinseltown’s most infamous residents. From silent stars to Hollywood legends, Petersen covers them all.

Based on the popular column of the same name on the website “The Hairpin,” “Scandals of Classic Hollywood” is a revealing and entertaining look at the stories that made and broke some of the biggest stars of the twentieth century. For anyone interested in pop culture, movies, or just some good juicy gossip, it is a must read.

Rebekah Scott is a reference librarian at May Memorial Public Library. Visit us on the web at www.alamancelibraries.org.