Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hollywood Babylon II (1984), Kenneth Anger.

Deeply enjoyed thinking about Hollywood Babylon II.  Lavishly illustrated with very revealing photos, it brazenly trumpets, like it's sitting there on the tabloid rack daring you to pick up a copy.  If you're willing to, you'll get more than Star Jones' butt cellulite -- Hollywood Babylon II includes graphic photos of the bisected corpse of the Black Dahlia scattered on the grass of an empty lot, as well as explicit pics of Joan Crawford.  I love you, Kenneth Anger, for throwing it back at me.  

I'm new to Anger, but fascinated.  Known for his own body of "underground" art films, Anger personifies the personal connections we make with movie stars.   "I firmly intended to approach my idols as their equal," he says, in a documentary based on the Hollywood Babylon book series. "After all, I too had once acted in a Hollywood movie.  I was on the fringe of the movie industry and I appeared as a child in A Midsummer Night's Dream.  I can still smell the soundstage because it was lit by very hot lights and everything reeked of shellac, because everything was sprayed by Hal Mohr so all the trees would glisten.  And it's a rather intoxicating smell and it was a rather wonderful thing for a four year old kid to work in because for a four year old, it was gigantic."  For the record, there's people out there that simply don't believe that was him in A Midsummer Night's Dream.  I don't think I buy everything in Hollywood Babylon II, despite all the photographs, yet I believe in classic movies: they produce a fabulous past in the same way I am promised a fabulous afterlife by religion. "My grandmother had given me her habit of using that genteel euphemism ["passed on"], and I didn't know any better," Anger writes.  "For a long time, like Grandmother, I didn't believe in death.  It was just a transition, a special-effect lap dissolve, and I really believed that when it would be my turn later on, I'd finally get to meet Mabel Normand, Barbara LaMarr and Rodolfo Valentino."  

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