Roman Holiday: The Secret Life of Hollywood in Rome

 

Drawing from the biographies of some of Hollywood’s most glamorous women of the screen, author Caroline Young has done a fascinating thing:  she has woven a history of cinematic Rome at its pinnacle, infusing it with a heavy dose of sultry Mediterranean sun-drenched days and nights steeped in wine, torrid passions, and an ever-present paparazzi.

Following the end of World War II, a new lust for life rose from horror and deprivation, sparking a refreshing cinematic renaissance, centered in Rome. The stars and their entanglements were larger than life and so were the movies. Roman Holiday: The Secret Life of Hollywood in Rome, beautifully depicts this era, covering the fifties, sixties and into the early seventies, as the glamour aged into a seedy bohemian spirit.

 

The fledgling Roman cinema, centered upon Cinecitta, began by tentatively exploring the sense of desperation that typified the war years.  As recovery took hold this shifted to a technicolor joyousness, celebrating the resilience of the human spirit in its many cinematic forms but never leaving behind an inherent romanticism that captured the imagination of a weary world.  Indeed, this seemed to be the balm for its soul, providing not only film treasures but rich soil for fans never-ending taste for the salacious.  Actors, famous and infamous, were fiercely pursued by photographers, the latter typified by their aggressive tactics.  Dubbed paparazzi, these snapshot artists, hungry from years of hardship, were an unrelenting presence as they sought their share of the money that flowed so freely from Hollywood profits prohibited from traveling overseas.  If the money couldn’t come to America, then its stars and their entourages would go to Rome.

The spirit of these heady times is captured in some of the most memorable films of the era: Quo Vadis, Three Coins in the Fountain, The Barefoot Contessa, La Dolce Vita, Cleopatra, and of course Roman Holiday, from which this book takes its title.  Arranged in a loosely chronological fashion, each chapter focuses on a particular leading lady (with Richard Burton being the sole exception), sometimes returning as each actor’s story resumes several years later.  For those who have previously perused the biographies of Audrey, Ava, Elizabeth, Ingrid and more, some of this may be a review but the clever way that Young weaves together ambiance, friends and lovers, and film-making history makes this a fun and snappy read.

 

There are times when it all seems to come together:  the zeitgeist, the talent and the easy money. Roman Holiday captures it all with detailed descriptions of the places, streets, restaurants and movie sets.  If you’ve ever wished that you were there, amidst a steamy Roman adventure when the city was known as “Hollywood on the Tiber”, you’ll find the next best thing in Young’s juicy, richly interwoven accounts of the private and professional affairs of some of Hollywood and Europe’s most luminous stars.

Recommended.

Peck and Hepburn unscripted

Thank you to Trafalgar Square Publishing, the author and NetGalley for providing me with an eReader copy of this book.  Roman Holiday: The Secret Life of Hollywood in Rome by Caroline Young (The History Press 2018) is available in Hardcover and eBook from Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble or your favorite bookseller.

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Turner Classic Movies: Must See Movie Musicals: 50 Show-Stopping Movies We Can’t Forget

42nd Street - Ruby Keeler
Ruby Keeler, 42nd Street (1933)

While you might be tempted to lightly peruse and selectively reference Turner Classic Movies: Must See Musicals: 50 Show-Stopping Movies We Can’t Forget, don’t.  If you don’t read this one cover to cover, you’ll miss out on the lovely pleasure of discovering the evolution of the movie musical and all that the genre has meant to cinema and classic movie fans everywhere.  Mirroring their times and technology, musicals are unique in their ability to transport, uplift and move.  They are so frequently the panacea for their moment.

Must-See Musicals

Starting with The Broadway Melody (1929) and moving on through to La La Land (2016), author Richard Barrios has put forth a love letter, highlighting some of the most iconic musical moments in movies.  Might your favorite film be missed?  Perhaps.  But each selection and their accompanying chapters not only details why that film has its place in history but also gives hints for several others who share its space. You’ll likely find your personal preference somewhere in these pages.

 

 

 

The book opens with a foreword by Michael Feinstein and a heart-stopping full-page shimmering black and white image of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers; it only gets better from there.  A dive into the chapters finds a nice structure.  Each carefully selected musical is given an overview that includes its special place, appeal and most iconic moments as well as a few luscious behind the scenes tidbits.  Barrios’ moves on to ‘What’s More’, generally more fun background and ‘Musically Speaking’, a bit about the songs and numbers themselves.   A movie poster, cast and credits, and four or more photos, some from in-production, completes each section.

 

 

Classic movies can be like comfort food and a musical perhaps more than any other genre really hits that sweet spot.  While many are timeless confections, others move in the realm of resonant relatability. From the soaring strains of Streisand belting a heart-breaking ‘My Man’, the defiant, gritty synchronicity of the Jets in West Side Story, a luminous Judy Garland’s aching rendition of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, and the bright, technicolor joyousness of An American in Paris, musicals stir a place inside rarely touched by other films. It’s no wonder we welcome them into our homes time and time again. And you’ll do the same with this guide.  In handy paperback, it’s a quick way to not only catch up on some easy information but also a neat way to relive a few memorable movie moments.

While I’m a big fan of movie musicals I confess to having given a few a cursory or partial viewing.  Some perhaps seemed dated, others a little too frothy. I found that even for those films I may not prefer or have yet to discover, I have now been given enough background information to appreciate their place in cinema history and what might make a particular picture shine for a particular fan.  Many of these films have continued to move audiences’ hearts and spirits for decades and there’s always a good reason why.  Barrios finds that reason.

 

 

Printed in luscious heavy stock, the book is worth the price of admission for the photos alone; many are full page. I found myself stopping just to appreciate their glamour and artistry.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I loved this book.  I was moved to tears both by the joyful eloquence of its author and by a genre that sometimes gets overlooked in our ‘oh so serious’ times; I’ve added many new films to my ever-growing list of ‘Must See’.

This book is sooo highly recommended. Not only would it make a perfect holiday gift but it’s also just the escape from the madness that we all need right now. Here’s to 2018!!!

La La Land - Gosling and Stone
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, “Planetarium,” La La Land (2016)

Thank you to Running Press/Turner Classic Movies for providing me with an advance review copy of this lovely book.  Turner Classic Movies: Must-See Musicals: 50 Show-Stopping Movies We Can’t Forget (Running Press 2017) is available in sturdy paperback or eBook from SHOPTCM.com and Amazon.com.

West Side Story - Wood and Beymer

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