Friday, March 25, 2011

Hollywood's Golden Age

With Elizabeth Taylor's passing, many are also mourning the end of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Spanning roughly from the end of the silent era to the 1950's and 1960's with the end of the studio system and the advent of television. This era is immortalized in the work of Elizabeth Taylor, and her co-stars Richard Burton, Roddy McDowall, Mickey Rooney, and Janet Leigh. Actors, directors and thousands of staff were under contract to the studios. Having such great control allowed the studios to take a chance on smaller budget films with lesser known actors, while at the same time filling theaters with blockbusters from the likes of Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn.

Elizabeth Taylor will be remembered not only for her beauty and her tempestuous love life, but also for brilliant performances in movies like
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Robert Osborne, host of Turner Classic Movies presents portraits of Taylor's contemporaries in Leading Ladies: the 50 most unforgettable actresses of the studio era "Sexy, stylish, and powerful -- from Lillian Gish to Katharine Hepburn, Myrna Loy to Lauren Bacall, Jean Harlow to Grace Kelly, each of the legendary actresses featured in this book left an indelible mark in film history and define roles for women on and off the screen. Produced by Turner Classic Movies, this playful and definitive guide to fifty unforgettable actresses mirrors the focus of a month-long film festival on the channel. The life and accomplishments of each actress is celebrated in an insightful career overview, accompanied by an annotated list of essential films, filmographies, behind the scenes facts and style notes, Academy Award wins and nominations. Full of delightful trivia, film stills, posters, and glamorous photos, Leading Ladies pays tribute to the most charismatic, enduring, and elegant actresses of the silver screen." - publisher

Elizabeth Taylor's personal life was as dramatic as any role she played and she lived her life in the public eye. In 2010 Sam Kashner brought "Liz 'n Dick" back to our attention once more with Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and the marriage of the century. Booklist writes "It's a mesmerizing tale, but it's also sad, and sometimes ugly, as the two stars engaged in vicious fights, nursed their jealousies and insecurities, and descended into alcoholism while outwardly living a life of glamour and sophistication." Burton and Taylor were the "It" couple of their generation. They lived large and unapologetically and the world watched with awe.

It's hard for me to think of this era in Hollywood's history without mentioning my favorite, Katharine Hepburn. Notoriously private, athletic and hearty, she seemed the opposite of Elizabeth Taylor in many ways despite their shared longevity as leading ladies. I Know Where I'm Going: Katharine Hepburn a personal biography by Charlotte Chandler is based on interviews conducted with Hepburn in the 1970's and 1980's.Hepburn was surprisingly candid with revealing stories about her childhood, her love affairs and her contemporaries.

Once Upon a Time in Paradise: Canadians in the golden age of Hollywood by Charles Foster tells the stories of the many Canadian actors who made it to the silver screen. "When sound arrived in Hollywood in the late 1920s, Canadians were already holding some of the most important roles in the motion picture industry. Louis B. Mayer, from New Brunswick, was boss at MGM; Jack Warner, from Ontario, was head of Warner Bros. Studio; and Mack Sennett, from Quebec, was still King of Comedy. Canadians like Mary Pickford, Marie Dressler, and Norma Shearer moved easily from silents to talkies - this illustrious trio won the first three Academy Awards for Best Actress. Canadians arriving in sunny California in the 1930s and 1940s were principally actors, including Yvonne de Carlo, Walter Pidgeon, Ruby Keeler, and many others. You will be amazed at the Canadian influence on Hollywood's Golden Age." - publisher

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