You Must Remember This: Life and Style in Hollywood's Golden Age

You Must Remember This: Life and Style in Hollywood's Golden Age - Robert J. Wagner, Scott Eyman

I suppose that when I requested this book, that I assumed it was more or less a memoir of Robert Wagner's life back in "old Hollywood", but that wasn't totally the case. I usually give a synopsis of the book first and then my personal insight, but because the book was mostly a plethora of facts, I find it easier to mix the two throughout my review and set it up by the parts of the book.

I think the foreword kind of set up my mood for the whole book and left me a bit disappointed because, don't get me wrong, I found the book very interesting, especially since I lived several years all over Los Angeles. It's just that when you are set up for one direction then you either think that the rest of the book is going to follow or it will at least come back full circle. The foreword, in my opinion, did neither of these. I guess in hindsight it was written this way to give an example of Hollywood then and now, but it was more disappointing than anything. Let me explain.

So, the book starts out with Robert Wagner as a guest at Liza Minelli and David Gest's wedding that took place in 2002. Since that wedding was twelve years ago, I don't think this would be a good comparison of Hollywood then and now, so that can't be the reason for this example. Then he talks about how Liza and David want everyone to be on time so it isn't the typical "Hollywood" wedding although she invited nearly 900 of her most intimate friends (ha!).

Of course Elizabeth Taylor, one of her matron's of honor, is running late and forgot her shoes and has to send for them, through a parade, literally. Everyone soon becomes frustrated, and Robert walks in on Michael Jackson and Elizabeth hugging as he is so protective of her, but still there is no hurry for the nuptials awaiting their arrival. Yes, this sounds odd that they are in no hurry for the already late wedding so that Michael can hug it out with Elizabeth, but it happened. With this handful of information, now I am thinking that the book is going to be about how old Hollywood was in reference to the stars and their behavior. That would also not be the case.

So, why was this even mentioned at all, especially since the book wasn't about any of this? It couldn't be as a comparison to today's Hollywood as it was twelve years ago. It also didn't come around full circle in the end, so I really don't know. The author did, however, do a small handful of comparing today to the past, with how stars now are so public with their breakdowns and drug habits. I totally agree with what he says here, but I am still a bit confused why the foreword focuses on this wedding. Maybe someone can clear that up for me.

So we go from the Minelli/Gest wedding to Los Angeles when it was nothing but beans. He explains how Hollywood became Hollywood and how actors, Jews, migrants, and dogs weren't welcome in the beginning and amazingly enough it was a dry area in terms of alcohol. I mean this is crazy how people wouldn't sell to actors, the Jewish, migrants(who were probably there first), and who wouldn't love a cute dog?!

Well, we all know that didn't last long. And he explains the reasons. Mentioned are the important people who shaped the city of Los Angeles and even who named Hollywood and where the Beverly of Beverly Hills came from. It was all very interesting, especially how LA used to have trolley's and such. There were also great photos throughout the book to ponder on.

This was basically an extension of the land, but now the monopoly comes into play. It was interesting to see how the Beverly Hotel came about, and how it shut down during the Great Depression. It would be an executive from Bank of America who revived it and gave it a good old Hollywood facelift. The Beverly Hotel was sold again and revamped and I like how he mentioned that anything that has longevity is basically sold and resold because nothing lasts that doesn't evolve throughout the years.

I enjoyed reading about the home of Fairbanks and the leading lady of silent films, Mary Pickford. The name of their estate was Pickfair and many parties were thrown here although alcohol was not encouraged.

These are just two examples, but a great deal of the book is about the houses and hotels. Actually more than half of the book is about the land and houses/hotels. And it was this that led me to believe that the title of "You Must Remember This", is mainly about the development of Hollywood more than the people.

At this point, I am thinking 'finally, the juice'. Let me first explain that I rarely follow any gossip in Hollywood. That wasn't always the case, but it is now, especially after living in Hollywood. I have a difficult time seeing people, whether the press or people using their phones for photos/videos, as vultures preying on someone just because they are celebrities. I don't think that it is just that side of it that disgusts me as much as I just don't like how we build celebrities up and then wait anxiously on the sideline to create/watch their demise once we feel that they have too much of our attention. I find it disturbing and inhumane, really. I have had friends who are celebrities and I can assure you that they do have feelings and probably more sensitive ones than most non-celebrities, as they rely on opinions of other's for their careers. I've heard people say, "They are famous, and they knew they were getting into this...". So then, what gives those people the excuse to rip them to shreds or even idolize them in the first place? We complain about how the Kardashian's are famous, but that's what we attract. Classy actors are not going to be sending out selfies in their skivvies or walking drunk in the streets. But most of this comes into play when he gets to the press. Okay, back to the review...

There isn't much juice here, and by juice I mean, who was married to whom, who was cat-fighting with whom, etc. The stuff the stars create on themselves and not what we do to them. The stuff that makes them seem human to us mere mortals. There was a little of this in the book, but it was random. There is quite a bit on golf, horse racing, and croquet, if you are into that kind of stuff.

What I basically took from this was that the Duke of Windsor was the icon of fashion back in the day until Frank Sinatra comes along with his own personal style.

It was interesting to find out that the press wasn't always those morons jumping out of bushes or flying over a wedding in a helicopter to get a picture. In the beginning, it was staged and much calmer.

It wasn't until around the 50's that two rivaling women created their own gossip-style press that all of the previous methods would basically diminish. And so, although celebrities were not fond of these women, they couldn't really come out and say it, for fear of retaliation. So, they were the Perez Hilton's of their time.

In some ways, I prefer the old Hollywood to today's. I don't find it the least bit interesting whether a celebrity gets into or out of a car without underwear on. Meh.

He goes into more of the creation and demise of particular clubs and focuses basically on the clubs themselves. I didn't really find it particularly interesting, unfortunately.

Here, the author goes into the hollywood shift where television becomes popular and Hollywood isn't strictly about movie stars any longer. But not much more.

Eventually he notes,

"I've spent a lot of time here talking about place, about ambience, but I have to be honest-when I think of those days, I think mostly of people."

Then he gives a list of people. This is where I became frustrated. If that's what he missed the most and what most readers like to hear about (coming from a Hollywood icon), then why didn't he focus on that and use the place and ambience as a backdrop?

Maybe it was the foreword or the lack of what I consider the real "Hollywood" (the people) that threw me off, because I did find most of the information interesting. I guess that it just wasn't what I was expecting. So, all-in-all, I would definitely recommend this book, but would make it clear that the old Hollywood that will be described is based mostly on places, architecture, and entrepreneurs.