It’s amazing how many interviews with classic era stars are finally being given the opportunity to engage with fans. It’s hard not to be jealous upon reading David Fantle and Tom Johnson’s Hollywood Heyday because of how accessible stars once were. Packed with 75 unique interviews with some of the brightest stars in the Hollywood firmament, if you want to read about your faves, unvarnished, you should certainly give a visit to Hollywood Heyday.
Fantle and Johnson start with the basics of how they landed their interviews with the greats. In 1978 they were two teens from Minnesota who loved classic film. Determined to get facetime with their faves they took a simple route: they wrote them. More than anything, it’s fascinating to read Hollywood Heyday and discover how easy it was to gain access to celebrities, especially when now everyone hides their information and find a publicist is a lesson in futility.
The 75 interviews contained within chart the highs and lows of studio-era celebrity and those associated with it. You can read interviews about acting and dance with Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. Comic greats like Milton Berle and George Burns are discussed; the latter includes a beautiful poem written by a friend about Burns’ deceased wife, Gracie. The sheer amount of people these two have had face time with is astounding; other interview subjects include Cyd Charisse, Tippi Hedren, Karl Malden, Ann Miller, and Mickey Rooney. Even smaller stars whose names are familiar – like Artie Shaw, Sammy Cahn, and Jack Carter are given as much reverence and respect as their more well-known counterparts.
It’s not immediately clear what parts were extended for the book and which were originally produced back when Fantle and Johnson were teens. Regardless, they document the fun and exclusivity of being part of a select group visiting these people. They discuss the simplicity of calling up a celebrity and being invited down for tea, often having to remind their subjects of the invitation. They aren’t sycophantic in their praise for certain stars; Lucille Ball, an actress known for being acerbic, is documented as being brusque and nearly stopping the interview in the middle of it. Fantle and Johnson’s interviews are time capsules of a moment when these stars’ luster had dimmed, but was far from diminished.
If you’ve read any number of books interviewing the stars, this is much of the same but the information is just as invaluable. Hollywood Heyday gives you a different way of looking at classic film stars from two authors just like you.
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A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.