True Hollywood Noir: Filmland Mysteries and Murders

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A tantalizing mixture of classic Hollywood nostalgia and true crime, True Hollywood Noir: Filmland Mysteries and Murders, featuring 100 rare photographs, is suspenseful, entertaining, and eminently readable. While viewers were captivated by the drama playing out on the silver screen, the lives of the stars of these film noir classics were often far more exciting. The film plots of these stylish black and white masterpieces pale in comparison to what was going on behind the scenes. Uncover the true stories in a dozen different chapters featuring William Desmond Taylor, Thomas Ince, Jean Harlow, Thelma Todd, Joan Bennett, Lana Turner, George Reeves, Gig Young, Bob Crane, Natalie Wood, Robert Blake, and Mickey Cohen. Included in the cast of characters of the Thomas Ince chapter are William Randolph Hearst, Marion Davies, and Charlie Chaplin. And in the Mickey Cohen chapter, find never before told stories about Ben "Bugsy" Siegel, Virginia Hill, and a host of notorious underworld figures.
Film noir encompasses the elements of highly charged sexuality with cynical male characters, femme fatales, and moral ambiguity. Or, as author Charles Pappas described it, "the language of losers...always about the same things: sex, violence, and money." Swirling cigarette smoke; high balls on ice; murky, rain-soaked nights; and ill-fated plots between gangsters and grifters, hard-boiled detectives, and duplicitous gorgeous women with an agenda, gripped film-goers from The Maltese Falcon (1941), Double Indemnity, Laura, and The Woman in the Window (1944), Gilda, and The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) through Orson Welles' Touch of Evil (1958). 
From 1922 until 2001, explore some of the most fascinating scandals, mysteries and murders in Filmland history—true Hollywood noir lived by the players behind the scenes. Each chapter dissects the various theories in each case, but it is up to you to make up your own mind. From the West Coast mob and city corruption intertwining with Hollywood mysteries on and off the screen, to the plots of noir films pulled from actual happenings in the underworld, get the stories behind the stories, the darker images playing out in living color behind the silver screen.
Could the film plots themselves have contributed to the drama and roller-coaster emotions in their private lives? While most of the actors featured here met with untimely tragic deaths or notorious misfortune coloring the remainder of their lives, the talent of these highly creative individuals and the legacy they've left us continues to give them a special kind of immortality. Their work lives on, flickering images on a screen giving us the privilege of knowing these great talents, never to be forgotten.
 
Dina Di Mambro, Author
Dina Di Mambro, Author


Below are reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Publisher's Weekly, and Library Journal:

KIRKUS REVIEWS

Truth is wilder than fiction in this fast-paced journey through 80 years of Hollywood mayhem. 

The lives of many Hollywood celebrities were as dark and twisted as the plots of their noir films; sometimes, they even died in a noir-ish explosion of violence. That mirroring of life in art—or perhaps vice versa—inspires Di Mambro’s book, a journey through celebrity bedlam, from the fatal shooting of director William Desmond Taylor in 1922 to the assassination of actor Robert Blake’s grifter wife Bonnie Lee Bakley in 2001.  

The author asks: “Could it have been the plots [the stars] played out during the day at the studio that contributed to the sense of drama and roller coaster emotions in their private lives?” Di Mambro has some tough acts to follow, since many of the cases she explores have been the subjects of entire books or lurid TV documentaries, including Taylor’s death, Natalie Wood’s drowning and the demise of Hogan’s Heroes star Bob Crane. But in briskly written chapters, she captures much of the scandal and corruption underlying the glamor of Hollywood, a world in which the studios—with the help of the cops, lawyers and prosecutors they controlled—were often able to stifle scandal at the expense of truth. Los Angeles District Attorney Thomas Lee Woolwine “wished to protect the studio at all costs,” Di Mambro says in speculating why actress Mary Lee Minter might not have been charged with Taylor’s murder.  

To the author’s credit, she doesn’t rely solely on secondary sources, getting some of her material from her own interviews. “I could have put an ice pick in her eyeball,” Blake confidant John Solari says of Bakley. “I couldn’t stand her.” Di Mambro also finds cruel irony in the stars’ lives. For instance, after Jean     
Harlow’s husband was found with a bullet in his head, MGM had her play the showgirl wife of a man who committed suicide. And Gig Young, eventually an apparent suicide victim himself, once lamented, “[Y]ou play a loser long enough, and you end up a loser—at least you are convinced you are a loser.”.--Kirkus Reviews 

  

PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY

In Hollywood, murder and mystery are par for the course, and in this fascinating true crime compendium, Di Mambro explores a host of famous scandals—some as old as the movie industry itself. Sex, drugs, and money have always had incendiary consequences in Hollywood, and Di Mambro provides backstories of some of Hollywood's most sordid affairs—the death of Gig Young, the murder of         Bonnie Lee Bakley, and many more—inviting readers to make up their own minds about what really happened. Di Mambro has clearly done her research, and the versions of events she pieces together are entertaining and plausible. While her prose tends to meander at times, readers who are enthusiastic true crime aficionados or Hollywood scandal fans will enjoy this book immensely.   - Publisher's Weekly 

  

LIBRARY JOURNAL

Noir films showing the seamy side of glittering cities such as Los Angeles were a staple of Hollywood in the 1940s through the early 1960s. But Hollywood has always had its own dark underbelly, with crime, corruption, and murder among both the lowest and the highest. Journalist and film historian Di Mambro guides readers through a walk on the wild side with tales of strange deaths among the beautiful people, from the unsolved murder of director William Desmond Taylor in 1922 to the mysterious death of "Superman" George Reeves to the messy tragedy of actor Robert Blake and his grifter wife, Bonnie Bakley. A number of stories have been told before (there are even whole books devoted to some), but the author is delightful company and includes the latest information on several cases, including the deaths of Johnny Stompanato, Bob Crane, and Natalie Wood. She ends with Mickey Cohen, the famous mobster and friend of Hollywood; the chapter feels a bit tacked on, but the thread of Mafia involvement that runs through these accounts is just enough to tie it in. VERDICT An engaging, gossipy stroll through back lots and back alleys that will delight fans of the Hollywood Golden Age as well as true crime buffs.—Deirdre Bray, Middletown P.L., OHLibrary Journal Booksmack! LJXpress Prepub School Library Journal Horn Book Guide Horn Book Magazine Junior Library Guild 

  

RADIO




Dina Di Mambro shares Hollywood Ghost Stories and talks True Hollywood Noir


Dina Di Mambro with Rose Colombo on Rose4Justice - Interview #1

 

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Dina Di Mambro is a film historian and entertainment writer who has worked as a research consultant for A&E Biography and "E!" Entertainment Television. She started writing for Hollywood Studio Magazine and other publications while still in her teens. As a journalist, she has interviewed such luminaries as Glenn Ford, Shirley MacLaine, and Dyan Cannon. As Dina-Marie Kulzer, she authored Television Series Regulars of the Fifties and Sixties in Interview , consisting of twenty-two interviews with classic television stars. It was praised by The TV Collector as "the kind of book that will elate baby-booming TV fans. The author has hand-picked a great bunch of classic television people for conversations about their careers—a handy addition to any nostalgia buff's library." She lives in Southern California. 



   
           

True Hollywood Noir: Filmland Mysteries & Murders - By Dina Di Mambro - 2014 Independent Publisher Book (IPPY) Bronze Medal Award Winner

FOREWORD CLARION

True Hollywood Noir

Filmland Mysteries and Murders

Reviewed by 


Hollywood wouldn’t be Hollywood without deep, dark secrets, and True Hollywood Noir proves there are many more than most people think.


Movie and television buffs are sure to devour Dina Di Mambro’s True Hollywood Noir: Filmland Mysteries and Murders. Di Mambro deeply examines Tinseltown’s most enduring secrets in a way that makes the book almost impossible to put down.

Each of the twelve chapters in True Hollywood Noir is a case study of an incident that has rocked the industry to its core. In some instances, Di Mambro even reopens an event that was long thought closed and offers new insights into what may have happened. Of course, most everyone is familiar with Natalie Wood’s 1981 drowning and the grisly 1959 death of TV Superman George Reeves, but the 1922 murder of William Desmond Taylor that remains unsolved to this day (even with a less-than-reliable deathbed confession) and the murder/suicide (or so it seems) of Gig Young and his wife are less familiar. Most fascinating are the other stars who are woven throughout the pages and have surprising places in the incidents, from Charlie Chaplin to Bewitched star Elizabeth Montgomery to Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra.


With the exception of the final chapter on Mickey Cohen, which drags on, Di Mambro’s chapters are wisely short, to the point, and well outlined. She begins with backgrounds of the major players and then goes into the mysteries themselves and possible explanations and suspects. Some chapters also include interviews with family members, friends, and confidants. Key photos are sprinkled throughout, including some gruesome crime scene pictures of Johnny Stompanato and Thelma Todd, so be warned. It’s fascinating to see old photos of mob crime bosses with their families and attending normal events like weddings.


The back cover synopsis is unfortunately difficult to read, since half of it is much darker than the other half. However, the cover features black-and-white images of figures in the book, leaving no doubt about Di Mambro’s theme of film noir. For those unfamiliar with that term, she also provides a thorough explanation and examples like Double Indemnity in her short introduction. After the last chapter, she includes a bibliography of additional books, periodicals, television shows, films, and websites for more information on the events.


Hollywood wouldn’t be Hollywood without deep, dark secrets, and True Hollywood Noir proves there are many more than most people think. Some mysteries will probably never be solved, but Di Mambro puts all the facts out there and lets film and TV aficionados draw their own conclusions.


Dina Di Mambro, Author

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