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West of Eden could have been an encyclopedia; instead it takes a more nuanced view. In , he bought Universal Studios.

How L.A. became itself: Jean Stein's new oral history 'West of Eden' - Los Angeles Times

Jean Stein grew up in a house that had recently been vacated by Katharine Hepburn. The young Elizabeth Taylor used to come around for ice cream; Judy Garland sang Over the Rainbow at her coming out party. The book is broadly structured around great Hollywood families: the Dohenys, the Warners, the extended Selznicks, the Steins. This makes each act a kind of family saga, but within this loose arrangement we move from the founding of Hollywood on money from oil to the birth of sound, to the blacklist, to nefarious psychiatrists, passing through all forms of corruption as well as glittering visits from dignitaries.

On the other, she leaves readers to draw their own conclusions about what it all means.

West of Eden

N evertheless, for the gleaner of gossip there are some magnificent tales. We urge you to turn off your ad blocker for The Telegraph website so that you can continue to access our quality content in the future. Visit our adblocking instructions page.

Maps to the Stars: my film about the dark side of Hollywood

Telegraph Culture Books What to Read. They operated in shifts that would entail taking her out dancing, or bowling.

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This was difficult in view of her tendency to fling ice cream across restaurants and her reluctance to wash or wear underpants. She spoke in tongues: it was a jumble of irrational connections of words and images, but after a while you understood. Again, what this bizarre material needs is the transforming touch of a real writer. You can only imagine what James Salter or Richard Yates might have done with the setup — and how they would have humanised these appallingly mismatched relationships.

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Tragedy lurks around the manicured lawns and marbled halls. Controlling fathers, scheming mothers and fragile children become the recurring characters in a five-part drama.

Vintage Vlog: West of Eden

The story of the actor Jennifer Jones and her three marriages is a Hollywood nightmare of dysfunction and death. Her second, David O Selznick , made her a star and reduced her to a sack of nerves she saw a shrink, and a hairdresser, every day. Their depressive daughter, Mary Jennifer, threw herself off a tall building, aged Violent animosity thrives in the hothouse atmosphere of privilege, and family becomes a condition to escape, or destroy.

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All I wanted to do was murder her and I never got around to it. In the final chapter, Stein turns the spotlight on her own family. Is this remark meant to be sly, or ironic, or matter of fact?

But there is astonishing stuff here, of the kind that could make up an entire celebrity-connection quiz. Did you know, for instance, that John Huston gave the job of clapper-boy on Beat the Devil to a young Stephen Sondheim? West of Eden is a book that keeps offering. It caters to our junk appetite for gossip about the rich and shameless, and leaves us curiously empty.

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Maybe that is its point. But it could have been so much more.