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Tales from the Hollywood Raj by Sheridan…

Tales from the Hollywood Raj

by Sheridan Morley

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When I picked up The Brits in Hollywood: Tales from the Hollywood Raj, I thought it would be a fun, gossipy, trashy read (which I occasionally enjoy), but it turns out the Sheridan Morley (son of actor Robert Morley, grandson of actress Gladys Cooper) had a more serious endeavor in mind. The book details the period in Hollywood starting almost from the beginning of the movie-making industry there up to the Second World War, during which a number of British stage actors moved to Hollywood and began making movies. They were a tight-knit and insular group, and they spent a lot of time making sure to keep their "Britishness," meaning tea and cricket, in the midst of all the crass Americans surrounding them. The "King" of the group was not, as you might think, Charlie Chaplin or Laurence Olivier, but rather the suave and sophisticated, but very private, Ronald Colman (one of my favourite actors from the period, his turn as an actor portraying Othello on stage and slowly going mad in "A Double Life" is one of my favourite film performances). For approximately 3/4 of its length, Morley's book concentrates specifically on the pre-WWII period, and then tags on a couple of codas: one for the period from approximately 1950 to 1980 (the book was originally published in 1983) and another bringing in British actors in the modern era, more or less through the LotR film trilogy. Very appropriately, he doesn't overlook the writers of the era, in particular playwrights who tried their hand at writing a Hollywood movie, including luminaries such as Oscar Wilde, Noel Coward and E.M. Forster, which I appreciated very much. Altogether a very interesting read; not a whole lot of gossipy scandal (though there is a bit), but instead a look at the history of Hollywood, particularly in its early years, through a not very well-known lens, that of the British transplant. Recommended. ( )
  thefirstalicat | Sep 14, 2012 |
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