|Publisher||Straight Arrow Press/Simon & Schuster|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
|Followed by||Hollywood Babylon 2|
Hollywood Babylon is a book by avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger which details the sordid scandals of many famous and infamous Hollywood denizens from the 1900s to the 1950s. First published in the US in 1965, it was banned ten days later and would not be republished until 1975. Upon its second release, The New York Times said of it, "If a book such as this can be said to have charm, it lies in the fact that here is a book without one single redeeming merit."
Originally published in French in 1959 by J.J. Pauvert (Paris, France) as Hollywood Babylone, the first U.S. edition of Hollywood Babylon was published in 1965 by Associated Professional Services of Phoenix, Arizona. A second U.S. edition was published by Rolling Stone's Straight Arrow Press and distributed by Simon and Schuster, released in 1975 after a series of copyright conflicts.
The book details the stories of Hollywood stars from the silent era to stars of the 1960s including Charles Chaplin, Lupe Vélez, Rudolph Valentino, Olive Thomas, Thelma Todd, Frances Farmer, Juanita Hansen, Mae Murray, Alma Rubens, Barbara La Marr, and Marilyn Monroe. Hollywood Babylon also featured chapters on the Fatty Arbuckle–Virginia Rappe scandal, the murder of William Desmond Taylor, the Hollywood Blacklist, the murder of Sharon Tate, and the Confidential magazine lawsuits.
Film historian Kevin Brownlow has repeatedly criticized the book citing Anger as saying his research method was "mental telepathy, mostly." The book featured graphic images such as the scene of the traffic accident which killed Jayne Mansfield, and a shot of Lewis Stone lying dead in his driveway right after he had his fatal heart attack. It also published excerpts from Mary Astor's diary graphically detailing her affair with playwright George S. Kaufman.
Although many of Anger's claims have been denounced as untrue since the book's initial publication, it is responsible for many oft-quoted urban legends. For example it claimed that Clara Bow slept with the entire USC football team – including a young John Wayne – a falsehood which has been debunked several times. Bow's sons considered suing Anger at the time of the book's second release.
The book also said that Lupe Vélez was found drowned in her own vomit with her head down a toilet after she committed suicide by swallowing more than 500 sleeping tablets. There was no basis to the story; in 2013 the first publication of a death photo showed Vélez had been found on her bedroom floor.
Hollywood Babylon is also the source of the rumor about a sexual relationship between Ramon Novarro and Rudolph Valentino. Although Novarro was gay, there has never been any proof that he and Valentino were anything more than acquaintances. In a 1962 interview, Novarro stated that he met Valentino "only once". Anger also claimed Novarro had died with an Art Deco dildo – a gift from Valentino – shoved down his throat. No such gift existed and nor was such an object found at the crime scene.
Hollywood Babylon II was published in 1984. It was greatly expanded in format but was not as well received as the first book. It covered stars from the 1920s to the 1970s. Though slightly more accurate, the book still suffers from the same troubles as the first.
Anger stated for years he intended to write a Hollywood Babylon III, and in a 2010 interview he told that it had been finished but was placed on hold, explaining, "The main reason I didn't bring it out was that I had a whole section on Tom Cruise and the Scientologists. I'm not a friend of the Scientologists." In 2008 a third book, titled Hollywood Babylon: It's Back!, was written by Darwin Porter and Danforth Prince and had no participation or association with Anger. Anger was reportedly so upset he placed a curse on the authors (Anger is a self-proclaimed magician of the school of Thelema).
- Hollywood Babylon, Kenneth Anger. San Francisco: Straight Arrow Press (distributed by Simon & Schuster), 1975, ISBN 978-0-87932-086-7, LOC Cat #74-18226 (copyright page)
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- Bhattacharya, Sanjiv (2004-08-22). "Look back at Anger". The Observer. Retrieved 2008-01-08.
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- Biopic belies the myth of the death of Lupe Velez
- ""Mexican Spitfire" Mystery Solved After 7 Decades!". Huffington Post. 2013-05-24. Retrieved June 2, 2014.
- Ellenberger, Allan R. (1999). Ramon Novarro: A Biography of the Silent Film Idol, 1899–1968. McFarland. pp. 14–15, 187. ISBN 978-0-7864-0099-7.
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- Gross, John (1984-11-03). "Book of the Times; Babylon Revisited". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-14.
- Hattenstone, Simon (March 10, 2010). "Kenneth Anger: 'No, I am not a Satanist'". The Guardian. Retrieved December 27, 2011.
- "Kenneth Anger Angered By New Version of Hollywood Babylon". cinemaretro.com. 2008-06-09. Retrieved 2009-04-14.