|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 film era to stars of the 1960s including stories about 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." Many of Anger's claims have been called into question and debated since the book's initial publication. The book also 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.
The book has been responsible for several urban legends, mostly about the silent film stars it covered. The book is responsible for the rumor, debunked countless times, that Clara Bow had slept with the entire USC football team. Bow's sons considered suing Anger at the time of the second release. The book is also responsible for spreading the false story about the suicide of the Mexican actress Lupe Vélez. There is mentioned that Vélez died with her head in the toilet, drowned in her own vomit, with no real evidence that any check.
Hollywood Babylon has also been 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 Novarro and Valentino were anything more than acquaintances. In a 1962 interview, Novarro stated that he met Valentino "only once". Anger also wrote that Novarro had died with an Art Deco dildo, an alleged gift from Valentino, shoved down his throat. No such gift existed, and no such object was 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)
- Stenn, David (1988). Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild. Doubleday. p. 107. ISBN 978-0-385-24125-0.
- Tinkcom, Matthew (2002). Working Like a Homosexual: Camp, Capital, Cinema. Duke University Press. p. 211. ISBN 978-0-8223-2889-6.
- Kostelanetz, Richard; Brittain, H. R. (2001). A Dictionary of the Avant-gardes. Routledge. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-415-93764-1.
- Bhattacharya, Sanjiv (2004-08-22). "Look back at Anger". The Observer. Retrieved 2008-01-08.
- Sagor Maas, Frederica (1999). The Shocking Miss Pilgrim. The University Press of Kentucky. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-8131-2122-2.
- Balogh, Laura (2009). Karl Dane: A biography and filmography. McFarland. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-7864-4207-2.
- "Jayne Mansfield". Snopes.com. Retrieved 2012-06-11.
- Stenn, David (1988). Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild. Doubleday. p. 282. ISBN 978-0-385-24125-0.
- Biopic belies the myth of the death of Lupe Velez
- 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.
- Soares, André (2002). Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramon Novarro. Macmillan. p. 295. ISBN 978-0-312-28231-8.
- 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.