If you are at all curious about the lives of the rich, the famous, the stars, and the denizens of Hollywood past and present, Jan and I suggest you take a walk down the lane to the Chateau Marmount, courtesy of the book The Castle on Sunset.
We’ve all heard of Sunset Strip. But how much do you know about the Chateau Marmont, the iconic hotel overlooking the strip? I knew very little but the subtitle of Love, Art, and Scandal piqued my interest and I was not disappointed.
The book details how the Chateau was built in 1929 to replicate the Chateau d’Amboise, a royal retreat in France’s Loire Valley.
The hotel somehow survived through the Depression and the ups and downs of the economy, and because of the unparalleled
privacy provided to its guests, it became the home and playground of the most famous Hollywood personalities. The history these walls contain boggles the mind.
From the 1930’s to the present, the list of celebrities and the scandalous stories that took place at Chateau Marmont are titillating and addictively readable. From the glamorous Golden Days of Hollywood (my favorite!) to the present, the book is filled with juicy details of the stars of film, music, and other artists. There are far too many personalities to list here, but even a partial list reads as a Who’s Who: Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Judy Garland, Coco Chanel, Marilyn Monroe, Anthony Perkins, James Dean, Paul Newman, Robert DeNiro, and rock stars, Jim Morrison, Led Zeppelin, and many, many more. The short, sad life of Jean Harlow, the night leading up to John Belushi’s death, and the fateful decision of Sharon Tate, who was 8 months pregnant, to move out and rent a home, are among the many stories I won’t soon forget.
I am as far from a fan of celebrity gossip as you can get but I could not put this book down and finished it in two days with my phone and laptop by my side to google the pictures and the stories. Kudos to the author for compiling an incredible amount of research into such a fascinating narrative.
* this was a buddy read with Marialyce, one we both enjoyed and highly recommend
*many thanks to Doubleday and Edelweiss for a copy of the book for review
Hollywood….can we ever really get enough of the lives of the stars and the ways in which they came to stardom, fame, and fortune? We find them alluring, their stories, their climb up the ladder of success, fraught with some failures, along the way, with some losing the battle to win what others seems to always aspire to.
This was a fascinating book, that kept me riveted to its content. The names of the past stars were there along with their stories, sometimes tragic in their telling, oftentimes scandalous, as they all embarked on a career that would make them famous. The stars of today also make their way to the Chateau and so many of the names we come to know have made their stay at the Chateau memorable and often scandalous. (think Lindsay Lohan, John Belushi)
and yet the Chateau really is the star of the story for it houses many of the secrets, many of the goings on, many of the intimate details of the eras of Hollywood. Imagine the stories these walls could tell. The stories of hidden assignations, of drugs, of alcohol, of sex, of homosexuality, of the stars being what they were and not an image of what Hollywood wanted them to be.
It was the dream of the Fred Horowitz, a prominent Los Angeles attorney, to construct the chateau. On February 1, 1929, Chateau Marmont opened its doors to the public as the newest residence of Hollywood. Through the vision of Mr Horowitz, the chateau became something special, a hideaway from the rigors of stardom, a place where anything goes was a motto, and where discretion was the key. Down through it existence and it owners, the chateau saw times of depression and though it suffered the ravages of neglect for a time, today it stands as a Historical-Cultural Landmark.
I so enjoyed this story and do recommend it to those who love a story about a building, its creators, and it impact of the lives of others. Take a walk through the chateau and you will not be disappointed. Now if only walls could talk!
Thank you to Shawn Levy, Doubleday Books, and Edelweiss for a copy of this alluring story.
and here is the author and the Chateau
Shawn Levy is the author of nine books of biography and pop culture history. The former film critic of The Oregonian and KGW-TV and a former editor of American Film, he has been published in Sight and Sound, Film Comment, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Black Rock Beacon, among many other outlets. He jumps and claps and sings for victory in Portland, Oregon, where he serves on the board of directors of Operation Pitch Invasion.