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Gossip meets history—a compulsively readable collection of Hollywood’s most notorious clashes and controversies in the spirit of Hollywood Babylon

America’s fascination with celebrity culture was thriving well before the days of TMZ, Perez Hilton, Charlie Sheen’s breakdown and allegations against Woody Allen. And the stars of yesteryear? They weren’t always the saints that we make them out to be. BuzzFeed columnist Anne Helen Petersen is here to set the record straight with Scandals of Classic Hollywood. Pulling little-known gems from the archives of film history, Petersen reveals eyebrow-raising information, including:

  • The smear campaign against the original It Girl, Clara Bow, started by her best friend
  • The heartbreaking story of Montgomery Clift’s rapid rise to fame, the car accident that destroyed his face, and the “long suicide” that followed
  • Fatty Arbuckle’s descent from Hollywood royalty, fueled by allegations of a boozy orgy turned violent assault
  • Why Mae West was arrested and jailed for “indecency charges”
  • And much more

Part biography, part cultural history, these stories cover the stuff that films are made of: love, sex, drugs, illegitimate children, illicit affairs, and botched cover-ups. But it’s not all just tawdry gossip in the pages of this book. The stories are all contextualized within the boundaries of film, cultural, political, and gender history, making for a read that will inform as it entertains. Based on Petersen’s popular column on the Hairpin, but featuring entirely new content, Scandals of Classic Hollywood is sensationalism made smart.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Petersen’s prose is engaging and illuminating, and Romy Nordlinger’s assertive narration is perfect.”

    Library Journal (starred audio review)

  • “Not merely a rehash of salacious old Hollywood gossip, Petersen revivifies flattened images of Hollywood icons, including Fatty Arbuckle, Mae West, Humphrey Bogart and Marlon Brando, among othersl…Wide ranging and surprisingly thoughtful.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “Most material is now familiar, but the writing is brisk and lively. Recommended for fans of old-time movie lore.”

    Library Journal

  • “This audiobook tells stories of actors whose lives were affected, sometimes destroyed, by Hollywood. Narrator Romy Nordlinger performs the work in a breathy voice like that of a radio gossip columnist, which is highly effective, considering the subject matter. Some of the stories are familiar; others are new and shocking, conjuring sympathy for actors such as Judy Garland, Dorothy Dandridge, and Jean Harlow for the horrific price they paid for fame. The offstage lives of Montgomery Clift, Humphrey Bogart, Douglas Fairbanks, and others were as interesting as the characters they played.”


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About the Author

Anne Helen Petersen is a professor of film and media studies at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, where she lives. She also writes for the women’s website the Hairpin.