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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

[1] [Apr 2007]

Hollywood Babylon is a book by Kenneth Anger, an ex-child actor, avant-garde filmmaker, occultist, and author, which details the sordid scandals of many famous and infamous Hollywood denizens from the 1900s to the 1950s. It was originally published in 1959 by J.J. Pauvert (Paris, France) as Hollywood Babylone. Anger wrote a sequel, Hollywood Babylon II, in 1984 and has frequently mentioned that Hollywood Babylon III may be on its way.

Image:Hollywood bab02.jpg
Lightly censored Hollywood Babylon book cover

Many of Anger's claims have been called into question and debated since the book's initial publication. However, Hollywood Babylon's place in the history of Tinseltown cannot be denied, nor can Anger's influence on filmmakers such as John Waters, Vincent Gallo and Paul Morrissey (the director of Andy Warhol's later movies). Despite the book's popularity — it has been a perennial best seller since it was first published — Anger has been criticised for his lurid exposition, wild allegations, spurious anecdotes, rumor, innuendo, and minor plagiarism.

Some readers are offended by Anger's choice graphic and shocking images, particularly the photographs depicting the body of Carole Landis after her suicide, Bugsy Siegel's bullet-ridden corpse, Lupe Vélez in her coffin, Thelma Todd's body after her mysterious death and the scene of the traffic accident which killed Jayne Mansfield.

What was apparently the first U.S. edition of Hollywood Babylon was published in 1965 by Associated Professional Services of Phoenix, Ariz. The volume was a 95-cent paperback that bears little resemblance to the more familiar later editions. Instead of being divided into chapters, the text runs continuously. Many of the photographs in later editions, such as the disarrayed suite in the St. Francis Hotel in the Virginia Rappe/Fatty Arbuckle chapter, do not appear in the 1965 edition.

The 1965 edition opens:

Hollywood was not yet a dirty word in 1916. It was just a junction of dirt roads, a solitary "Mission-style" hotel, some claptrap bungalows scattered in the orange groves, and the startling apparation of a Babylon orgy in full swing in the sunshine, smack on Sunset Boulevard.

The current edition opens:

WHITE ELEPHANTS — the God of Hollywood wanted white elephants, and white elephants he got — eight of 'em, plaster mammoths perched on mega-mushroom pedestals, lording it over the colossal court of Belshazzar, the pasteboard Babylon built beside the dusty tin-lizzie trail called Sunset Boulevard.

Subjects in the first volume (current edition) include:

Hollywood Babylon II includes:

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