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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book Review - Hollywood Stories

If you've ever journeyed to Hollywood and enjoyed the guilty pleasure of a guided tour, you may have encountered Stephen Schochet. He's been a tour leader for over a decade and also shares 60-second Tinseltown anecdotes on a syndicated radio feature called Hollywood Stories.

The book I'm reviewing today is his work of the same title—a collection of nearly 300 pages of stories much like the ones you'll hear on his tours.

Schochet divides the text into categories such as "Oscar Tales," "Singers and Dancers," and "Moguls and Directors," then offers a brief title before each blurb so you can anticipate what you're getting into. The format works well for the content, but I did find myself wishing certain sections weren't so redundant (he has not one, but two paragraphs referring to Julia Roberts spontaneous laughter during the filming of Pretty Woman).

I also got stuck on minor factual errors. For example, in reference to the filming of Titanic, the author names Kate Winslet as the "twenty-three-year-old" leading lady when really she hadn't even reached that age by the time the film was released. As the actors were promoting the movie, Kate told a story on a talk show about how she turned 21 on the set and her best friend co-star Leo DiCaprio was famously too exhausted and cold to care. While her age being accurate may not make any difference to the enjoyment of the story Stephen tells here, it did make me doubt the validity of other facts throughout the book.

On the topic of age, Schochet also begins many of his paragraphs by stating his subjects' ages. After a while, this becomes a redundant and tired pattern. The stories themselves are typically lively enough to draw the reader in, so it would've been more effective to break up the formula.

The good thing about the book is that it's not completely constructed of stories we've already heard. For example, I knew Steven Spielberg didn't initially like the score for Jaws, but I didn't know that Kirk Douglas desperately wanted to play Jack Nicholson's part in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I was also unaware that Margaret Mitchell's first choice for the role of Rhett Butler in the film version of her book Gone With the Wind, was Groucho Marx.

Each story here is like an appetizer: many leave you longing for a larger meal; others satisfy a short-term craving.

Hollywood Stories by Stephen Schochet is published by Hollywood Stories Publishing. To purchase online visit www.hollywoodstories.com.

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