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Hollywood Babylon

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  2,411 ratings  ·  232 reviews
Originally published in Paris, this is a collection of Hollywood's darkest and best kept secrets from the pen of Kenneth Anger, a former child movie actor who grew up to become one of America's leading underground film-makers.
Hardcover, 292 pages
Published July 22nd 1987 by Random House Value Publishing (first published 1959)
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1984 by George OrwellThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerAnimal Farm by George OrwellBrave New World by Aldous HuxleyFahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Cult Classics
100th out of 558 books — 676 voters
The Parade's Gone By... by Kevin BrownlowLulu in Hollywood by Louise BrooksHollywood by Kevin BrownlowBuster Keaton Remembered by Eleanor KeatonMy Autobiography by Charles Chaplin
Books about Silent Movies
18th out of 139 books — 52 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mariel
Jul 28, 2011 Mariel rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: sugar daddies
Recommended to Mariel by: hot mamas
Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon is a boiling cesspool of lies! Practically none of this shit happened. The ratio of truth to lies is like 10 to 1. I have it on the highest authority those girls looked thirty under the bad set lighting. My great-great-great aunt was there for that underage (by trickery! It was set up!) sleepover-cum-orgy and Lillian Gish had no idea that Dorothy Gish was the other girl in the bed with Griffiths. This Kenneth Angers person is blowing it all out of proportion jus ...more
Andy
May 14, 2008 Andy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: sleaze buffs
Shelves: hollywoodbabylon
Many years ago I lived in the courtyard apartments Charlie Chaplin built for his crew across the street from his studio on La Brea Avenue. One night I read “Hollywood Babylon” while guzzling an entire bottle of red Zinfandel and eventually fell asleep with the book by my bed. I proceeded to have one of the worst nightmares of my life.

I was in a silent film, scratchy, jumpy and dirty as hell – in it Albert Dekker was preparing his noose in ladies’ lingerie as Ramon Navarro looked on, William Ince
...more
Tosh
Nov 02, 2007 Tosh rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: film obsessives
It really doesn't matter if the stories here are true or not - and some people get upset about this. But then they are missing the point. It's "Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon." And it's the way he tells the stories which makes this book and Volume Two priceless.

The mixture of images and Anger's text makes it into a feverish dream - and really, cinema should be a feverish dream. Essential. If one does not have this in their library, they are not film lovers. Just tourists.
Philippe Malzieu
It was a cult book. It was almost impossible to get it. It was the quest for the Holy Grail. It deserved to appear in hell of the National library. Kenneth Anger, underground film-maker. The book was a transgressive object the ownership of which conferred us a particular status.
Often by moving, I lost my book. I acquired it recently. That to think of this book today, without pathos, without this émotive environment. This succession of glaucous story becomes fast boring. We feel becoming a Peepin
...more
Suvi
Sucked me right down the gutters and dark alleys of the glittery and smutty Old Hollywood, so much so that I could barely stop to eat. Some stories are amusing, some pathetic, some disgusting, some sad, but every single one grabbed my attention. Anger writes in a very nifty style and the amount of pictures just add the allure.
Paul
This is all about whose pretty little C list head was found in a locker at Grand central Station, which no longer famous former star was eaten by her own pet poodles (they might look chic, dear, but they have no taste at all), who put this there and that there and had to be revived by medics who could not believe what they were seeing, who couldn't do it without various types of rigs and harnesses, who did it an extraordinary number of times in one weekend and was filmed the whole time, and so ...more
Evan
Ulysses and 100 Years of Solitude were killing me, so I just needed some well-written trash; something that I could actually FINISH.
So, yeah I'd known about this book for 30 years and ran across it many times with mild curiosity, but a couple years ago a slightly musty first edition hardcover availed itself for $1 at Half Price Books - kind of a no-brainer, whereupon it sat in the basement till now...
It begins in 1915, a convenient place to begin a history of the scandals of Hollywood, though th
...more
Chris
Dec 07, 2007 Chris added it
There is no rating this book. It's the ultimate trash, but it's perfect trash. It's 400 pages of snide, gossip column-style writing about the first fifty years of Hollywoodland. You read about Fatty Arbuckle, Lana Turner, Charlie Chaplin, Errol Flynn and many more.

An excellent plus is the wealth of black and white photos of these stars - some movie stills, some candid photos and some police shots from death scenes.

One interesting this is to watch how the public's perception and expectations of m
...more
Sketchbook
Glorious garbage. Some of it true. What isn't true is even better.
Jesse
I used to check this out regularly from my small-town public library back in middle and high school; I loved it because the library's innocuous cover meant my parents had no idea that I was reading something so (to use their word) sinful. Needless to say, it was an eye-opening experience, raising my awareness of a number of different behaviors, coupling possibilities, creative use of inanimate objects, etc.

A copy now has pride of place on my bookshelf next to my other film books.
Stephanie
Sex, drugs, murder, scandal, old movies and glamourous lives. The story of Hollywood gossip and depravity begins at the turn of the century in this book - and continues through the excess of the 20s, through to the 60's, although most of the stories focus on the 20s to 40s. I love James Ellroy and this book is like reading his background research for books like The Black Dahlia and LA Confidential. Mickey Cohen actually existed, actors were perverse and hopheads. Murders and scandals were covere ...more
Nancy L.
Entertainingly awful, even if some of it has been debunked.
Gabe Connor
I read the first edition copy from 1965 that was on shelves for 10 days only to be banned due to "libel" and "copyright issues" from those subjects portrayed in the book. There's a difference: the 1965 version is packaged like that of a sleaze-gossip rag in 95 cent paperback form, versus the 1975 edition, which was published again after the ban was lifted, Anger having cleaned up some of his facts, embellished some of the fluidity and structure of the book, and laid out higher quality images int ...more
Maureen
Aug 06, 2008 Maureen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Impeccably researched and replete with many of the most revealing photographs you have never seen, Hollywood Babylon is part picture book and part compendium of low-down dirt on some of the most infamous Hollywood scandals from its beginnings to the 1960s. All of the big names are here, including Fatty Arbuckle, Clara Bow, Frances Farmer, and Marilyn Monroe. Chapter titles like, "The Clutching Hand," "Saturn Over Sunset," and "Peep Show Peccadilloes" titillate the reader, and their contents do n ...more
J.
"Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul."
Marilyn Monroe

If you are a film buff of any type and haven't read this, it is most highly recommended, an encyclopedic exposé of the tarnish on the tinsel.

Hard to think of a more High End Brand, with it's U.S. state-department-approved soft-culture trademark, gee-whiz practical sense and enchanting, casual glamour -- that had a more unsavory backstory, a seamier underbelly, than what's incl
...more
Patrick Kelly
Okay, so—admittedly—I went into this expecting a load of baloney. However, I also expected a fair amount of dark(ish) goings-on slapped across these pages. For a man who was so close to Anton LaVey, I hoped for at least a few anecdotes of celebs in ill-lit robed circles, mumbling together in foreign tongues before disrobing and performing some fiendish acts. I mean, c'mon Ken, this books panders to a very specific crowd, and without having a HUGE knowledge of stars from the silent era through '5 ...more
Aimee
Goes to show you that old Hollywood wasn't all glitz and glamour. Think again, this was the age of so many suicides and murder murder murder (although that's nothing new, Hollywood is prevalent to murder.) This is more of a hey day gossip book of the era for the star struck obsessed. Anger writes it in a tabloid form style that is at the most enjoyable and intriguing. The authenticity is questionable, most of the material is said to have been false or over exaggerated. However, funnily enough, I ...more
Corey
Rabid, overheated, at times incoherent, this is a sleazy book that I felt a little bad for finishing (and the ending of the book is the weakest, worst, most rushed part). This look at the dark underbelly of Hollywood has few real revelations or surprises. In Anger's description of the rise of "Confidential" magazine and its hatchet stories he could be describing his own book: "His formula was simple: a well-known name, an unflattering photograph and a story, fairly short, which presented a sordi ...more
Karla
Well, it's "non-fiction" in that the people in the book actually existed. This book is pretty much the epitome of Hollywood gossip rag trash, written in a style that doesn't ask for respect. I don't know how much of this stuff Anger believed. There's enough verifiable fact with some scandals to lend enough credence to the rest so that one thinks, "Hmmmm....I wonder..."

For the most part, though, it's recycled rumor and speculation that has plagued people like Thomas Ince, Roscoe Arbuckle, and the
...more
Christopher
Experimental filmmaker, Kenneth Anger details the sordid rumors of old Hollywood in a convoluted mess of glamorization and finger pointing.

To be honest, I wish I hadn't wasted my time reading this. It is pretty obvious that most of the stories Anger relates are based on rumor and speculation. When, in many cases, actual facts are widely available, Anger ignores them in favor of titillating conjecture. Each of the stories would be better served by a heavily researched look at the facts, but all w
...more
Laurie V
There's no denying Hollywood Babylon is full of BS. I'm not sure what Kenneth Anger was going for since all of the stories in the book are full of false rumors, hearsay, and incorrect dates. BUT! This is the book that introduced me to long-forgotten Hollywood players like Olive Thomas, William Desmond Taylor, Fatty Arbuckle, and Wallace Reid. It prompted me to learn more about each of these people simply because what I read in Hollywood Babylon was so outrageous. I owe my fascination with the Ta ...more
Joshua
Jan 21, 2013 Joshua rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Hollywood and those looking for a quick read
Recommended to Joshua by: The Misfits
I picked up this book because I had always heard of it, it was super cheap, I am intrigued by Kenneth Anger, and the Misfits "Hollywood Babylon". It's an extremely easy read and is far from dense.

Who knows how much of this book is bullshit but think of this as the TMZ of the early Hollywood. Scandals, suicide, murder, drugs, ands lots of sex...it is what it is. It's fun, it reminds me of Day Of The Locust and the L.A. Noire video game. As I was born and raised in LA I enjoyed the little shout ou
...more
Natalie
one of the weirdest, creepiest books I've ever read. Kenneth Anger is labyrinthine: the more I investigate, the farther I have to go, the more uncomfortable I come. This book is written in an interesting, almost demonic style: wickedly sardonic with lots of insider Hollywood knowledge; somewhat scornful tone. oh the perils of a failed child star! apparently Anger put a hex on Marianne Faithfull when she bad-mouthed one of his movies. thinking he just did it to enhance his own legend, much like h ...more
Shari  Stacy
I am embarrassed to say this was the perfect book for me during the holidays. The author often gives the rumor of a given situation but does not bother to divulge the truth behind the rumor (such as with Clara Bow and those Trojans). But I enjoyed it anyway. The picture of Mansfield's dead dog at the car accident scene though was so unnecessary. I could only recommend to people who have a good understanding of the whole story of these cases or who will supplement the book with more reading on th ...more
Maddy
I think we need to think more about:
How interesting Kenneth Anger is & how he has moved between different art forms (is celebrity gossip an art form?).
How myth and sacrifice work within celebrity (celebrity as a new religion has been done).
Frances Farmer. I think about Frances Farmer everyday. Occupation: cocksucker.
Curses. Is Hollywood cursed? Why are these figures cursed? Look at J.X. Williams & the Virgin Sacrifice.
Anton LaVey was thanked.
Treating fact like it is fiction.
David Bales
A gossipy hidden history of Hollywood's transgressions from the nineteen-teens to the jaded sixties with tales of alcoholism, drug addiction, infidelity and scandal, woe and suicide, indebtedness, crime, murder and sometimes, magic. Tales are told of Peg Entwistle, a starlet who committed suicide by jumping off the Hollywood sign in 1932 to the various shenanigans of Charlie Chaplin, Lana Turner, Errol Flynn and others. Hollywood is more Babylon that the actual Babylon was, apparently.
Nathaniel
Salacious volume of Hollywood calumny, lovingly assembled by one of underground cinema's self-styled bad boys, and notable for its complete lack of compassion. The chapters on Fatty Arbuckle and Thomas Ince are perhaps the most interesting because the stories have entered popular mythology. Most of the rest are merely prurient. In sum, the book is no longer the "luscious plum of sizzling scandal" it once was, and Anger's tabloid naughtiness has dated badly.
Rama
The scandalous stories of early Hollywood

This is an interesting book about the early history of Hollywood (1920s and 1930s) that focuses on excess of sex, drugs, alcohol, failed dreams and sad endings of some of the well known players including; Fatty Arbuckle, Wallace Reid, Barbara La Marr, Ramon Novarro, Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin, Tom Ince, Rudolph Valentino, Erich von Stroheim, Marion Davies, Clara Bow, John Gilbert, Jean Harlow & Paul Bern, Marlene Dietrich, Lili Damita, Claudette Col
...more
Paul Gelsthorpe
This famous books charts the scandals of Hollywood's 'golden era', from the first decade of the 20th Century to the 50's. It's a warts and all expose of the dysfunctional underbelly of the most glamorous and seductive of American industries.

The roster of stars exposed includes Clara Bow, Errol Flynn, Charlie Chaplin, Frances Farmer and Mae West. Kenneth Anger, ex-child star himself writes in a pointed, tabloid style. The book is punctuated with a series of brilliant black and white photographs
...more
Cynthia
I've heard about this book through many pop culture discussions/ recommendations and I was curious. I was kind of disappointed with the outcome. This is one of the bitchiest books that I've ever read, and I'm pretty sure that most of it is fake. BUT there is an entertainment value, and something to be said about how the old studio system was horrible. I also wouldn't be surprised if this ended up being an elaborate piece of performance art. There is also a very strange OTO/ Crowley connection. I ...more
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Kenneth Anger (born as Kenneth Wilbur Anglemyer) is an American underground avant-garde film-maker and author. He gained fame and notoriety from the publication of the French version of Hollywood Babylon in Paris in 1959, a tell-all book of the scandals of Hollywood's rich and famous. A pirated (and incomplete) version was first published in the U.S. in 1965. The official U.S. version was not publ ...more
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