Though there is a geographic area within Los Angeles that calls itself Hollywood, a struggling residential and commercial agglomeration on the city’s northwest side, the Hollywood known on Earth and maybe beyond as the movie capital of the world is not really a geographic community.
To aid the curious in search of the Hollywood beyond touring Universal Studios, glimpsing the “Walk of Fame” stars embedded in select sidewalks, following the dated movie star maps hawked on Sunset Boulevard and the often misleading directions of locals, Richard Alleman has compiled a comprehensive, well-organized and well-written guide.
In addition to the obvious landmarks found in the more general guidebooks, such as the grand old movie palaces, the sprawling studios and garish homes of former stars, Alleman has added the less well-known industry haunts and hangouts, the more modest houses and hotels where stars lived, trysted and died, and the cemeteries in which they and their pets are buried. It is a “Hollywood” that extends far across the Los Angeles landscape.
Indeed, it seems that almost every structure or site that in some way was touched by the movies or a star is included; Alleman adhering to the rule that in compiling a guide it almost always is better to be inclusive rather than exclusive. Actually, the maps could have been a bit more inclusive, as well as better designed. But the addresses are there, and Alleman does advise the serious sightseer to consult more detailed maps.
Aiding the effort also is Alleman’s chatty style, in which he sprinkles his descriptions with reported gossip--who lived where, with whom, under what circumstances and to what end. Very appropriate for a guide to Hollywood, and the stuff that should entrance movie fans, while providing curious others a wealth of trivia.
Particularly engaging is the inclusion of a wide variety of local buildings and sites that have been used for locations in “movies, such as the apartment house where Joe Gillis (William Holden) sits at his typewriter in “Sunset Boulevard,” and the tower where Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) checks out the action in “The Long Goodbye,” a film based on the Raymond Chandler classic.
And then there are the “Double Indemnity,” “Ozzie and Harriet,” “Happy Days” and “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” houses, among many others. The total makes the book the sort to keep in the car, next to the trusty Thomas Guide, and to use as a ready reference.
You don’t have to be a movie lover to love Alleman’s guide, just be able to recognize and perhaps appreciate how Los Angeles helped shape the movie industry, and how the movie industry shaped Los Angeles.