Saturday, August 4, 2018

Hollywood Beach Beauties by David Wills

Hollywood Beach Beauties
Sea Sirens, Sun Goddesses, and Summer Style 1930-1970 
by David Wills
Dey Street Books
May 2018
Hardcover ISBN:978008284255
224 pages

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"The women, and some of the men, were painstakingly lit and strictly posed for maximum star-power effect." - David Wills

Hollywood Beach Beauties is a hybrid: part coffee table book boasting highly quality images of classic actresses donning swimwear and part history of the evolution of the bathing suit, more notably the bikini, and how it intersected with Hollywood history.

Davis Wills' book covers the scope of Hollywood actress and swimwear over the decades. The book is divided into 4 sections: 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Each section starts with a historical evaluation on swimwear for that decade. Then the text is followed by a collection of images, a mix of studio and magazine portraits, film stills, ads and movie posters. Throughout the book we learn about the cheesecake portraits that helped fuel the Hollywood publicity machine, the evolution of the bikini, and how beach culture became an important part of 1960s movies, from beach movies to James Bond. All while enjoying full-color images of glamorous movie stars clad in shapely swimwear. Key figures highlighted in the book include Raquel Welch, Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot and others.

I really wanted to like this book but it was a hot mess. The text was overly serious and didn't match the fun visual content of the book. However, Wills writing was very good. The text could be extracted and expanded upon to become a full-length book on the history on swimwear. For example the information on WWII textile rationing and the societal fear of exposed navels could make for some very interesting chapters/articles on their own. Overall, the text was interesting but just didn't fit this particular format.

Hollywood Beach Beauties is technically a coffee table book but the size is fairly small which makes it easy to read but not as nice as a larger format book. It's paper over board hardcover with fairly sharp corners (I scratched myself a few times). The text was presented in a large font which was awkward to read. And the subtitle is just unfortunate. Instead of 1930-1970 it should have read 1930s to 1960s which would not only have been more accurate it would have also highlighted the 1960s which is a key decade featured in the book.

I appreciated the quality of the images. While a few of the film stills were a bit fuzzy, all the other photographs and artwork were nice and sharp. I didn't care for the few images that were colorized and not listed as such (one Marilyn Monroe photo was listed as colorized in the backmatter, the image appears inside the book and on the back cover). At one point the 1960s was listed as the 60's not the '60s and then I was done.

I'm reviewing this book with a critical eye because I read a lot of classic film books and have high expectations. But if you don't expect much and just want a fun book filled with pictures of Hollywood actresses in bikinis, then Hollywood Beach Beauties is for you.

Many thanks  to Dey Street Books for sending me a copy of this book to review.

This is my third review for the Summer Reading Challenge.

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