Just when you think every bit of Hollywood history and lore has been explored, along comes a book that’s inventive, surprising and impossible to put down. It exists because in 1987 and 88 the authors, independent of one another, visited Los Angeles and traveled to Mulholland Drive in the hope of seeing the home Errol Flynn designed and built. Each one made his way onto the property—
one by dint of sheer nerve, the other waved in by unconcerned workmen—and shot photos, unaware that the house would soon be torn down. In the years since they have conducted an impressive amount of research into the history of the home and its owners over the years: Flynn, then songwriter/performer Stuart Hamblen, and finally Rick Nelson, whose sons have vivid memories of a place they found spooky.
The bulk of the book is devoted to Flynn, and presents a fresh, spirited yet even-handed biography of the actor with special emphasis on the years he spent planning, building, living and reveling in the place he referred to as a farm, spanning eight hilltop acres. In the main house the actor designed secret staircases, sliding panels, and famously, a two-way mirror in the ceiling of the guest room and another alongside a guest bathroom. The colorful text is accompanied by scores of rare and unusual photos, including publicity pictures from the 1930s and 40s and the color shots taken in the house’s final days.
This handsomely produced volume is the kind of book I intended to browse but wound up reading from cover to cover. It stands as a tribute to the authors’ enthusiasm and perseverance…but we who love stories of vintage Hollywood are the real beneficiaries.(Good Knight Books/Paladin Communications)