In Print

It might look perfect for the ghoul on your list, but it's really just a coffeetable-safe Hollywood Babylon

In Print

Cut!: Hollywood Murders, Accidents, and Other Tragedies

by Denise Imwold et al.

Barrons, 368 pp., $29.99

It might look perfect for the ghoul on your list, but it's really just a coffeetable-safe Hollywood Babylon. Cut! beckons with a cover photo of some anonymous glamour-puss shrinking from a knife held to her throat, but fails utterly to deliver on the promise held out by those glistening lips, that fearful eye, and that tagline nestled between the curve of a diamond necklace and the line of a deadly blade: Hollywood Murders, Accidents, and Other Tragedies. The third category, "other tragedies," clogs the glossy pages within, and even that description is overheated for this catalog of so many ordinary deaths by cancer, heart attack, or illness in late middle age. Many of its "stars" aren't particularly well-known anymore (if they ever were), and most of the ends they met were in no way caused by conditions of film work or the culture of Hollywood. Where one expects breathless speculation, one gets desultory debunking without any discussion of how the juicy rumors got started. The army of killjoys who wrote it are content to flatly state that Jayne Mansfield wasn't actually decapitated and move on, or omit entirely the lore about studio executives fatally delaying medical attention to Rudolph Valentino to search for a surgeon sufficiently prestigious to take a scalpel to the world's greatest lover. But if the book is trying to be "respectful," it fails at that, too. Take poor Phil Hartman's entry, which features a representative photo not from his indelible work on Saturday Night Live, Pee-Wee's Playhouse, or even The Simpsons, but rather from the Arnold Schwarzenegger holiday turkey Jingle All the Way. The shame of it.

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Cut!:Hollywood Murders, Accidents, and Other Tragedies, Barrons, Denise Imwold et al.

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