Hollywood stars

Stars and forgotten classic Hollywood tales have become famous on Instagram – and now find themselves in a new book

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Instagram celebrities can evoke a certain modern aesthetic, and it’s probably not that of classic Hollywood. But Carla Valderrama took her popular This Was Hollywood account and turned it into a new book, digging deep into the golden age of cinema.

She loved old Hollywood stories, but noticed that the books that came out every year were mostly the same – telling the same stories about Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. Valderrama’s book therefore focuses on stars she believes have lost their legacies over time, such as Lois Weber, Florence Lawrence, Cora Sue Collins and Sessue Hayakawa.

Lois Weber holds court before the men on set. (Courtesy of Turner Classic Movies)

“There were a few people that I thought had been overlooked for a long time, like Lois Weber,” Valderrama said. “It’s always pissed me off, ever since I was a kid… all these people just talk about these guys – this woman was better.”


Sessue Hayakawa. (Courtesy of Turner Classic Movies)

Lawrence gave everything she had to the Natural History Museum. Beneath all the dinosaurs, the museum’s basement features an extensive collection of movie props, from Lon Chaney’s makeup bag to Mary Pickford’s wigs.

“So I spent a month going through all these things, like reading diary entries from 1912 that said, ‘Oh, today the ship just above the water, called the Titanic, just sank ‘” Valderrama said.

Valderrama’s love for old movies began when she was little, taking tv guide problems at the age of six and turning every time carried away by the wind would broadcast.

“Those days I was pretending to be sick at school to stay home and watch it — and my mom finally figured it out, so she just bought me the movie,” Valderrama said.

Little Carla watched Turner Classic Movies, and when she was eight or nine, she would go to the library to ask for books about the stars.

“My grandfather, whenever he bought a book, always looked at the back and saw if there were any source notes – and if there weren’t, he put it back on the shelf” , Valderrama said. “When I was eight, I would go to the librarian and say, ‘I want a book about Marilyn Monroe.’ And she was giving me this book, and I was looking at the back, and I was like, ‘Excuse me, there are no source notes.'”

Her book is also filled with a long list of the research she used to tell these stories, sifting through thousands of original documents.


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Until she launched her Instagram, Valderrama never thought she could compete with such stewards of movie history as Leonard Maltin or TCM’s Robert Osborne – so she took to playing the place.

“I moved here to Hollywood in 2011, and started doing improv and tried to get into the industry. It was extremely difficult, but my heart wasn’t in it. background – my passion has always been classic film and cinema,” Valderrama said. .

But while she pursued that career, she had a surprising favorite pastime after moving to Los Angeles: visiting the Motion Picture Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library and rummaging through its files. Browsing through the archives helped her find many stories in her book.

“I don’t want to give people anything they can find on the internet for free, which is pretty hard these days,” she said.


Paul Newman in The Silver Chalice. (Everett collection)

Valderrama’s new book also tells the forgotten stories of Hollywood greats that weren’t covered in all of those other books. These stories include Paul Newman’s infamous The silver chalice — a film he was so embarrassed about that he pulled out commercials to apologize when it aired on TV.

“When I was at the Warner Brothers archives, the guy was like, ‘Carla, I think you’re the only person who’s ever looked at those files for this movie, and if not, the only person who’s passed this long on it,” Valderrama said.

She was also able to verify a long-running story about the success of canine star Rin Tin Tin’s movies saving Warner Brothers.

“The reason we know this is because I found a bank document buried in the Warner Brothers file,” Valderrama said. “It was in one of his movie folders – I freaked out.”

Valderrama also interviewed some of the last living ties to that old Hollywood, like Norman Lloyd – now 106. Lloyd told her about his friend John Garfield, whose career ended because of the Hollywood blacklist.

“I can quote it verbatim, because I will never forget it,” Valderrama recalled. “He said, ‘Do you know how many people jumped out of windows, jumped off bridges, went to Mexico, or Europe, or wherever they went? Do you know how many lives were destroyed?'”


Cora Sue Collins. (Collection of Carla Valderrama)

One of the other stars Valderrama spoke to was former child star Cora Sue Collins – who revealed an untold pre-#MeToo story just minutes into their interview.

The book is packed with photos and Valderrama’s research takes its place with a unique visual treatment inspired by Golden Age periodicals.

“Movie Magazine pushed the narrative of Hollywood as a whole and each of the individual stars, and that was so important to the making of the industry,” Valderrama said.

She was inspired to start her Instagram while dealing with the challenges of acting.

“I had a meltdown on the 101 freeway — I think that was the umpteenth time I got thrown off,” Valderrama said. “I was stuck in traffic, and I started crying and screaming, ‘What am I doing here? The Hollywood that I love isn’t even here, it’s under the cement. ! This was Hollywood!”


Carla Valderrama with her new book, This Was Hollywood. (Courtesy of Carla Valderrama)

And that was it.

She started posting on Instagram daily, starting in May 2017, including while on her honeymoon.

Now the book version — This Was Hollywood: Stars and Forgotten Histories — is available online and in bookstores worldwide.