There are a lot of skeletons buried away in Old Hollywood. Today, with the internet, smartphones, TMZ, and the paparazzi, it’s almost inconceivable that an actor could have a secret life. Hell, it’s somewhat inconveivable that, for some entertainers, one little piece of minutiae about their life would not be public knowledge. We know all about the nose jobs, boob jobs, domestic violence accusations, and sex scandals.

Joe Williams’ Hollywood Myths is a cool little book that delves into a lot of the myths and innuendo that has followed some legends of old Hollywood for years and adds to the mystique that most of these now deceased stars carry. The book doesn’t definitively answer the many of the questions posted, but it certainly sheds some light on how true the commonly-held beliefs about these stories might actually be.

About 60 staples of Hollywood are covered in this book, from stories behind blockbuster films Jaws, Titanic and Gone with the Wind to iconic superstars ranging from Cary Grant and Marilyn Monroe to Eddie Murphy and Tom Cruise. Each subject gets a couple of pages in which a particular tongue-wagging fact is discussed. For example, Monroe’s chapter attempts to figure out who was responsible for her 1965 death. While the passage makes it fairly clear that the starlet’s death was not, as is commonly reported, a suicide, there’s no definitive answer to the question of who killed her (and there probably will never be, as it seems like there was a cast of thousands involved.)

Some of the stories covered here are pretty well-traveled. If you’re a comedy, movie, or “SNL” fan, you’ve very likely heard the story of “The Incomparable Atuk.” The screenplay has, at various times, had actors John Belushi, Chris Farley, Sam Kinison and John Candy attached to it, giving it a reputation as cursed for obvious reasons (all four actors passed away prior to the movie being filmed.) You may not have heard about “The Day The Clown Cried,” a Holocaust-themed movie dreamed up by hammy comedian Jerry Lewis. You also may not have been aware of a long-standing Hollywood rumor that suggests rugged actor Rock Hudson and goofy comedic actor-turned-singer Jim Nabors were lovers.

Sure, it’s the equivalent of a popcorn movie, and maybe just a couple of steps above The Natural Enquirer on the believability scale, but Hollywood Myths is also an engaging document of a few stories you may not have heard about before. A worthwhile Christmas gift for that movie buff in your life.

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