West of Eden
West of Eden is the definitive story of Hollywood, told, in their own words, by the people on the inside: Lauren Bacall, Arthur Miller, Dennis Hopper, Frank Gehry, Ring Lardner, Joan Didion, Stephen Sondheim – all interviewed by Jean Stein, who grew up in the Forties in a fairytale mansion in the Hollywood Hills.
The book takes us from the discovery of oil in the Twenties with the story of the tycoon Edward Doheny (There Will Be Blood) and traces the growth of corruption through the syndicates, the mob, and the movie studios – from the beginnings of the film industry to the end, with News Corp. and Rupert Murdoch (who bought the Stein mansion in 1985).
West of Eden is about money, power, fame and terrible secrets: the doomed Hollywood of the late Fifties, early Sixties – ‘the rotten heart of paradise’. Like her last book, the best-selling Edie, this is an oral history told through brilliantly edited interviews. As this is Hollywood, it’s a book full of sex, drugs and celebrity glamour; but because it’s built from the firsthand accounts of people who were actually there, many of them writers, actors and artists, it’s also strangely claustrophobic, seductive, and completely compelling.
This oral history delves behind the scenes of Tinseltown's most illustrious bloodlines, providing rare insight into the lives of such Hollywood notables as the Warners, Dohenys, and Garlands. "I had the sense that my world was make-believe," writes Stein (Edie: An American Girl), who grew up immersed in the company of Hollywood's most elite families. She includes anecdotes about Arthur Miller, Warren Beatty, and Jane Fonda, as well as fascinating Hollywood stories about the crony-capitalist Teapot Dome scandal, affairs between starlets and studio executives' wives during the 1950s, the vicious relationship Jack Warner developed with his son Jack Jr., how the Conference of Studio Unions strikes of 1945 led to the House Un-American Activities Committee's Communist witch hunt, and Ronald Reagan's transformation from liberal actor into conservative figurehead. Stein's exhaustive research and brand-new interviews make this an invaluable resource for any student of pop culture, or indeed of 20th-century American history.