Friday, November 02, 2007

Book Review: "The Father of Hollywood: The True Story" by Gaelyn Whitley Keith

Pretty much today when we think of Hollywood we think of scandal, egos, and wealth. How did it get that way? Was it always that way? Where did it come from? While this book doesn't answer these questions it does give you an insight as to where Hollywood came from, and in an indirect way may provide some hints for the other questions.

Gaelyn Whitley Keith, the great-granddaughter of H.J. Whitley (the Father of Hollywood) has put together a book chronicling the discovery, development and creation of Hollywood through the life of Her great-grandfather as told by his wife (her great-grandmother) "Gigi". The stories are gathered through Gigi's many writings.

H.J.'s story is an extremely interesting one in that he was not only in the right place at the right time but he had the intelligence, foresightedness, and human understanding to create from few hills in Southern California into what has become the movie star capitol of the world, Hollywood. In this book the reader is transported through U.S. post-civil war rebuilding, in which Whitley makes his name, through the land rush of Oklahoma and on into creating a beautiful California countryside into the movie capitol of the world.. He develops many cities towns in his lifetime (over 140) but none as grand or troublesome as Hollywood.

This book also offers some great trivia type moments that are fun, such as, where the name Hollywood comes from. The origin of the name is quite humorous, but I'll let you find that, I wouldn't want to ruin the moment.

The evolution of Hollywood and H. J. Whitley is told through his wife Gigi. Gigi, a self admitted spoiled rich brat, falls in love with H.J. and tells his story, their story together and the story of Hollywood. There are many times that I found it hard to understand why they did things as they did but realized it was in the family upbringing and experiences of their different lives mixing together. H.J. in today's terms would be a workaholic, taking no time out for family and realizing what he missed only after it's too late. Gigi being young when she married could not be close to her children and as a result they developed problems of their own. But the family did seem in a dysfunctional way seem to hold on to one another when times called for it.

This book was a roller coaster of emotions and events, and when told through Gigi provides that turn of the century upper class woman's view of how the U.S. was developed.

For more information you can check out the website at

1 comment:

  1. Good Review
    I read the book and I was intrigued by the dramatic social changes of the century ago.