The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

March 7, 2008

Book review: ‘Cut!’ a morbidly fascinating look at Hollywood deaths

This week’s title is a bit more lowbrow than the usual. Maybe it’s the winter doldrums, maybe just my baser instincts kicking in, but this time I chose to read “Cut!: Hollywood Murders, Accidents, and Other Tragedies by Andrew Brettell, Bruce Elder, Damien Kennedy, Warren Leonard, Toby Miller, and Heather Von Rohr.

May I just say that with that many authors, you might think that they would have caught some of one another’s errors? Maybe it’s a case of too many cooks. At any rate, while I found the book interesting, I would double check any facts before trying to use them as responses on “Jeopardy.”

On one single page, Humphrey Bogart’s death is attributed within the text to stomach and throat cancer in a photo caption. On another page entirely, it says esophageal cancer. I suppose a case could be made that if, in fact, it was esophageal cancer that it could be stretched to include stomach and/or throat cancer, but maybe a bit more proofreading would have been good. I didn’t catch any other blatant errors or contradictions, but it did give me pause about the reliability of the book.

That said, I found the book fascinating, if morbid. It’s divided into seven segments, grouped according to the main commonalties. The first, “The Big Sleep,” is the largest and concerns those who died from natural causes. Many of the actors appearing in the book are not well-known, but that’s a good thing for film buffs who might not otherwise ever know how Agnes Ayres (she co-starred with Rudolph Valentino in “The Sheik”) died. For your information, she had a rough life and lost all her money in the Depression and died of a stroke in 1940 when she was just 42. Of course, all the usual suspects are here, too — John Barrymore, Bogart, Montgomery Clift, Errol Flynn, and so on.

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