Picks and Pans Review: Hollywood: Legend and Reality

updated 07/21/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/21/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

In a sprawling and not entirely satisfying way, this splashy exhibit pays homage to the movie industry as a 20th-century art form. Hollywood spans the era of silent cinema, early talkies, Depression-era movies, Westerns and on up to such special-effects-laden films as E.T. and Ghostbusters. The show bursts with documentation—posters, costumes, film clips and props. On prominent view are the "Rosebud" sled from Citizen Kane and the toreador costume Rudolph Valentino wore in Blood and Sand. It's hard to imagine, but a scraggly 10-inch puppet with matted fur is the King Kong who tumbled from the Empire State Building in the 1933 film bearing his name. (Only Kong's face and one hand were built life-size.) One stunning miniature is the mother ship from Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, inspired by an oil refinery Spielberg once spotted in Bombay. In spite of the wealth of historical material, the show is sometimes disappointing. Separated from their screen life, many of the props appear denatured. The movie clips are best at suggesting the magic of the medium. Sponsored by Time Inc., the exhibit, which opened at Washington's National Museum of American History and moves to New York's Cooper-Hewitt Museum Aug. 5, later travels to Miami, Cincinnati, Denver and Los Angeles.

From Our Partners