Picks and Pans Review: Hollywood at Home

updated 12/24/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/24/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Photographs by Sid Avery Text by Richard Schickel

The pictures of '50s and '60s Hollywood that fill this book, as Schickel suggests in his introduction, at first glance seem like basic publicity shots—Rock Hudson laughing stoutly, Steve McQueen showing off his new car to director John Sturges, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward doing their best to resemble an average couple in the kitchen. But there is something more to them. Even if you don't agree with Schickel's extravagant essay, which argues that Avery "approaches the country claimed by Diane Arbus," you'll find many of these photographs worth studying as unusual portraits of familiar people, if not of an era.

Avery, now 72, took most of these pictures for the Saturday Evening Post, often to accompany puffy stories. Sometimes Avery seems to be making a point of the very artificiality of his subject—Ida Lupino pretending to set a flamboyant dinner table for husband Howard Duff, for instance, or Elizabeth Taylor all but dislocating her neck as she gets sultry on the set of Giant.

There are also disarmingly candid shots of such stars as James Dean and bizarre photos of Johnny Carson dancing early in his career. Philosophize all you want about postwar psychology and Hollywood's symbolic role in the national mood and the burning issue of how Danny Thomas became a TV star. Or let Schickel do it for you. The best thing about this book is that it's fun to look at. (Crown, $30)

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