In Hollywood's heyday, movie-studio publicists aimed their sights at luxurious new swimming pools as the ideal backdrop—exotic, even erotic, yet also symbolic of good clean fun—for photos that would springboard scantily attired stars into the nation's fantasy life. (They also helped turn backyard pools into the ultimate liquid asset.) As collected in this entertaining eyeful of a snapshot album, such celebs as Veronica Lake, Rita Hayworth, Sophia Loren and even Rudolph Valentino gamely preened, stretched out or actually got in the swim—like an exuberant Ronald Reagan playfully splashing his first wife, Jane Wyman. Originally destined for fan magazines, the sun-drenched images contrast with the accompanying real-life stories of lost love and swan-diving careers.
By the late 1960s, the comparatively innocent setup shots had all but vanished in the riptide of a public whose thirst for sensationalism had grown keener. Hollywood Poolside plunges us back into the era when glamor was still wet behind the ears. (Angel City, $29.95)