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Nancie Clare signs in Beverly Hills
Chronicling the first-ever celebrity intervention in politics, THE BATTLE FOR BEVERLY HILLS is a small story with huge implications. In 1923, eight stars of the silver screen leveraged their fame to campaign against the annexation of Beverly Hills, the young city they called home, to Los Angeles. Their campaign was a success, and politics in the U.S. would never be the same again.
Led by Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, the “Beverly Hills Eight” included Harold Lloyd, Rudolph Valentino, Will Rogers, Tom Mix, Fred Neblo and Conrad Nagel. For them, Beverly Hills was a refuge from Los Angeles and its relentless press. Instead of the larger, institutionally corrupt police force, Beverly Hills had a smaller, separate constabulary that was less likely to work hand in glove with the studios and more willing to look the other way at violations of the Prohibition Act. Unlike Los Angeles, Beverly Hills’ developers were not as picky about the religious or economic backgrounds of those who settled there—as long as they could afford it. It was the perfect place for Pickford and Fairbanks, who both came from mixed-religion, impoverished backgrounds. This combination of openness and privacy allowed them to become among the first actors to reach ‘superstar status’ through hard work and keen entrepreneurial instincts—and to keep their steamy affair out of the press.
When the proposal to consolidate Beverly Hills with Los Angeles (the fate of other formerly independent cities like Hollywood and Bel Air) got onto the ballot, Pickford realized that the implications could be devastating for their glamorous enclave. She also saw through the claims that Beverly Hills would soon run out of water as justification for annexing to LA, whose Chinatown era plutocrats were eager to get their hands on Beverly Hills’ wealth.
Pickford recognized a bad deal when she saw one, and swung into action organizing her fellow stars to successfully convince their neighbors to stop the proposal and keep Beverly Hills independent.
In THE BATTLE FOR BEVERLY HILLS, Nancie Clare reveals how the stars battled to keep their city free from the clutches of a rapacious Los Angeles and lay the groundwork for celebrity influence and political power. With a nuanced eye and fantastic storytelling, Clare weaves an irresistible tale of glamour, fame, gossip, and politics.
More advance praise for THE BATTLE FOR BEVERLY HILLS
"Charlie Chaplin, Will Rogers, Tom Mix, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks--they were the world's first film stars. But celebrity wasn't just their creation and their reward. It was also a tool they used to wrest a new city away from the Chinatown era plutocrats who built Los Angeles. The city they created was Beverly Hills. In Nancie Clare, it has found not just an able historian but an inspired storyteller."
--John Buntin, author of L.A. Noir
"In The Battle for Beverly Hills Nancie Clare brilliantly tells the story of how one of the world's most glamorous cities almost came to an inglorious end—until America’s first celebrity couple stepped in and leveraged their fame. Funny, smart, and wildly prescient, The Battle for Beverly Hills is a 1920s story with massive implications for the present day."
—Annie Jacobsen, bestselling author of Area 51 and Operation Paperclip, and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for The Pentagon's Brain
“Stories about celebrities in politics seems ripped from today’s headlines, but in The Battle for Beverly Hills, Nancie Clare excavates this riveting tale of Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and their famous friends knocking on their neighbors’ doors to keep their Beverly Hills from being absorbed by the city of Los Angeles. Clare brings their campaign – and their community - to life.
–Cari Beauchamp, award winning author of Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood.
Tuesday, April 10, 2018 - 7:00pm
Beverly Hills Public Library
444 N. Rexford Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Availability: Hard to Find - Unlikely to be Available
Published: St. Martin's Press - March 6th, 2018
If you look at a map of the sprawling city lines of Los Angeles, you'll notice a distinct hole in the middle. That is Beverly Hills, and there's a reason why it remains an island in the sea of LA. It's a tale inextricably linked with the dawn of cinema, a celebrity couple using their reputation to get what they wanted politically, and of course, the age old conundrum of California: water.
For film stars who moved out to California in the early 20th century, Beverly Hills was a refuge from tabloid-heavy Los Angeles. It was also a societal blank slate: unlike Los Angeles, saddled with the East Coast caste system, Beverly Hills' developers were not picky about who settled there. It was the perfect place for Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks who both came from mixed-ethnic, impoverished backgrounds. It allowed them to become among the first actors to reach 'superstar status' through hard-work and keen entrepreneurial instincts--and to keep their steamy affair out of the press.
Today, listening to a celebrity advocating a cause doesn't raise an eyebrow. But in 1923, it was something new. This is the story of how the stars battled to keep their city free from the clutches of a rapacious Los Angeles and lay the groundwork for celebrity influence and political power. With a nuanced eye and fantastic storytelling, The Battle for Beverly Hills is an irresistible tale of glamour, fame, gossip, and politics.