The world has been fascinated by Hollywood, California, for years. The glamour, the sophistication, the scandal - the world can't help but follow the happenings of this incredible city. It is a city where stories are created, stories that come to life on a screen and allow viewers the chance to escape their everyday lives for a bit. But few people know the story of how Hollywood came to be.
In this beautifully written biography, author Gaelyn Whitley Keith introduces readers to her great-grandfather, H. J. Whitley, "The Father of Hollywood".
Keith uses her research and her great-grandmother Gigi's journal and memoir to recreate the story of H. J.'s life, a story as captivating as any film. You'll travel to the Midwest, interacting with cowboys and Native Americans. You'll cruise around the world. But most importantly, you'll watch the development of an unforgettable community. You'll witness the creation of Whitley Heights. You'll learn how the famous Hollywood sign came to be. And you'll discover just what brought the movie industry to its home. One man was behind it all. It's time to meet The Father of Hollywood.
I have mixed feelings about this book. I really wanted to know how Hollywood was established and I got that information. It was a very interesting story from that perspective. However, the telling of H. J.'s and Gigi's personal story was told in a way that seemed to try to romanticize a relationship that was perhaps anything but. Perhaps it was the narration that made it seem particularly gushy at times. The quality of the narration was mediocre and, particularly, the sound quality needs to be improved as the volume goes up and down constantly, needing me to adjust my volume to listen to it quite frequently.
Would you try another book from Gaelyn Whitley Keith and/or Shawna Windom?
Only if I were really mad at myself. The narration was among the worst I've ever heard. And the story, while somewhat interesting, is told as if the main character, Hobart Johnstone Whitley, were far more interesting and important than he actually was. The author is Whitley's great granddaughter, and she is massively over-impressed by her ancestor's life and character. She describes relatively ordinary and common characteristics and actions as if they were profoundly extraordinary.
What was one of the most memorable moments of The Father of Hollywood?
I most remember how astonishingly bad the narration was.
Would you be willing to try another one of Shawna Windom’s performances?
Absolutely not! Judging by the atrocious narration, I thought for sure this book was read by a family member of the author. I was shocked to see that Windom the list of her narrations on Audible.com. stretches to 13 pages. (Then again, the general quality of the material on that list supports my suspicion that Windom is not a top shelf talent.) Windom reads this book with the intensely annoying habit of frequently using pauses where there should be none. Worse yet, instead of simply taking a quick pause for breath, she inflects her voice as if she were at the end of a meaningful phrase. I can't recall a specific example from the book (I must have blocked it out for sanity's sake), but here's what I mean. One would hear, "No one in the family knew that he had been dying. His hair for years." Sometimes it was just annoying, but more often than not, over and over again, the incorrect pauses and inflections are jarring, disconcerting, and confusing.
If this book were a movie would you go see it?
Any additional comments?
I very seldom quit a book once I've started reading or listening, so I toughed it out to discover some mildly interesting information about Whitby, his wife, and their minor contribution to the development of California. But, I was very close many times to giving up so as to escape the aggravation of Windom's exasperating incompetence.