The Castle on Sunset

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 21 May 2019

Member Reviews

This non-fiction book tells a very extensive history of this Hollywood landmark. From its early beginning's, through it's current popularity, Chateau Marmont has withstood the test of time and has shared in some of Hollywood's most well known scandals. From the death of John Belushi within its walls, to the many celebrities extended stays, this hotel has walls we all wish could talk. Fortunately for us, Shawn Levy has made this happen within the pages of his book.

The Castle on Sunset will be something that different generations of readers will each find interesting for different reasons..

I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars not because I didn't think it was worthy of 4 or 5 stars, but for me, not all of the history was interesting. Fans of Hollywood, and fans of history will both enjoy this intriguing look into Hollywood's Castle on Sunset.
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As someone who has spent a lot of time at The Chateau  for work over the years, I’m thrilled to read the history of this iconic piece of HOLLYWOOD.  I read it in one sitting, and can’t wait to chat it up.  It’s so fascinating, so accessible, and it feels like I was a fly on the wall.  The research was fantastic, and so fantastic.
You should have a real winner with this title.
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When I first saw this, I was super excited about this book. I have been loving historical and historical fiction books lately, so this one really intrigued me. I honestly have to say that I was very disappointed. The book started out interesting with the history and start of Chateau Marmont in Hollywood. By the middle I was struggling to get through and had to take a very long break. I finally picked it up again and forced myself to continue on till the end.
The Castle on Sunset is the history of Chateau Marmont. It has been a home away from home for Hollywood’s greatest stars. Known for their discretion, many stars appreciated the ambience and seclusion that the Chateau Marmont provided. From Jim Morrison to Lindsay Lohan, the hotel has hosted many, developing gossip through the ages.
When starting this book, it was very interesting to learn about how the Chateau Marmont came to be and the work that was put into it to start a name for itself. The tales were very entertaining in the beginning, learning which were fact, fiction, or a little of both. It’s always a great thing to start unraveling a mystery.
I really started to struggle by the middle of the book. It just seemed to become a giant history textbook on the hotel. I was starting to lose interest in the stories and did not find the book entertaining. I wanted more of the stories from the past. I live in this day and age, so reading about more current events just seemed like news. The beginning, and the early days were what made the book for me.
I do think that Shawn Levy presented a lot of great information. Levy did his research and knew the history and events surrounding this historic hotel. I do think that someone who really enjoys history would enjoy this book. Although I have been liking this genre, this was a bit too much for me. I do think there is an audience for this story though. Levy did an excellent job, so someone with more of an interest would really enjoy this book.
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Shawn Levy has always found innovative takes on show business history. THE CASTLE ON SUNSET offers his best yet, a chronicle of the Chateau Marmont, "the ultimate Hollywood hotel because it is, like Hollywood itself, bigger than life even when it is obviously fake." Focusing on a place as opposed to an individual allows Levy to cover a huge swath of the movie business, from the Golden Age to the #MeToo era. Anyone who was anyone at some point came through the doors of the Chateau Marmont, seeking either sanctuary or a secluded place for scandalous behavior, and Levy logs every cameo. He also spotlights the hotel as a hotel, tracing the evolution of its reputation and idiosyncratic decor. An engaging book from start to finish.
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ChBuilt as an apartment complex in 1929, then the Great Depression hit, and the European styled monstrosity became a hide-a-way for Hollywood A lister's. Every "room" is a complete living area, gorgeous and littered with antiques. Personality. That's the word that comes to mind to describe this hotel. Loaded with personality.

You're probably thinking "Uh, I don't know, I don't usually read books like this." That's exactly what I thought too. But the cover photo nudged me out of my comfort zone and into the unknown with a digital copy of The Castle on Sunset. Yeah, the full title is a bit wordy. That should have been a clue that the writing might be too. . .In places, Levy does get heavy handed with historical backstories, while in others a little more information would have been appreciated. There were a few times the narrative was gossipy and felt more like I was reading a grocery store magazine. Then suddenly Levy seemed to find his footing and we were back to the classy, fluid writing for which he is known. Although I understand the reasons for limiting photos, having more is always great. As for research...Wow! Shawn Levy takes readers all the way back to the onion fields that once populated the ground and journeys us through to the present day, revealing a lot of the "stuff" that makes Chateau Marmont...well...Chateau Marmont.

Teetering on a cliff, overlooking Sunset, Chateau Marmont is in a league of her own. There's no way to get a travel advisory app to compare this hotel to any other - because she is a one-of-a-kind. Just like each of her bungalows, no two are the same. Each is fully equipped with everything a guest needs to stay a night, a week. or whatever. Pop stars, rock stars, movie stars, has-beens, are being, and wannabes. The clientele at Chateau Marmont is as diverse as her atmosphere. There are many well-known stories included in the book and the guest registers read like a who's who of the mega-stars -- Katherine Hepburn, Anthony Perkins, and Duke Ellington just a few to pique your curiosity.

Evolving and changing ever so slightly -- just enough to stay relevant and "in vogue." Chateau Marmont has stood as a silent observer to history. Until now. Shawn Levy's "The Castle on Sunset" has given her a voice. With every paragraph, it is as if her walls are whispering the stories she has kept to herself for nearly a century. Levy's The Castle on Sunset is most definitely worth a read. 

Happy Reading,

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The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont was just an okay read for me. I am giving it two and a half stars.
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When you are in an old building, do you ever imagine what might have happened there over the decades or centuries?  If you live in an old house, do you think about the generations who sat by that same fireplace in the winter or lived, loved and died in the bedrooms?  I love to think about those things, though I don’t think in a morbid way.  Naturally, some old buildings have attracted a more high-profile class of resident, and those sometimes get books written about them.  I call histories like this “if these walls could talk” books; history told through a particular place.

Even though I’ve spent very little time in Los Angeles, I’d heard of the Chateau Marmont before this book came along.  I think most people who watched Saturday Night Live from its start know that the Chateau Marmont is where John Belushi overdosed and died.  In later years, it made the national gossip news as the place Lindsay Lohan was kicked out of for running up huge unpaid bills.

But in the decades  before all that, the Chateau was home to scores of celebrity actors and others in the film industry, as well as writers. The list goes on an on; from the 1930s through the 1950s it included Katharine Hepburn, Jean Harlow, Marlon Brando, Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Anthony Perkins, Greta Garbo, John Cheever, Gore Vidal, Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier (separately), Duke Ellington, Harry Belafonte, Miles Davis, Sidney Poitier (the Chateau welcomed guests of color long before other hotels integrated), and writers blacklisted during Hollywood’s Red Scare.  Because the Chateau was (relatively) inexpensive, and suites and bungalows included kitchens, some guests stayed for weeks, months, even years.

The Chateau went through a low period in the 1960s and early 1970s, when so many landmark buildings from Hollywood’s golden age succumbed to the wrecking ball.  But then rock stars and the actors of Hollywood’s 1970s cinematic resurgence discovered the Chateau.  And the Chateau has continued to evolve, attracting new generations who value its unique charms.

For me, the book lost a little bit of its life when it moved on to the period from the 1970s to the current day.  I think it’s because the celebrities of the more modern-day era seem more conscious of their celebrity and self-centered.  Maybe that’s just me, though; maybe I’m just less interested in people who are social-media creatures.  All that exposure makes them seem, ironically, more ordinary.

Shawn Levy not only regales us with the tales of the celebrity residents’ idiosyncrasies, sexual escapades, wildly indulgent drinking and drug-taking, he also features the Chateau itself as the lead character in the story.  I didn’t know that every room, suite and bungalow at the Chateau is different, that the building is full of hidden nooks, or that one of its appeals is that guests can enter their rooms without being seen.  What a different personality this gives the Chateau from the usual see-and-be-seen glitz of Hollywood hotels.

The author has done his homework about the Chateau’s history as a building, as well as a home to such an astonishing cavalcade of guests and events.  Imagine building such an impressive castle-like building on a hill above the Sunset Strip when it was just a dusty dirt road heading west through the bean and onion fields to the ocean,  Levy takes us through its evolution in a way that should fascinate anybody interested in the history of architecture and of Los Angeles.  If only there were more pictures in the book.

I so wanted to make my own pilgrimage to the Chateau Marmont after reading this book.  So, of course I went to their website, and now my bucket list includes spending a couple of nights at one of the Chateau’s famous bungalows.
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Shawn Levy's book The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art and Scandal at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont provides a deep dive into the history of a landmark hotel of Hollywood and the Sunset Strip. The story is broken up into parts based on the various owners of Chateau Marmont, as we see the changes in Hollywood and the surrounding areas as it relates to the changes in the hotel. Levy does a fantastic job of putting all of the tales and facts into the context of their respective times to paint a comprehensive picture of the environment the hotel was in at that time.

It's impossible to tell the story of Chateau Marmont without detailing the many celebrity cameos made there. While may were interesting, and you never knew who was going to pop up next, at times it read a bit to gossip-column-like for my tastes. It began to feel more like an anthology of various Hollywood characters, rather than the importance of the hotel, although obviously the two are linked.

My main dislike of the book was the pace. At times it really dragged, making it difficult to get through. For some celebrity appearances, so much background was given on them and what led to them being at the Chateau Marmont at that time, that I forgot what the point of the story was.
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The thing about being a kid in Los Angeles during the fifties is that, in spite of the smog, it seemed in many ways a fantasyland. There were gigantic doughnuts, a restaurant shaped like a hat, and then there were what I thought of as castles: one of these was the stately LDS Temple, up on its hillside overlooking my neighborhood some five miles south. (On rare days when the smog blew out, I could see it from the cliffs above the bean fields--now the Hughes Center--where I rode my bike.)

The other was the Chateau Marmont, which I glimpsed a few times as we traveled along Sunset, then saw more as a teen in the sixties, and finally, passed pretty much every day when I lived in Hollywood during the seventies. I never ventured indoors--too bad. I learned from this book I might have even been able to rent there in the seventies; it was certainly cheaper than our crowded apt building, with gangsters to the north of us, and call girls to the south.

Anyway, when I saw this title on NetGalley, I grabbed it. And I'm glad I did. Shawn Levy has done a bang-up job delving into not only the history of the building, but the immediate area of Sunset Blvd around it, all familiar to me.

Of course there's also plenty of gossip about the film, music, and other famous people who lived or visited there. Levy appears to have not just collected a ton of great quips and quotes, but done the legwork to track down the veracity of these quotes, sometimes with interesting side stories.

There are also more chilling bits, such as the fact (I had not known this) that Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate were living in the Marmont before she, at advanced pregnancy, wanted her kid to be born in a house--so they rented a place not far away from Doris Day's son, a music producer . . . who had recently turned down Charles Manson's wish to be in a band the man had been trying to develop. 

Equally chilling was the story of John Belushi's crash and burn, which was at the Marmont; I found myself skimming the latter portion of the book, just because I'm not familiar with most of the big names of today, whose claim to fame seems mostly to be drug excesses, not interesting to me. But that's nothing against the book.

I enjoyed the vivid descriptions of early Los Angeles (his word pictures of the area matched those of my spouse's grandmother, who used to go up there often), and how the place developed. Levy divides the book into parts, doing an excellent job of capturing the evolution of West Hollywood as overlooked by the Marmont over the decades.

He writes with sympathy of the many diverse characters who found a welcome there over the years. While some guests/residents got the boot, these were nonpayment or destructive behavior, and not (unlike the other famous hotels of the area) for skin color or preference in partners.

Levy's style is breezy, at times witty, vivid, packing quite a bit of information into the entertaining pages. I really enjoyed the book--and I think I've found a holiday gift for certain hard-to-shop-for relatives and friends.
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Very thorough and comprehensive history of a staple of the Sunset Strip. Though dense at times, the anecdotes were always interesting though I was more interested in the celebrity stories than the inception of the building/selling of the Marmont. Each generation of Hollywood has made the Marmon its own and it was very intriguing learning about the different groups of people who have called it home over the years.
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As someone who was born and raised in California, I have spent quite bit of time in Los Angeles, Hollywood, and many other parts of Southern California. So I have seen the infamous Hollywood Chateau Marmont, in person. I wish I could say that I've been inside, but sadly I haven't. I thought it would be fun to see how much it would cost to stay there for the night. So I did some research. Not surprisingly, the hotel was booked until early next year, and the very smallest room is upwards of $500 per night. While I would love the stay there for the possibility of rubbing shoulders with some of my favorite Hollywood celebrities, I just don't think a 24 hour stay is worth that much money. Maybe if I keep playing these lottery numbers though, one day I will get lucky!
This non-fiction book tells a very extensive history of this Hollywood landmark. From its early beginning's, through it's current popularity, Chateau Marmont has withstood the test of time and has shared in some of Hollywood's most well known scandals. From the death of John Belushi within its walls, to the many celebrities extended stays, this hotel has walls we all wish could talk. Fortunately for us, Shawn Levy has made this happen within the pages of his book.
The Castle on Sunset will be something that different generations of readers will each find interesting for different reasons. For example, my Mom wants to read this because she will recognize the names of actors and actresses from her generation (the 60's & 70's). When it comes down to it, my Grandpa would probably love this too being born in 1926. He has only been alive a few years longer than the hotel has been around, and would likely recognize all of the names listed in this book from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars not because I didn't think it was worthy of 4 or 5 stars, but for me, not all of the history was interesting. Someone like my Mom who has more knowledge of these scandals would likely rank it higher. The amount of research that had to have gone into this book is astounding. Shawn, I can only imagine the amount of sticky notes, timelines, and notes that you had in your office while writing this book. I thought the chronological order and attention to detail was incredible. The piecing together of all that information was spot on, and it was written in a way that keeps the reader interested, and not bored.  Fans of Hollywood, and fans of history will both enjoy this intriguing look into Hollywood's Castle on Sunset.
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You cannot tell the story of Chateau Marmont without telling the story of Hollywood and highlighting the parade of stars who have called it home.

Built as a vision, really as a fantasy, it was originally designed as apartments. The owner, forced to sell because of the crash in 1929, never saw his dream come to fruition. The Chateau, like the neighborhood it's located in, has seen many transitions. It's gone from cheap housing to its present status of grand dame. Along the way, It's provided shelter for aspiring actors and comfort for those who have already made a name but often needed a place to rest, to hide, or to find sanctuary through difficult times. Although the Chateau has had her ups and downs, she's always had a bit of mystique about her and has maintained a devoted group of followers through it all.

Shawn Levy has written a gripping read, guiding you through the neighborhood’s flux, dropping names in a slightly gossipy fashion-The Garden of Allah Hotel once stood on a corner just across and a few doors down and you get a tour of their history too.  But this is no scandal sheet. He keeps to the facts, even footnoting his research. He just happens to be a consummate storyteller, weaving some delicious details in with the truth.

I really enjoyed this book. I worked at a bank down the block from the Chateau for two years and every workday I saw her facade. This history filled in many questions for me, and frankly made me a bit nostalgic. The neighborhood is again in flux, but I’m sure the Chateau will survive once more.  I look forward to seeing how she’s refashioned to stay in step. #TheCastleOnSunset #NetGalley
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Shawn Levy has managed to make the history of the Chateau Mormont an absolutely delicious history of not only the building, but of Hollywood.  He surrounds the building history with stories of those who lived there, both famous and infamous. 

I really couldn’t put it down and I am anxious to go back and visit. 

For all of us who love film history and film gossip, this is a must!
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Chateau Marmont sits along the freeway on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. Many Angelinos who drive past it every day are unsure of what the strange castle-like building is. What began as an odd apartment complex became one of the most infamous hotels in Hollywood history and a hiding place for deeds better done in privacy. It also became a location where musicians and actors gathered, some working together to create masterpieces of film and music, and still others would lose their lives there. 

Shawn Levy's new book, The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art and Scandal at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont, acts as a biography of a building, but so much more. The detailed history covers the very beginning of Chateau Marmont, all the way to its resurgence in recent times thanks to a secret party held by Jay-Z and Beyonce. Levy takes great care in retelling the secrets and stories of the hotel, but also makes sure to point out where something might not be exactly credible. He compares the hotel to the popularity of the Garden of Allah Hotel, formerly across the street, and how other popular locations played into the lives of the Chateau's clientele.  The Castle on Sunset takes care to be respectful, but at the same time reading the book almost feels like a family member telling you the secret stories behind their day jobs. 

The Castle on Sunset is one of those rare histories that stays interesting and relevant all the way through. Only during the most recent history did I find myself losing my concentration, but that is more my personal interests rather than a flaw with the book. If you love reading about old Hollywood, this is a definite must read or a great gift for someone who thinks they know it all about the playground of movie stars.

The Castle on Sunset is available May 7, 2019 from Doubleday Books, but is available for preorder now.
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This was incredibly well written and researched. Non-fiction lovers will really enjoy this look into this famous hotel and LA.  I was hoping for a few more scandalous details, but that’s because I’m simple sometimes and have short attention span :-).
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Tightly executed, grabs and holds interest, I enjoyed it, tho it dragged a bit here and there...galley needs typeface cleanup
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I loved everything about Shawn Levy's THE CASTLE ON SUNSET---the "dish," the social history, the evolution of a neighborhood, and the challenges of making a small property economically viable---it all came together in an eminently readable, delightful book.

When I picked up THE CASTLE ON SUNSET the only thing I knew about the hotel was that it had "a reputation" and was a Southern California icon.  Levy was able to formulate a story with a dazzling leading character--the hotel.  He infused it with so much character and personality that I felt a part of its glamour, its "naughtiness" and its historical importance.

His writing is as colorful as the hotel's history and, the time I spent with this book was almost as good as I expect a short stay at THE CASTLE ON SUNSET to be.
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