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Rain Phoenix


Dark Blood

Music Hobby

James Dean


Aleka's Attic

John Glatt

River Phoenix: The Biography

Costa Rica

John Belushi

Marilyn Monroe

Animal Rights

Environment, Environmental Concerns, Green, Green Issues

The Hollywood Book of Death

James Robert Parish

Rudolph Valentino

Clara Bow

Phil Hartman

Wallace Reid

Barbara La Marr

Chris Farley

Brandon Lee

Sharon Tate
Rio's Attic: Celebrating the Life and Times of a Dearly Missed River Phoenix
American EnglishEn Français

The Hollywood Book of Death

From Rudolph Valentino and Clara Bow
to James Dean and Marilyn Monroe
to River Phoenix and Phil Hartman

by James Robert Parish
First published in 2002

ISBN 0-8092-2227-2 (Paperback, 426 Pages)

Overwhelming reluctance to take a book down from the shelf reaches new heights when words like "morbid," "macabre" and "sordid" are proudly displayed on its front and back covers no less. One is almost resigned to the fact that the contents within will be extremely predictable and make for wholly questionable reading material. It therefore came as quite a shock however to discover that this book isn't that bad at all.

Over the decades, many Hollywood notables have ended their lives through substance abuse - Wallace Reid, Barbara La Marr, John Belushi, and Chris Farley, to name a few. By now the entertainment industry and the public should almost be accustomed to such untimely exits. But in the case of the gifted actor River Phoenix, we were not. River's sad and public finale was tough to accept. Not only did the blond, blue-eyed actor give extremely talented performances, but with his very expressive face, he had the potential of becoming a Hollywood great.

The pages where the author talks about River are written quite considerately and are, initially at least, well-balanced. The chapter is somewhat let down though by the disproportionate amount of space discussing, in rather too much detail, the events of October 30, 1993, but perhaps this is only to be expected given the title of the book. Nevertheless, what isn't expected though, are the graphic descriptions of the various recovery techniques used by the medical team that night.

Elsewhere, on a number of occasions the various presented facts sound most familiar. Like so many other movie-star compendiums, it eventually comes as little surprise that John Glatt's biography is listed as a reference source in this book's bibliography section.

Unlike many rising actors, River was very shy and hated publicity. River accepted his escalating success reluctantly, glad that at least it provided a way for him to help his family by being the breadwinner. In the early 1990s Phoenix abandoned acting and returned to Florida to live in Gainesville with his family (and later on his own). For a time, he called himself Rio. He formed a band called Aleka's Attic with his sister Rain, in which he sang, played guitar, and wrote songs. He remained a firm environmentalist and a dedicated animal rights activist who cared so much about the diminished rain forest that he bought up many acres of it in Costa Rica to save it from development.

With sections elsewhere in the book dealing openly with fatal accidents that befell the likes of James Dean and Brandon Lee, along with suicides and mysterious celebrity passings as well as several murder victims such as Phil Hartman and Sharon Tate, it is a relief that River comes off remarkably lightly. In what ultimately can be no bad thing, if the sensationalism-seeking, National Enquirer-reader types in their thousands, in search of their latest fix of lurid scandal choose to read this book, for a few moments at least, they'll go behind the headlines and learn about a young actor and the gentle, perceptive soul that was to be found within.

As for the uncompleted Dark Blood, it was decided that too many sequences remained unfinished, and the film was shelved. Phoenix's estate was sued for more than $6 million by the insurance company that had to pay off the backers of the unfinished film. The insurance company's case was based on the allegation that River had not told the truth about his drug usage on the pre-contract medical questionnaire. But since he had never signed the form, the case fell apart.

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