Jeanne Moreau shoots a scene for the 1970 film “Alex in Wonderland,” starring Donald Sutherland, right, at Larry Edmunds Bookshop, from a catalog listed on EBay
Long a mecca for film aficionados, Hollywood’s Larry Edmunds Bookshop continues educating film lovers through talks and signings by authors and through its large selection of film books on every topic. Probably the first true film book shop, Larry Edmunds has survived the ups and downs of book publishing for over 75 years as it serves the needs of cineastes.
Original owner Larry Edmunds, who worked at Book of the Day store on La Brea Avenue in the late 1930s, bought out Sam Reiser and his book shop at 1603 N. Cahuenga Blvd. in 1939 and brought in Milton Luboviski, a former co-worker, as partner in 1940. When Edmunds committed suicide in 1941, Luboviski and his wife, Git, took over.
“Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays” by Karie Bible and Mary Mallory is available at Amazon and at local bookstores.
In the early years, the stock focused mainly on literature, particularly obscure and edgy works requested by studio executives, writers, and directors. Todd McCarthy in his March 27, 1982, Daily Variety column stated that Larry Edmunds Bookshop sold editions to writers such as William Faulkner, often bringing books like the European version of “Ulysses” in brown paper bags to clients at Musso and Frank, the Hollywood version of the Algonquin Round Table.
After Luboviski took over, he not only sold works to authors, but purchased some of their own as well. The June 7, 1983, New York Times reported that Luboviski paid writer Henry Miller $1 a page for a softcore novella in 1941 so that Miller could pay his bills. The store owner printed four copies, selling three and keeping one for himself and a friend. In the early 1980s this lost work of Miller’s was found and finally credited to him under the title “Opus Pistorium.” Luboviski stated in a signed statement, “In those days, the shop was not doing well and I supplemented our income by selling various items of pornography, whenever it was possible to locate.”
Larry Edmunds saw a growth in revenue after the war and saw its patrons move beyond the entertainment industry into a wider clientele. Luboviski told Robert Kalish in a 1960s Daily Variety story that his personal interest in Hollywood novels had begun pushing the stock toward more entertainment-related books, slowly becoming the focus of the shop. It was his wife, Git, in 1952 who came up with the idea of putting together a fold-out pamphlet of their Hollywood material to make their merchandise more widely available to the public. The idea of a film-related book shop took off, particularly as they bought ads in the Hollywood trades in the 1950s, and saw their catalog explode to over 200 pages by the mid-1960s.
The store also sold tickets for eclectic events on the side, like tickets for a Mexican bullfight on December 12, 1954 with Joselito Mendez, Curro Ortega, and Luis Mata.
The interior of Larry Edmunds Bookstore, as shown in a 1970s catalog listed on EBay.
Luboviski began acquiring every film book released by publishers, becoming the go-to source for anything related to motion pictures. In so doing, the clientele evolved from a majority entertainment-related to a more academic base, with scholars picking up material to assist them in their research endeavors. As Luboviski told Kalish, “We have a very good relationship with all the schools around there. We constantly get calls from professors doing research for old books, scripts, or what have you.”
By 1955, the store had outgrown its space, moving to 6658 Hollywood Blvd. Many stories and advertisements promoted their huge size, like the October 16, 1960 New York Times ad calling them “the world’s largest collection of cinema books.”
The couple branched out to selling scripts, movie magazines, posters, and film stills, acquired from collectors looking for cash. In an interview with Cinemeditor magazine in Summer 1966, Luboviski stated, “I decided to concentrate on this field because I had become increasingly aware of the great shortage of stills, scripts, and associated memorabilia of the industry. The studios have always maintained a remarkable laxness in saving such material after they have used it. Also, I senses a coming interest in motion picture production on the part of the universities and training institutes.”
Some items they considered appropriate for the “esoteric world of the film buff” per the June 2, 1965 Variety they picked up for sale, such as copies of Russell Birdwell’s 183-page press release for the 1960 John Wayne film “The Alamo,” selling them for $15 each with profits going to Wayne. In the early days, Git sold stills by the pound. They quickly became the go-to source for all manner of paper items related to film. Studios called looking for research materials. The BBC and foreign universities phoned Luboviski for interviews or for requests to speak before classes. Film critic Gene Siskel called them the top outlet for paper items like posters and magazines in 1971. Author Rudy Behlmer sang their praises in a 1976 Los Angeles Times article.
Celebrities continued to shop in the store, as a January 21, 1968 Times story pointed out that such stars as varied as Ursula Andress and Jean-Paul Belmondo, Debbie Reynolds, and even silent film star Jack Mulhall perused items in the shop. Many searched for stills of themselves in various films. Fans looking for a nostalgic fix on one of their favorite stars called regarding purchases as well. As Luboviski quoted from one letter received from an English client in the article, “I’m forever trying to recapture the excitement of the past though this does not mean that I live in it. I do, however, find it a tremendous source of strength whenever the future looks rather bleak.”
The cover of a Larry Edmunds Bookstore catalog, listed on EBay as Buy It Now for $20.
Former employee Mike Hawks reminisced about some of the stars he served over the years in the current location of Larry Edmunds at 6644 Hollywood Blvd. Hawks recalls waiting on such people as Lawrence Tierney, Anthony Perkins, Michael Powell, King Vidor, and David Lean during his time at the shop. Lean revealed to Hawks that watching the 1923 Rex Ingram film “Scaramouche” inspired him to become a film director.
Filmmakers began employing the store for more than purchasing things, filming such movies and television shows as “Alex in Wonderland,” “Fade to Black,” “Melrose Place,” “Beverly Hills 90210,” “The District,” and “A Star for Rose.”
Donald Sutherland runs past Larry Edmunds Bookshop in the 1970 film “Alex in Wonderland,” in a still listed on EBay as Buy It Now for $27.99.
In November 1990 Larry Edmunds moved to its current location at 6644 Hollywood Blvd. Just a few months later current owner Jeffrey Mantor began working in the store for then owners Git, Din, and Phil Luboviski. Bookstores were popular, but small independents began suffering as large chains came in, followed by online selling. More than 15 book stores lined Hollywood Boulevard before they began closing around 2000, while Edmunds chugged along.
Larry Edmunds weathered the storm, and was taken over by Mantor in 2007, still continuing the Luboviski tradition of carrying esoteric and eclectic film books and selling motion picture related merchandise. Mantor has hosted such celebrity authors as Anjelica Huston, Terry Gilliam, Garry Marshall, William Friedkin, and Ernest Borgnine as well as writers like John Bengtson, Mark Vieira, and even me at the store, holding many book signings each month. Larry Edmunds also procures books for signings at the Egyptian and Aero Theatres, Live Talks LA, and the TCM Classic Film Festival.
The upcoming weeks see Carl Reiner providing commentary for a screening of a Dick Van Dyke TV show followed by a signing. “My Three Sons” actor Stanley Livingston appears at a signing of the book “Dashing, Darling, and Debonair TV’s Top Male Icons from the 50s, 60s, and 70s” on August 18. Manor handles signings for author Mark Vieira and will be handling sales for authors at the Cinecon Film Festival Labor Day weekend at the Loews Hollywood Hotel. See the Larry Edmunds website for further information.
Larry Edmunds Bookshop is a great place to acquire film and Los Angeles-related books and material, as well as an entertaining location for book signings and screenings. Check out this Hollywood institution whenever you have the chance.