Levy’s pages teem with extraordinary and extreme personalities; to find their antics amusing, you probably had to be there; at the very least, you need to share his delight in what he calls “celebrity naughtiness”. But he writes affectingly about Montgomery Clift, the first of the Method actors to make the big time in Hollywood, who retreated to the chateau after the 1956 car crash that disfigured him and broke his spirit; and about Greta Garbo, greatest of all screen actors, who drifted about the hotel in the 1940s, while she toyed idly with the idea of reigniting her career.
Shawn Levy doesn’t write, as such. He compiles lists, as for a thesaurus. The Chateau Marmont, in Hollywood, is “an oasis of quiet, gentility, privacy and bohemian charm”. It is “a vault of secrets, a haven, a port in a storm, a home away from home”, which has “harboured misfits, freaks, iconoclasts, outcasts, deviants, seekers, refugees, experimentalists”, and so on and so forth. But I nevertheless quickly grasped the point that this apartment block and semi-hotel, “giving harbour” – Levy is fond of the nautical cliché... Levy makes much of the Chateau’s alleged high jinks, which in actuality were no more than squalid adultery and drunken boorishness.