Film historian and author Robert S. Birchard contributes this story to arts•meme.
For over 70 years and through three locations, Larry Edmunds Book Shop has been a Hollywood institution, known the world over as the place to go for books related to the movies as well as stills, posters and other film-related memorabilia. Few today even remember that it wasn’t always so.
When I first set foot in Larry Edmunds location number two as a young teenager in 1963, the store windows were filled with eye-catching zoetropes, mutoscopes and other early cinematic mechanisms. Inside there were a few movie books (not all than many had been published up to then), and a counter in the back where you could ask to look through files of still photographs, but movies represented only a small portion of the available merchandise. The west wall was filled with printed plays–Edmunds was the west-coast agent for the works of Dramatists Play Service–and the east wall was filled with books related to metaphysics and religion.
Fewer still would even remember that there was once a real Larry Edmunds. Lawrence O’Connell Edmunds was born March 13, 1906, in North Carolina. In the 1930s he worked for legendary Hollywood bookseller Stanley Rose. Rose’s book shop, which stood next to Musso & Frank was a gathering spot for writers, though Rose himself is said to have liked writers more than writing. In The Four Seasons of Success, Budd Schulberg told about a New York writer, new in town, who asked Rose: “Read anything good lately?”
“Me? I hate books!” Rose is said to have replied.
“Then how come you run a bookstore?”
“Cause I like to keep a joint where my pals can hang out.”
In any event, by 1940 Stanley Rose’s Book Shop was no more–the space becoming the even more legendary writers room at Hollywood’s oldest restaurant.
But Larry Edmunds, it seems, loved books, and around 1938 he set up his own shop at 1603 North Cahuenga Boulevard. If the business was a success, his personal life was not. On August 8, 1941, he stuck his head in an oven and turned on the gas, supposedly leaving a note that read: “If you think this is easy you’re crazy.”
Edmunds left the store to his employee, Milt Luboviski, and in a series of events worthy of a Raymond Chandler novel, Milt lost the store to a dame who resented that fact that Edmunds hadn’t left the store to her, and then regained the store in the late 1940s when his new father-in-law put up the dough to buy the place back from a subsequent owner, and (shades of Arthur Gwynn Geiger in Chandler’s The Big Sleep) Milt was even busted for selling porn in the early 1950s.
But it was Milt’s wife, Git Luboviski, who pushed the store in a new direction–figuratively and literally. Realizing that there had been no book catalog related to the cinema, she put together a small brochure of movie-related books–and they almost immediately sold out the entire list. Larry Edmund’s Book Shop would move to 6658 Hollywood Boulevard in 1954.
As publishers started churning out movie books in the 1960s, Edmunds’ general stock was gradually pushed aside. Larry McMurtry, no less, bought what the Luboviskis no longer had any use for.
Today Larry Edmunds Book Shop is located at 6644 Hollywood Boulevard — the last hold out from the days when Hollywood Boulevard was a book-buyer’s mecca. Git Luboviski sold her interest in the shop to current owner and long-time Larry Edmunds book-buyer, Jeffrey Mantor, several years back and, for the moment at least, the tradition continues and the name Larry Edmunds still shines in neon over the store that bears his name. You should stop by and check it out.
Credits: blue catalog, Ernest Borgnine photo courtesy Larry Edmunds Book Shop; 1965 catalog Collection of Robert S. Birchard
Robert S. Birchard’s most recent work, “Early Universal City,” is available at Larry Edmunds Book Shop.
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