Hollywood's famed Musso & Frank Grill in the 1940s -
the Larry Edmunds Bookshop is now just across the street
Photo courtesy of Water and Power
William Faulkner (above) was an early customer of the store
and Larry Edmunds was even a patron of Henry Miller
Catalogs from the early days of the Larry Edmunds Bookshop
The Larry Edmunds Bookshop moves to Hollywood Boulevard
Jeanne Moreau and Donald Sutherland at the Larry Edmunds Bookshop
in the 1970 film Alex in Wonderland
A mecca for film aficionados, the Larry Edmunds Bookshop has long educated lovers of entertainment through its large selection of books, scripts, posters, and photos along with events that feature the most talented authors of Hollywood history. Probably the first true film book store, Larry Edmunds has survived the ups and downs of book publishing for more than 75 years while serving the needs of cineastes.
The original owner Larry Edmunds, who originally 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 Boulevard in 1939. He then brought in Milton Luboviski, a former co-worker, as partner in 1940. When Edmunds tragically committed suicide in 1941, Luboviski and his wife Git took over the store.
In the early years, the store 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 the Larry Edmunds Bookshop sold rare editions to writers such as William Faulkner. That often meant bringing books like the European version of Ulysses in brown paper bags to clients dining (and drinking) at the Musso and Frank Grill, which was something like the Hollywood version of the Algonquin Round Table.
After Luboviski took over, he not only sold to many authors, but purchased some of their work 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 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 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 when its patrons expanded 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 his stock towards more entertainment-related books, which slowly became 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 merchandise to make it more widely available to the public. The idea of a film-related book shop took off, particularly after they bought ads in the Hollywood trades in the 1950s. They saw their catalog explode to over 200 pages by the mid-1960s.
The Larry Edmunds Bookshop 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.
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 into one with 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 and moved to its current location at 6658 Hollywood Boulevard. Many stories and advertisements promoted the scale of the store such as a 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, which were acquired from collectors looking for cash. In an interview with Cinemaeditor 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 sensed 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 a June 2, 1965 article in Variety - they picked up to sell. This included copies of Russell Birdwell’s 183-page press release for the John Wayne film The Alamo (1960), 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 loved to shop at Larry Edmunds. A January 21, 1968 Times story pointed out that stars as varied as Ursula Andress, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Debbie Reynolds, and even silent film star Jack Mulhall perused items at the store. 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. In the article, Luboviski quoted from one letter received from an English client, “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.”
Former Larry Edmunds employee Mike Hawks reminisced about some of the stars he served over the years. He recalled waiting on people such 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.
Soon filmmakers began utilizing Larry Edmunds for more than just shopping. Many turned it into a filming location for movies and television shows including Alex in Wonderland, Fade to Black, Melrose Place, Beverly Hills 90210, The District, and A Star For Rose.
In November 1990, Larry Edmunds moved to its current location at 6644 Hollywood Blvd. Just a few months later, Jeffrey Mantor began working in the store for then owners Git, Din, and Phil Luboviski. Book stores were popular at the time, but small independents soon began suffering as more and more large chains came in. This was soon followed by online retailers as well. More than 15 book stores had once lined Hollywood Boulevard. They began closing around 2000. Only Larry Edmunds has weathered the storm.
Mantor took over the store in 2007, continuing the Luboviski tradition of carrying esoteric and eclectic film books and selling motion picture-related merchandise. He also expanded the tradition of the Larry Edmunds Bookshop to include in-store events. Mantor has hosted celebrity authors such as Anjelica Huston, Terry Gilliam, Garry Marshall, William Friedkin, and Ernest Borgnine at the store as well as respected writers like John Bengtson, Mark Vieira, and Eddie Muller. It is a place that celebrates and promotes new authors just as passionately as it does for those who are already established. Larry Edmunds is a vital part of the cinema community, organizing hundreds of book signings at the Egyptian and Aero Theatres, Live Talks LA, and the TCM Classic Film Festival in addition to the many events held at the store.
Larry Edmunds Bookshop is a cultural institution that's as much a part of Hollywood history as the artists it celebrates. We invite you to visit and shop - either in person or online. And, in these challenging times, please consider a donation through our GoFundMe campaign to support the store.
This history is shared and edited with permission from an article by author - and longtime Larry Edmunds friend - Mary Mallory