hollywood glamour rides again in a joyful book

Hollywood Rides a Bike Book

How did Jimmy Stewart find relief from hours of sitting in a fake leg cast in a wheelchair during the filming of the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock thriller Rear Window? Apparently, one way was to ferry his co-star Grace Kelly around the Paramount lot on a bright red Phillips bicycle.

A charming photo of these glamorous co-stars is just one of the delights that await readers of the new book Hollywood Rides a Bike by Steven Rea, a film critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer and a cycling enthusiast. (Rea and his wife Connie own 13 bikes, many of them vintage British models.) Rea stumbled upon a public appetite for pictures of movie stars on bikes when, on Thanksgiving weekend 2010, he launched a Tumblr blog and posted a few shots that he had collected.

Whim Becomes Obsession

Enthusiastic response to his new blog Rides a Bike was almost instantaneous, Rea recalled last week at a book signing at Adeline Adeline bike shop in Manhattan. And so, he began to delve deeper into what had started as a whim. “Now it’s become an obsession,” he says.

Rea’s rare vintage finds — 125 candid back-lot shots, publicity stills, staged studio portraits (hello cheesecake!) and real-life photos of stars at leisure — have been compiled into a coffee-table book with cross-over appeal among fans of movies, movie stars and classic bicycles. Rea included some of his personal favorites in a slide presentation at the shop: Here is Jane Fonda crashing her Rollfast bicycle into Marc Connelly in her 1960 screen debut in Tall Story. In 1945, a young Lauren Bacall smolders as she leans against a studio bicycle; she’s wearing trousers, a sweater and a snood. Film star Susan Peters’s dreamy gaze and almost balletic stance astride her Monark bicycle seem poignant when Rea reveals the tragic turn that her life would take.

Hitchcock Rides a Folding Bike

How does Rea unearth these gems? The author says the deeper he digs, the more sources come his way, adding that enthusiasts sometimes share their finds with him. In addition to the trove of information the author includes with each photo, he sometimes adds the original captions that he’s found with the prints. Alphabetized indices at the back of the book provide handy references to the featured stars, as well as the bikes they rode.

My personal favorite? The always-dapper Sean Connery riding a Schwinn on the set of Marni in 1964.

Which brings us back to Alfred Hitchcock. The director himself makes an appearance in the book, riding a Helium folding bike in Cannes, where he was promoting his final film Frenzy in 1972.  The crowning touch: the photo is framed in such a way that an antenna in the background appears to protrude from the director’s head.

Hollywood Rides a Bike: Cycling with the Stars, Angel City Press, $20 (Available from Adeline Adeline and Gage + Desoto.)

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