My featured book today is The Girls in the Picture, by Melanie Benjamin: an e-ARC from NetGalley (1/16/18), a fascinating novel of the friendship and creative partnership between two of Hollywood’s earliest female legends—screenwriter Frances Marion and superstar Mary Pickford…
Intro: (Frances – 1969)
Lately, the line between real life and movies has begun to blur.
There are times when I’m pounced upon by a memory—the cracked rearview mirror of the first car I ever owned, say, or the ghostly dance of a curtain in front of an open window when I was small and impressionable and plastered in bed with a fever. Or the teasing curve of a man’s lips, a man whose kiss I must have known at some time in my life. And the longer I dwell on the memory, the less certain I am of its origin. Is the memory really mine?
Teaser: “But we menfolk, as you call us, want to take care of those things. We want to take care of you.”
“But not all women want to be taken care of, you see.” (55%).
Synopsis: It is 1914, and twenty-five-year-old Frances Marion has left her (second) husband and her Northern California home for the lure of Los Angeles, where she is determined to live independently as an artist. But the word on everyone’s lips these days is “flickers”—the silent moving pictures enthralling theatergoers. Turn any corner in this burgeoning town and you’ll find made-up actors running around, as a movie camera captures it all.
In this fledgling industry, Frances finds her true calling: writing stories for this wondrous new medium. She also makes the acquaintance of actress Mary Pickford, whose signature golden curls and lively spirit have earned her the title “America’s Sweetheart.” The two ambitious young women hit it off instantly, their kinship fomented by their mutual fever to create, to move audiences to a frenzy, to start a revolution.
But their ambitions are challenged by both the men around them and the limitations imposed on their gender—and their astronomical success could come at a price. As Mary, the world’s highest paid and most beloved actress, struggles to live her life under the spotlight, she also wonders if it is possible to find love, even with the dashing actor Douglas Fairbanks. Frances, too, longs to share her life with someone. As in any good Hollywood story, dramas will play out, personalities will clash, and even the deepest friendships might be shattered.
With cameos from such notables as Charlie Chaplin, Louis B. Mayer, Rudolph Valentino, and Lillian Gish, The Girls in the Picture is, at its heart, a story of friendship and forgiveness. Melanie Benjamin perfectly captures the dawn of a glittering new era—its myths and icons, its possibilities and potential, and its seduction and heartbreak.
Do you want to keep reading? Do the snippets pique your interest?