Look what’s new: Melanie Benjamin has a brand new novel. THE GIRLS IN THE PICTURES is a novel that reads like part memoir, part tell-all. You film buffs are going to be gaga about this one!
Beginning in 1969, Frances Marion is looking back over her life. Remembering the years working with Mary Pickford and recalling their years of friendship. Setting the tone.
Flash back to 1914 when Mary and Frances first meet. You see, Mary Pickford became a huge film star. And Frances was right there next to her every step of the way. But Frances was not a movie star. Frances was the screen writer for Mary’s movies. Before and after the silent film era. Their friendship was legendary. Until it wasn’t.
Mary Pickford was a tiny yellow-haired sprite of a girl. She was poked and prodded into stardom by her mother. I’ve no doubt that’s where the term stage -mother came from. Mary was the sole bread winner for her family. She hardly had a moment to herself. And then she ended up in a bad marriage. Ugh.
Frances Marion came along just as Mary truly needed a friend. They became attached at the hip. This friendship was bound to have ups and downs. And so it did. Both women shot to stardom and had tumultuous lives.
Frances Marion blew through four marriages. Mary, who married in haste the first time, fell in love with Douglas Fairbanks while they were both still married to others. It was scandalous, but, after all, Mary was America’s sweetheart. The fans decided it was a wonderful love story.
Not every actor or actress survived the transition from silent movies to “talkies.” Some of these movie people just could not move into the future. But Mary thrived. She and Douglas became American Royalty. Their mansion, Pickfair, became as renown as Buckingham Palace.
Both Mary Pickford and Frances Marion have penned memoirs. Both leave much to be desired, says Melanie Benjamin. But with her tireless research and her passion for details, she has managed to bring us what she always does: a historical rendering that compels us to want to know even more.
I have to say that I am not a fan of Hollywood; now or then. So when I heard this book was about the movies, I was not wild to read it. Having said that, I have to say that I became engrossed in the lives of these two famous women once I realized how timely this story is. You have to admit that anything to do with the casting couch is very popular right now. These women overcame the limitations of their gender and conquered their professions. This happened a century ago. And it’s still going on to this day all over the world, and in every profession. Time for change.
Melanie Benjamin is the best-selling author of THE AVIATOR’S WIFE and THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE. She spoke about THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE at Artis-Naples last March and a small group of us had lunch with her. She’s delightful!
My review copy was furnished by Random House. It’s bound to be a big hit with book clubs this year! Timely and important.