Melanie Benjamin taught me about Old Hollywood and how not much has really changed in the present day. Women trying to make a name for themselves despite the imbalance of power in relation to their male counterparts, make this a timely book. What stands above all in this book, is the real-life friendship between actress Mary Pickford and screenwriter Frances Marion.
Early on, it's clear that Frances was not your typical woman of her time. The book opens in 1914, Frances is already on her second marriage and is looking for a way out. She doesn't want to be a housewife. She knows she wants to be part of making movies, but Frances is unsure of what her role could be. Everything but acting is on the table. When Frances and Mary final cross paths, it's a happy and sad moment. Until that point, Mary was portrayed as someone who was desperate for friendship and connection. Frances comes along at just the right moment. Through their long friendship, both women rise the Hollywood ladder. Mary becoming "America's Sweetheart" and a much sought-after actress and Frances a screenwriter.
As a whole, I think the book gives a vivid portrait of Old Hollywood, including how flickers (silent movies) morphed into "talkies." I didn't know that many of the early movies were really, really short, like under 30 minutes short. Mary and Frances paved the way for women who came after them. Where the book lost some points with me was the length, clocking in at 415 pages. I'm not against long books, I just thought this one could have benefited from a little less descriptive passages. Overall, this is a book worth reading!
Rating: Give it a try
Note: I received a copy from Wunderkind PR in exchange for an honest review.