Lights. Camera. Flickers. (The Girls in the Picture – A Book Review)

The Girls in the Picture
Author: Melanie Benjamin
Published: Jan. 16th, 2018 (ARC)

Girls in the Picture - Scarlet Reader

 

My Rating: Full boltFull boltFull boltFull boltFull bolt

1 of 25

A memory of a different time, a different color, a different door…

Before there were movies and television shows there were the silent films and the talkies. It was the beginning of film. At the forefront of this revolution from theatre to black and white there was Mary Pickford and Frances Marion, friends and feminist duo. These two ladies were much more than that; they were innovators and artists in a time when the world was considered no place for a woman to work, a man’s world.

With all of this fame came the struggles that tested their relationship, their sisterhood. Through the abuse of men, heartbreak, loss, there were times that they nearly lost each other as well as themselves. During a time of war both across the world and in the industry, these strong women held on to their dreams, gaining fame and respect, earning their places in Hollywood history among the first women to earn Academy Awards for their extraordinary talent: Frances for her screenwriting and Mary for her acting.

This book is a part of my New Year’s Resolution to read from 25 authors I haven’t read from before. This marks 1 of 25. I’m very excited about this being numero uno, too. I received ARC from Random House Publishing. It was delivered to our store and I was grateful to receive a copy. Truly.

I remember when The Swans of Fifth Avenue came out and I really wanted to read it. I haven’t had a chance to yet, but I am ecstatic to have read The Girls in the Picture. I love movies. I love my television shows. I love film. Casablanca is one of my favorite romances, but so is A Walk to Remember. To get a wonderful vision of the birth of film was breathtaking for me. There wasn’t a moment that I wasn’t ooohhhing and aaaahhhing at the glamorous parts or gasping at some of the horrifying moments that took place behind the camera as well as in front of it. Melanie wrote about a subject that I’m in love and utterly passionate with. It made me very happy to read this historical novel. It wasn’t typical whatsoever.

It wasn’t just with the time period that I followed the lovely Mary Pickford and Frances Marion through, but the language that guided their story and swept me away, like Dorothy to Oz. Oh, I was in such a wispy dream. In the midst of reading this book I was looking up the adventures of Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks on YouTube and there they were in black and white. It was very interesting. Each character was so wonderfully written. I had a clear vision of all of them.

girls in the picture

There wasn’t a detail amiss as I went through the years with these women. I do have to say, my favorite part was when Frances had no idea where to put her first Academy Award so she used it as a doorstop. It was so normal and simple. I imagine there are special shelves for such awards and for Frances it was on the floor, keeping her doors from closing. At least it had a use. LOL.

Even more, I learned an incredible amount about what it meant to work in the entertainment industry at this time in history. You acted, edited and cut your own work. It was never just one job. You did everything to help make a flicker or silent movie. And all of the make-up one had to wear? One might as well have been wearing a mask. Dialogue didn’t hit the screen until moviegoers started to read lips and that’s when Frances got her true beginning, her niche and  it was like watching a real star being born and seeing it’s twinkle turn into a bright shine. As the girl with curls, Mary Pickford gained notoriety by using her shine in front of the camera. The love of the people gave her life and all of this? The entire journey? It left my heart tingling. I have been inspired.

The feminism of this book was powerful. Frances and Mary strived and worked hard to achieve their success at a time when they were expected to be baby-makers and home caretakers and not much more. The business of Hollywood is no joke. There’s so much chaos and dirt underneath the glitz and glam of shiny stars. If you’ve been reading the headlines lately, you know what I mean. #MeToo and the amazing solidarity shown at the Golden Globes is a powerful movement. I hope it moves forward to help women and many others who have been treated unfairly to gain equality. Both of the women in the book struggled against men in power to be treated with respect and to prove that they could handle whatever stood in their way.

girls in the Picture

This is such a beautiful book. I loved it very much as you can tell. I don’t have any bones to pick. It’s certainly a must-read. The book comes out on Jan. 16th, 2018. That’s less than a week, folks. Go get a copy ASAP.

Quotables:

“Then I looked up at the stars. They were so close they looked as if, with one poke of my finger, they might scatter, like brilliant billiard balls.” (Francis, p. 81)

“I was one of them. The only woman swimming upstream up a river of men.” (Frances, p. 207)

“When you’re older, looking at your younger self is like at a promise you couldn’t keep. But still, you look, you marvel. You remember.” (Mary, p. 228)

“The sins you do two by two, you pay for one by one.” (doctor, p. 316)

“Before the nightmare, there was paradise.” (Frances, p. 339)

More to come soon…

-K.

P.S. Song today? This Is What Makes Us Girls by Lana Del Rey

 

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