To keep your film fan spirits fresh, I have a threesome of fiction that evokes the spirit of Old Hollywood to recommend. First up is a current release by Melanie Benjamin entitled The Girls in the Picture, the two girls in question being silent film era diva Mary Pickford and screenwriter Frances Marion.
The two of them meet in 1914 and become good friends as both struggle to find a place within the growing entertainment hierarchy of Hollywood. As Mary reaches the height of fame as the reigning queen of cinema and Frances digs in her heels to climb up that same ladder, their bond is tested through good times and bad, romances and break-ups and the toll that time takes upon each of them.
Benjamin is known for her detailed portraits of influential women in times past and this duet of ground breaking ladies from the beginnings of the American film industry, one in front of the camera and the other behind the scenes, sounds like the fitting literary tribute such cinematic icons richly deserve:
Along side Loretta is her personal secretary Alda, a young woman straight out of the convent who is learning how to make her way in the wider world. With both women having to make choices of the heart that could affect their lives forever, they look to one another for consolation and support.
The story also weaves in a few celebrity cameos from the likes of Spencer Tracy,Myrna Loy and David Niven, all of which feel delightfully natural. Trigiani charmingly evokes the romance of movie star life back in those days but doesn't skimp on some of the tough realities that even famous star crossed lovers had to deal with:
When a resident of St. Mary's Mead dies by poisoned cocktail at a soiree hosted by newcomer and screen idol Marina Gregg, suspicion as to whom the deadly drink was really intended for shifts to the famous actress.
Several suspects pop up, including Marina's catty co-star in her current comeback film,Lola Brewster. Yet, with the aid of good sense and a sharp eye and ear for detail, Miss Marple is able to see her way to the truth. However, will she be in time to prevent another murder?
I just watched the 1980 film version of this book(the title shortened to The Mirror Crack'd) again over the weekend and while the original story doesn't have all of the acid tongued dialogue that the movie has between Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Novak, both are still fine examples of old school mystery and rivalry:
No doubt, there will be plenty of books to catch up on once the Oscar nominees are announced tomorrow. However, for those of us simply thrilled to have something positive pop culture wise to look forward to, a bit of reading about the film days of yesteryear will be enough to whet our cinematic appetite: