The Girls In the Picture: A Novel. Melanie Benjamin. Random House Publishing Group. January 2018. 448 pp. ISBN#: 9781101886809.
What was it like to be part of the beginning of silent and sound pictures in the first half of the 20th Century? Mary Pickford and Frances Marion meet and immediately recognize the independent and creatively talented spirit in each other. They also will learn how talented actresses and screen writers are used to make money and then shunted aside when no longer useful. They also initially have no time for love as they are obsessed with their artistic craft.
Mary Pickford, with her slight, blond figure is delightful to audiences as “America’s Sweetheart;” but after Frances creates scripts depicting a childhood Mary never had but will now get to live on camera in “Poor Little Rich Girl,” Mary is viewed as America’s darling for sure. The story of how that movie was at first rejected by producers but was produced by Mary is intriguing and thrilling. Audiences went crazy with delight as this story called forth the inner child in every viewer. More importantly, this experience cemented their trust and belief in their own creative vision of what audiences wanted on film.
Then love arrives for Mary, after a failed marriage, in the person of Douglas Fairbanks and for Frances in a love she finally found and lost. Mary and Frances are tested with these loves, the Academy Awards and other glamorous acknowledgments of excellence.
The thrills of this novel lie in the descriptions of love, betrayal, forgiveness, renewal and artistic growth representing the rise and fall of two magnificent careers, a celebration of women’s rise in the film industry and a tribute to the art of drama on screen and stage. A magnificent historical fiction read!
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