The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin Book Review
The lowdown from Goodreads
Publication Date January 16, 2018
Hollywood, 1914. Frances Marion, a young writer desperate for a break, meets “America’s Sweetheart,” Mary Pickford, already making a name for herself both on and off the screen with her golden curls and lively spirit. Together, these two women will take the movie business by storm.
Mary Pickford becomes known as the “Queen of the Movies”—the first actor to have her name on a movie marquee, and the first to become a truly international celebrity. Mary and her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, were America’s first Royal Couple, living in a home more famous that Buckingham Palace. Mary won the first Academy Award for Best Actress in a Talkie and was the first to put her hand and footprints in Grauman’s theater sidewalk. Her annual salary in 1919 was $625,000—at a time when women’s salaries peaked at $10 a week. Frances Marion is widely considered one of the most important female screenwriters of the 20th century, and was the first writer to win multiple Academy Awards. The close personal friendship between the two stars was closely linked to their professional collaboration and success.
This is a novel about power: the power of women during the exhilarating early years of Hollywood, and the power of forgiveness. It’s also about the imbalance of power, then and now, and the sacrifices and compromises women must make in order to succeed. And at its heart, it’s a novel about the power of female friendship.
The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin Book Review
Talk about picking the right book at the right time! We are fresh off the Golden Globes where Natalie Portman pointed out “the all-male nominees” for the Best Director category. Recall that night the vast majority of women wore all black that night to protest Hollywood’s culture of sexual harassment. Now, over 300 females working in Hollywood created the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund to create “unified call for change from women in entertainment for women everywhere.” Women are working together to create effective change. I think Frances & Mary would be so proud.
Women In Hollywood
Imagine going back in time to the creation of film movies. Before this book, I hadn’t really thought about it. Sure, movies get made, it’s a form of art & you need a team of talented individuals to pull it off. Melanie takes readers to the very beginning. Her writing is so descriptive I could see the film reels, the director’s chair & the landscapes. The Hollywood pioneers, Mary Pickford & Frances Marion were certainly in this group, changed the world. From short silent films to 2-hour “talkies” women were at the forefront of creating Hollywood & it is about time we heard their story.
I know Mary Pickford as a silent film actress & a co-star alongside Charlie Chaplin. I did not realize she created the film distribution company, United Artists & changed the game for filmmakers. Mary also helped form the original Academy for Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Although she was known for her beautiful face & tender ringlets, she was not messing around. Mary worked the scenes, worked the camera & was involved in every aspect of creating films.
I tell you what, Frances Marion is a badass. First off, she is the first person to win 2 screenwriting Academy Awards. She is a total fashionista & clothes horse. Frances traveled the world as a combat journalist in World War I. Can you imagine leaving the comforts of Hollywood to travel to a war zone? Like I said, she is a total badass.
Frances & Mary
Perhaps my favorite part of The Girls in the Picture is the relationship between Frances & Mary. Although Mary was a well-known actress by the time Frances made it to Hollywood, Mary recognized her talent brought her into her inner circle. Oh, I loved when they lived next door to one another. I can imagine that was such a special time for the two of them. Sitting on the porch, eating, talking & planning. That’s how you know you are truly friends, right? Melanie, as always, marries the historical facts within her meaningful storyline. I lived in this book while I was reading it & I loved every minute.
I am Really Into This book! Jessica & I love movies, love Hollywood & learning about these two powerful & talented women was so incredibly inspiring. I want to read more about them.
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Melanie Benjamin is the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling historical novels The Swans of Fifth Avenue, about Truman Capote and his society swans, and The Aviator’s Wife, a novel about Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Her upcoming historical novel, The Girls in the Picture, is about the friendship and creative partnership between two of Hollywood’s earliest female legends—screenwriter Frances Marion and superstar Mary Pickford. It will be available January 16, 2018.
Previous historical novels include the national bestseller Alice I Have Been, about Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland, and The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, the story of 32-inch-tall Lavinia Warren Stratton, a star during the Gilded Age.
Her novels have been translated in over fifteen languages, featured in national magazines such as Good Housekeeping, People, and Entertainment Weekly, and optioned for film.
Melanie is a native of the Midwest, having grown up in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she pursued her first love, theater. After raising her two sons, Melanie, a life-long reader (including being the proud winner, two years in a row, of her hometown library’s summer reading program!), decided to pursue a writing career. After writing her own parenting column for a local magazine, and winning a short story contest, Melanie published two contemporary novels under her real name, Melanie Hauser, before turning to historical fiction.
Melanie lives in Chicago with her husband, and near her two grown sons. In addition to writing, she puts her theatrical training to good use by being a member of the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau. When she isn’t writing or speaking, she’s reading. And always looking for new stories to tell.
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