New Film Books - On the Bedside Table

Two new books will be published by The University Press of Kentucky in 2017, two that I am excited about. I am making room on the beside table for them now!

Silent Screen vamp Barbara LaMarr
The first being a long-awaited biography of silent era diva, Barbara LaMarr.  LaMarr was dubbed the girl who was to beautiful.  She could also have been dubbed the girl who married too much and died, tragically too young.  She worked with luminaries such as Douglas Fairbanks Sr., director Rex Ingram and latin star Ramon Novarro.  LaMarr died a scant two months prior to her contemporary, Rudolph Valentino in 1926.  Her funeral drew impressively sized crowds, much as Valentino's did.  She and Valentino are interred at Hollywood Memorial Park (now known as Hollywood Forever).  

Crowds at Barbara LaMarr's funeral in 1926
Her name today, however, is all but forgotten and this is a damn shame.  Sheri Snyder's excellent website on LaMarr has worked hard to bring her name to the fore and now this new biography will share her story.  It is a book that is much needed and I am very much looking forward to it in the Fall of 2017.  Mark it down for your Xmas wish list, it is now on mine.

Miriam Hopkins circa 1932

Allan Ellenberger, Hollywood Historian and author of The Valentino Mystique and Ramon Novarro has had his manuscript accepted by The University Press of Kentucky on screen diva Miriam Hopkins.  This is also scheduled for publication in 2017.  Hopkins long career traversed the stage, the transition to sound, the pre-code era, the war years and television. She could do everything, except musicals.  She was an ace comedienne in her screwball comedies and was amazing in the pre-code Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the astonishing The Story of Temple Drake.    With such a lengthy career, it is a wonder nobody has thought to do a biography of this fascinating woman until now.  There are so many legends of her temperament, the on or off-screen bitch fights with Bette Davis, it is hard to know where the true story ends and the legend begins.  It all makes for good copy.  Allan has proven over and over again at his website Hollywoodland that he is a diligent researcher.  He has put many years into this manuscript and has worked with the blessing of Miriam Hopkins family.  I know I am jumping the gun on this, but this will be a must-read for 2017.

Marion Davies and her daucshund Gandhi (courtesy Lara Fowler)
Another exciting book to be watching for in the next few years is Lara Fowler's forthcoming biography of Marion Davies. Lara is still researching and writing, nonetheless I'm terribly excited and supportive because she's already uncovering great stuff and has had some amazing things drop in her lap, research-wise (to go all C.C. Baxter on your for a moment).   I have long been a fan of Marion, and loved Fred Lawrence Guiles bio of Marion since I first checked it out of my local library in the 1970s (I later bought a copy of my own).  Like many bios of the 1970s, let's face it, much archive material was not available as it is today.  Guiles' book is flawed, it is the only one out there and has served its purpose.  Marion deserves a much deeper examination.  Her career, thrust upon her if you want to believe legend, was a no talent mistress to a newspaper mogul that the public hated.  This is disingenous at best, and blatently false and demeaning at the very worst.  It is amazing how much damage a fictional films such as the venerated Citizen Kane (and it is a great film) and the abysmal The Cat's Meow or  RKO 281 have done to poor Marion's reputation on and off screen.  She was and remains a deft comedienne, a talent as bright as better remembered ladies who made screwball comedies in the 1930s (such as Carole Lombard, Irene Dunne and Rosalind Russell).  I have great hope that Lara's book and the availability of Marion's films on DVD and in rotation on TCM people will come to realize what a wonderful, and truly great star she was.  Equally adept at drama, Marion was truly wonderful in comedy.  She was also a very generous and kind human being. I am looking forward to learning more about her. In the meantime, I rejoice that she will be treated as the pioneer of cinema she deserved to be.

McFarland recently released Accustomed to Her Face by Axel Nissen. I'm looking forward to checking this out.  I love character actresses and runs the gamut from wonderful Patricia Collinge to Minna Gombel, Ruth Donnelly and Dame Edith Evans (and everyone in between).  Again, I've not yet picked this up, but it looks like it will be a fun read.


Bebe Daniels is another  star who deserves to be examined more closely.  Her career also had a long trajectory, stage, silent era, talkies, radio and television.  McFarland recently published Charles Epting's overview of Daniels' life and career, Bebe Daniels Hollywood's Good Little Bad Girl. With her early years with Harold Lloyd, her decade with Paramount, the transition to sound and then to Britain for stage, radio and television and two world wars, an awful lot of ground is covered in what is, ultimately, a very short book. Epting's book is a scant 232 pages, a very fast read and I came away wanting.  I know from experience researching Dorothy Gish myself that it is incredibly difficult when you are working with a star whose prime-era films are nearly nonexistent.  To be fair, other reviewers have loved it, ymmv.  I agree with Charles Epting that Bebe needs to be rediscovered.  On film she's a delight whether in silent, sound or musical.  She deserves a reevaluation, she was a darb!

My own work on The Films of Rudolph Valentino is progressing, albeit slowly.  I often feel like I am raking fall leaves in Golden Gate Park.  Just when I think I've finished and picked up the last leaf, something else drops in my lap or a leaf turns over and reveals a hidden gem.  Then I go off on another tangent.  It's been terrific fun and I am enjoying the journey.  I will certainly post more as soon as I can.  In the meantime, the beat goes on.


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