The Girls in the Picture
January 16, 2018
Advanced Reader Copy
Publisher via BookExpo
A fascinating novel of the friendship and creative partnership between two of Hollywood's earliest female legends--screenwriter Frances Marion and superstar Mary Pickford--from the New York Times bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue and The Aviator's Wife It is 1914, and twenty-five-year-old Frances Marion has left her (second) husband and her Northern California home for the lure of Los Angeles, where she is determined to live independently as an artist. But the word on everyone's lips these days is "flickers"--the silent moving pictures enthralling theatergoers. Turn any corner in this burgeoning town and you'll find made-up actors running around, as a movie camera captures it all. In this fledgling industry, Frances finds her true calling: writing stories for this wondrous new medium. She also makes the acquaintance of actress Mary Pickford, whose signature golden curls and lively spirit have given her the title of America's Sweetheart. The two ambitious young women hit it off instantly, their kinship fomented by their mutual fever to create, to move audiences to a frenzy, to start a revolution. But their ambitions are challenged both by the men around them and the limitations imposed on their gender--and their astronomical success could come at a price. As Mary, the world's highest paid and most beloved actress, struggles to live her life under the spotlight, she also wonders if it is possible to find love, even with the dashing actor Douglas Fairbanks. Frances, too, longs to share her life with someone. As in any good Hollywood story, dramas will play out, personalities will clash, and even the deepest friendships might be shattered. With cameos from such notables as Charlie Chaplin, Louis B. Mayer, Rudolph Valentino, and Lillian Gish, The Girls in the Picture is, at its heart, a story of friendship and forgiveness. Melanie Benjamin perfectly captures the dawn of a glittering new era--its myths and icons, its possibilities and potential, and its seduction and heartbreak. Advance praise for The Girls in the Picture "Melanie Benjamin, known for her living, breathing portraits of famous figures, takes on the Golden Age of Hollywood, and the friendship between icons Mary Pickford and screenwriter Frances Marion. As riveting as the latest blockbuster, this is a star-studded story of female friendships, creative sparks about to ignite, and the power of women.
This is my third book by Ms. Benjamin. While I'm not usually a fan of biographies, she does it by way of historical fiction, which seems to make a world of difference, because I like what I'm reading. I can't say that this book tops The Swans of Fifth Avenue (review here), but it was very entertaining and a change of pace from the typical historical fiction war novels. I can't say that I knew much of Mary Pickford or Frances Marion going into the book, but I found that to be a good thing as I got immersed in the story and didn't have to worry about what was truth and what was fictionalized. Side note here.....My grandmother used to play the piano in the theaters for the silent movies, back in the day! I thought this was an excellent look at female friendship, which is not always rosy and constant amidst the flux of people's lives. These two women had their spats, but kept being drawn back to the other throughout their lives and careers. They seemed very real to me, even though they were within the pages of a book. The writing was excellent, the pacing was spot on, and I loved learning more about this era in the movies.
A well drawn novel about the early movie industry, and a friendship for the ages! Ms. Benjamin is a force to be reckoned with for her portrayal of early female figures in our history. I'm looking forward to what she comes up with next.