The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin

The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin

The Girls in the Picture.jpg

The Girls in the Picture
by Melanie Benjamin
Delacorte Press (January 16, 2018)
448 pages
Advance copy provided by publisher

In case you missed it, the 2018 Golden Globes, broadcast on Sunday, January 7, 2018, was full of female strength: women who have a voice, thanks to their Hollywood star power, speaking out against inequality and sexual harassment. I feel certain that author Melanie Benjamin could not have predicted this outcome, but the publication of her novel at this time feels just right. 

If only America knew about the decisions you had to make when you found yourself caught up in a profession, an industry, whose very existence you were helping to shape; decisions that other married women didn’t have to make. Decisions that numbed your soul, the same soul you were so eager to bare to the camera, the one thing constant, the one thing nourishing, in your life.

In The Girls in the Picture, author Melanie Benjamin not only tells the story of 1920s silent film star Mary Pickford and her "scenarist," Frances Marion, she highlights the way in which their unique friendship, throughout the years of 1914 to 1969, determined the path of their existence. 

Along with recognizable names such as Cecil B. DeMille, Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin, and John Barrymore, Pickford and Marion, who alternately narrate the chapters, explore the transition between silent film and "speaking movies" or "talkies" in the late 1920s; this section was so fascinating! Many of the silent film stars were not cut out for speaking parts, leaving a huge gap in talent and opening up the industry for brand new faces. 

You either “had a voice” or you didn’t. And many of Mary’s contemporaries did not. Vilma Banky, who’d done so well with Goldwyn with her delicate blond beauty, playing against suave male stars like Valentino and Ronald Coleman, unfortunately had a guttural Hungarian accent and could barely speak English. She announced her “retirement” shortly after her sound test.

While the novel is not what I would consider conventional historical fiction, since Benjamin's writing brings contemporary relevance to period material, The Girls in the Picture is a highly entertaining way to learn more about the stars (and creative geniuses) who helped the American film industry to become the powerful influence that it is today. This would make for great vacation reading! 

 

 

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