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review 2016-01-28 22:52
The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
The Chaperone - Laura Moriarty

Only a few years before becoming a famous silent-film star and an icon of her generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita, Kansas, to study with the prestigious Denishawn School of Dancing in New York. Much to her annoyance, she is accompanied by a thirty-six-year-old chaperone, who is neither mother nor friend. Cora Carlisle, a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for making the trip, has no idea what she’s in for. Young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous black bob with blunt bangs, is known for her arrogance and her lack of respect for convention. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will transform their lives forever.

I love historical fiction especially when it's inspired by the life of silent-film star Louise Brooks or LuLu, what she was known as in the 20s; the actress that made the hair bob with bangs famous.

I started listening to the book as an audio book on a Greyhound trip but wasn't able to finish it on my vacation. I returned the audiobook to the library with the intent on rechecking it out but I forgot. Months later, I remembered that I hadn't finished it so I checked out the hard cover version and read the book. Even though it was months later, the reader's voice from the audio book was the voice that I used for the characters.

After you read the book you'll probably want to learn more about Louise Brooks; I know I do.

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url 2015-08-19 21:11
Since I just read Arkham Asylum...




Obviously a huge inspiration for The Joker, and all the way from 1928! How cool is that?

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text 2015-03-08 20:17
Reading in Progress: Without Lying Down - Just One More Quote
Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood - Cari Beauchamp

I know I'm enjoying a book when I have the urge to tell someone "oh this bit, check this out, isn't this fun?!" Plus this quote gives you an idea of Marion being a normal woman, as well as understanding how women think differently. Neat story all round.

 

Backstory: Marion is on her third husband (she's in her 20s), and totally in love and happy - they both have careers in film, they both love each other's intelligence, all the good stuff. But she has eyes, and this sense of humor. (Never fear, she's not the type to have an affair - that's not where this goes. Her current husband, Fred Thomson, is a former Olympic calibre athlete/Presbyterian army chaplain turned cowboy star. Yes, his biography is just as interesting as that sounds.)

 

Marion is working for Goldwyn on the 1926 film The Winning of Barbara Worth. (Ebook here!) Goldwyn's secretary asks Marion to see if she can't put in a good word for the secretary's boyfriend, as he's trying to get one of the parts in the film. (Also backstory: Hopper has been a friend of Marion's for years. Which is how she knows Marion's reaction in this story.)

 

p. 182-183: 

“At six foot four, with brown hair and chiseled if irregular features, the young man appealed to Frances immediately. Hedda Hopper claimed that he was so “her type” of man that when Frances first saw him standing against the wall of the studio building, “she gave him a second look and as she went through the door, even risked a third.”

 

[The actor boyfriend had sent a screentest for the part but the male execs didn’t think much of it.]

 

...Frances concluded it was because male stars still tended to be “pretty boys”; the director and producer didn’t think women would be attracted to what she was the first to admit was a “gaunt, slow moving self conscious young man.” But knowing how both she and Sam’s secretary reacted to him, Frances suggested organizing a screening of his and other actors’ tests in front of a group of female office workers at the studio. The immediate response from their collective libido proved that the two women were not alone and Frank Cooper, changing his first name to Gary so that he would not be confused with another actor with the same name, was hired at fifty dollars a week.

 

...Yet when she viewed the daily rushes, Frances suddenly realized they had a problem on their hands.

 

“This guy is going to steal the picture,” Frances announced to King and Goldwyn after watching Gary Cooper’s dramatic portrayal of an exhausted man collapsing.“

 

While Cooper had a somewhat awkward time learning to act, he had improved so quickly (and took to direction so well) that Marion had to write him out of a later scene or he would have been mistaken for the hero of the film. And of course Cooper went on to become a major star quickly after that. Goldwyn was mocked by the industry for not giving him the salary raise Cooper asked for - Paramount snapped him up days later.

 

I did have to eyeroll at the concept of two men being so completely sure they knew what type of man all women would and wouldn't find attractive. (Not to mention that Marion had to get backup responses - but the way she chose to do this was brilliant - using women already working for the studio.) Again, this sort of thing didn't end in the 1900s - and it works for all genders really. We've all heard varions of (mix the genders as you will, or substitute your own): "Wait, women/men like him/her?! Why?! Ugh, not attractive at all."

 

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text 2015-03-08 17:51
Reading in Progress: Without Lying Down by Cari Beauchamp
Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood - Cari Beauchamp

Once again I'm having fun with multiple-book-juggling! I now have three sometimes-overlapping book reading needs:

1) commute reads: reading for the train, can't be too engrossing or I'll miss my stop (I am NOT exaggerating about that),

2) evening reads: something I can put down easily so I can remember to get sleep, and

3) paper books that aren't portable and have to be read at home.

 

Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood is in the third category because it's just heavy enough to be a pain to carry, along with all the other items I'm toting to and from work. At the moment it's also an evening read, but that's a problem because I'd classify it as almost too interesting.

 

Wikipedia: Frances Marion

 

[On the book cover Marion is on the right and the woman on the left is Mary Pickford.] 

 

It's completely normal to have never heard of Frances Marion. The only reason I have is because I studied film history, and because I've read a handfull of books about women writers in the 1920s. Marion was one of many writers who wasn't exactly part of the Algonquin Round Table but was tied to it by living at the hotel for a time and by knowing some of the "members." (It wasn't exactly an official club.) She was also conscious that she wasn't really part of "that crowd" because her writing was often dismissed because it was only for film. Even today some people consider writing for film/television/etc. not "real" writing. (I am soooo into scare quotes suddenly, yerg.)

 

The one thing that you find over and over is how many witty, bright, and interesting women writers were involved in the magazine and film writing industries in early 1900s America. This isn't the first book I've read to posit that one reason women were able to be taken (somewhat, for the times) seriously in these fields was because of how disreputable the business was - women were let in because no one was taking those fields seriously. Because no one respected writers. There's a weird myth of that being a respected career, and that's never been the case. There's a very narrow field of Writers of Literature that got some respect, as well as certain types of academic writing - but there were thousands of other writers making a living who weren't considered valuable members of society, or even artists. And whose names we don't know today. If you think anything has changed, go read interviews of writers working in the film and television industry. Not the ones whose names you've heard of - again, that's a very small, select group. Most screenwriters are rarely are known by name and are just as disposable to the studios now as those writers in the 1900s. Something doesn't work? Fire the current writer and bring in someone else.

 

What I love about Marion is her attitude. She can do it all - write, direct, produce, edit - and she chose writing as the thing that made her happiest. (Since she was pretty they tried to nudge her into acting - which she always knew wasn't her thing.) She kept control of her career by not signing up with just one studio, and instead freelanced so she could choose who she worked with and what projects. She managed to become one of the best known screenwriters of the time - a recognized name in the fan magazines and newspapers.

 

I haven't yet read to the part in the book where the entire film world undergoes a Big Change with the coming of sound. It's one of those earthshaking industry moments - like television suddenly competing with film (and film fighting back) or mp3s changing the entire music industry (and the music industry fighting back). I honestly love reading about these moments because

1) everyone in the industry always flips out about them initially (in extremely dramatic ways, because careers suddenly undergo massive change, businesses rise and fall, etc.) and

2) each one always makes the media more interesting for consumers and more complex for scholars/workers in that field.

And I do love a good, meaty history-of-tech story.

 

Oops, this was all leading up to a quote from the book - got a bit carried away with history squee. Well, I'll just pop that in after the break.

 

(Also WTF is this one week it's snowing us in and the coming week it's going to be 60 degrees?! And here I thought I was being overly careful bringing some summer clothes along with me. The US east coast is winning the changeable weather award - given by me - over west coast - well, for this season anyway.)

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