by Melanie Benjamin
I was excited to start The Girls in the Picture after reading and loving The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin. I love stories about old Hollywood and while this was an entertaining read with lots of fun information about the early years of the movie business in Hollywood, I was ultimately disappointed with it.
Mary Pickford, “America’s Sweetheart”, was a legend in the movie business. She made the transition from ‘flicker’s’ to ‘talkie’s’ when other stars of silent movies didn’t. Her golden curls were adored by fans. When she wed dashing Douglas Fairbanks, they became the “Golden Couple” and Hollywood royalty. Their dinner parties at their estate, Pickfair, were attended by many notable people including famous writers, actors and dignitaries. Mary and Douglas founded United Artists with Charlie Chaplin and D.W Griffith and they revolutionized the movie industry and the way movies right were distributed.
Mary’s closest friend and confidant was Frances Marion who went from being Mary’s assistant to become an extremely successful screenwriter, winning two Academy Awards. These two strong, trailblazing women made a place for themselves in a male dominated world. The Girls in the Picture is about their close but sometimes turbulent friendship.
I really enjoyed reading about the movie business and how it evolved. Rudolph Valentino, Lillian Gish, Charlie Chaplin, Louis B. Mayer and other famous movie people had cameos in this book. With all of this, I should have loved The Girls in the Picture but I didn’t and I struggled to finish it. I think what bothered me was the dialogue between the characters. It felt stilted and contrived. However, reading this book did lead me to do some research on some of the people in the book and it was fascinating to read about their real lives.
Thank you to NetGalley and Delacourt Press for providing me with an ARC for an honest review.