Judith D Collins
The Girls in the Picture
By: Melanie Benjamin
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 1/16/2018
My Rating: 4 Stars From the New York Times bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue and The Aviator’s Wife, a fascinating novel of the friendship and creative partnership between two of Hollywood’s earliest female legends—screenwriter Frances Marion and superstar Mary Pickford. 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 earned her the title “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 by both 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.
Review to follow.
“[Melanie] Benjamin fully captures the giddy excitement of the blossoming movie business in the 1910s and 1920s and has chosen intriguingly flawed protagonists with compelling life stories that aren’t widely known today. This engrossing and rewarding read provides the same mixture of well-researched plot and fascinating characters [that has] made Benjamin’s previous novels so outstanding.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“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. Dazzling.”—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You and Cruel Beautiful World
“Set at the dawn of Hollywood, The Girls in the Picture explores the friendship between renowned starlet Mary Pickford and screenwriter Frances Marion. With the artistry for which she has become renowned, Melanie Benjamin has simultaneously created an insightful tale of the relationship between writer and muse and a breathtaking view into Hollywood’s most glittering era.”—Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan’s Tale
“Melanie Benjamin’s The Girls in the Picture is a scintillating journey back in time to the gritty and glamorous days of old Hollywood. With elegant prose and delicious historical detail, Benjamin delivers a timely tale of female friendship—and the powerful duo who dared to dream beyond the narrow roles into which they’d been cast.”—Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of Where the Light Falls and Sisi
“Actress Mary Pickford and screenwriter Frances Marion are Hollywood legends, and I thought I knew them well—until I read The Girls in the Picture. With riveting subtlety, Melanie Benjamin reveals the texture of their daily lives and the complexity of their decadeslong friendship. In the process, Benjamin creates an astonishing portrait of the early days of Hollywood, when innovation ruled and women wielded power alongside men. The Girls in the Picture is a fascinating, fast-paced, and ultimately heartbreaking story about two kindred spirits and their struggle for professional and personal fulfillment.”—Lauren Belfer, New York Times bestselling author of And After the Fire “What a pleasure to plunge into the world of silent filmmaking and discover a pair of inventive women at the center of it, struggling not only to survive but to make art. This vibrant portrait of two Hollywood groundbreakers is rich with insights about friendship, ambition and power. . . . A fascinating read.”—Nancy Horan, New York Times bestselling author of Loving Frank and Under the Wide and Starry Sky “Thrilling, bold, and incandescent, this is a deeply moving work of historical fiction about two unforgettable women whose creative partnership shaped the evolution of early American film. Melanie Benjamin is a transcendent storyteller, and with The Girls in the Picture, she has created a spellbinding novel of female power and ambition, heartbreak and desire.”—Dawn Tripp, author of Georgia “Melanie Benjamin has an uncanny knack for finding riveting historical characters and bringing them to life in wonderfully rendered settings. Her many fans should get ready for the pleasure of yet another of these Benjamin miracles in The Girls in the Picture, where they’ll venture into early Hollywood, the magic of ‘flickers,’ and women’s struggles to find—and hold on to—power within that celluloid world.”—Elizabeth J. Church, author of The Atomic Weight of Love and All the Beautiful Girls
'Girls in the Picture' celebrates silent-film friendship of Pickford, Marion
About the Author
Melanie Benjamin is the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling historical novels The Swans of Fifth Avenue, about Truman Capote and his society swans, and The Aviator's Wife, a novel about Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Her upcoming historical novel, The Girls in the Picture, is about the friendship and creative partnership between two of Hollywood's earliest female legends—screenwriter Frances Marion and superstar Mary Pickford. It will be available January 16, 2018.
Photo by Deborah Feingold
Previous historical novels include the national bestseller Alice I Have Been, about Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland, and The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, the story of 32-inch-tall Lavinia Warren Stratton, a star during the Gilded Age.
Her novels have been translated in over fifteen languages, featured in national magazines such as Good Housekeeping, People, and Entertainment Weekly, and optioned for film.
Melanie is a native of the Midwest, having grown up in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she pursued her first love, theater. After raising her two sons, Melanie, a life-long reader (including being the proud winner, two years in a row, of her hometown library's summer reading program!), decided to pursue a writing career. After writing her own parenting column for a local magazine, and winning a short story contest, Melanie published two contemporary novels under her real name, Melanie Hauser, before turning to historical fiction.
Melanie lives in Chicago with her husband, and near her two grown sons. In addition to writing, she puts her theatrical training to good use by being a member of the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau. When she isn't writing or speaking, she's reading. And always looking for new stories to tell. Read More