OK, I admit it, I have quite the girl-boner for Shatner
so when I saw this in the library I just HAD to read it - face it, that cover is frigging adora...moreOK, I admit it, I have quite the girl-boner for Shatner
so when I saw this in the library I just HAD to read it - face it, that cover is frigging adorable.
There are quite a few laughs in this book (it was co-written with a Daily Show writer) and Shatner seems to simultaneously milk and address the issue of his ginormous ego
The early tangent down the pathway of the bitterness and acrimony between him and the supporting cast of Star Trek was a little on the downer side, and he focuses on George Takei who seems to harbor the most resentment toward him. I don't know who started this pissing match, but ENOUGH ALREADY. And that leads to the overarching theme of this book and it's also a downer
Shatner's 80. He knows he doesn't have much time left. Bitter rivalries don't add to life, they take away from it. Enjoy what you have, do what you can to get more (His Rule: Always say YES and therefore you can never miss out on an opportunity). It's obvious when the co-writer stops and Shatner's voice starts, when he talks about the drowning death of his wife and how that led to his show Aftermath to address people who had been condemned by the tabloids but never exonerated, and his love of horses. Wow, his love of horses shines through. So even though the comedy bits were funny, it was the parts of the book about "Bill," not William Shatner, that were the most enjoyable.
Remember: When you turn 40, you can mope in bed for 3 days all depressed like he did, but when you're 80.... GET. OUT. OF. BED. Time's a-wastin'.(less)
Lillian Gish was one of the most famous actresses of early silent film, getting in on the ground floor as the medium transformed from cheap entertainm...moreLillian Gish was one of the most famous actresses of early silent film, getting in on the ground floor as the medium transformed from cheap entertainment into an art form under the guidance of the great D.W. Griffith. She was a madonna, with an ethereal, untouchable presence. Virginal.
Oh wait, this novel is about Vanessa Oxford, one of the most famous actresses of early silent film, who got in on the ground floor as the medium transformed from cheap entertainment into an art form under the guidance of the great Joshua Fodor. She was a madonna, with an ethereal, untouchable presence. Virginal.
You get the idea. This excellent review covers the parallels in exhaustive detail so I won't be redundant on that front.
This book was a trainwreck. I'm still on the fence whether it was good or bad. It was compulsively readable, but I was aware of its faults every step of the way.
For one, the narrative is a fairly haphazard, rambling affair, composed of a series of vignettes with obvious headers such as "The Present: Vanessa's Private Thoughts Before Her Appearance." The 3rd-person POV is totally omniscient, and I spotted several instances of POV switching from 1st to 3rd in the same sentence. Eventually all the recollections dovetail into the big reveal at the end and The Big Secret all our characters have been hiding for years comes to light.
(Incidentally, I discovered a list of the Lillian Gish Papers at BGSU, and Box 7 is only listed as "restricted materials." What dirty secrets are in there? Anything like what this novel's film student Sue discovers among Vanessa's private papers? Enquiring minds want to know!!!)
This is a nasty little book, without a doubt. It is clearly based on Lillian Gish, and with closer inspection of Gish's traits and personality (helped by reading Affron's eye-opening bio) the calculated manipulation (under the guise of gentle caring) that Vanessa exerts on those around her is probably not too far off the mark.
Look at that smile. She knows exactly what she's doing. >:D
What I thought was the weakest link was that this book also mentioned Gish, Griffith, Biograph, Birth of a Nation, et al, so the carbon copy was present along with the master copy, so to speak. However, I understand why Pinchot had to do this so she couldn't be the subject of a BIG FAT LAWSUIT by Miss Gish, who was still alive and kicking when this was published. (And fiercely promoting Griffith's legacy, just like Vanessa was with Joshua Fodor's!) :D
Another weak point were details about Fodor's pictures that sounded very modern and would never have cleared the censors back in the day.
To enjoy this book to its full potential, I think knowledge of the real-life people is essential. However, Pinchot is also taking a big ol' stinky DUMP on people who silent movie buffs love and revere. So.... proceed with caution. I, however, have had a jaundiced eye about Gish for quite a while, so that didn't bother me. But I do wonder now what Dorothy Gish's last days were like, and it brings a tear to my eye to think if any of the events regarding her alter-ego Cassie are based on reality.
So, in the end, I'd rate this puppy 3 1/2 stars due to some technical failings, but I'm rounding up because it was a fun, gut-punching, salacious, nasty read about a period of movie history that deserves more in-depth exploration in fiction rather than the usual superficial, glossy, character-in-a-big-fat-family-saga-works-in-the-flickers treatment.
Sheesh, it's almost like I'll have to write my own. :D(less)
Oh, the inevitable aggravation of reading a novel set in an era that you know backwards and forwards... every little inaccuracy jumps out like a spast...moreOh, the inevitable aggravation of reading a novel set in an era that you know backwards and forwards... every little inaccuracy jumps out like a spastic squirrel on a backcountry road, sending your concentration swerving and skidding out of control as your pre-ABS mind slams on its brakes. I've been so disappointed in the past, and yet I never learn... Not many novels are set in Hollywood during the days of silent film, so I take what I can get.
This is the 2nd book in the series The Shackleford Legacy, but it easily stands on its own. It's 1918 and teenager Julia Shackleford leaves for Los Angeles to get out from under the domineering thumb of her wealthy businessman grandfather. She stays with a friend and inevitably gets noticed by the director while being an innocent onlooker during the filming of a street scene. A screen test is made, and of course she has a natural talent for acting despite having no experience. She starts in 2-reel comedies and branches into drama. She meets handsome Wesley Stanton, a young man trying to make it in Hollywood but with minimal success. He has the looks, but not the talent. As with all Hollywood romances with this setup, it immediately becomes a re-tread of A Star is Born and everything falls apart because Hubby refuses to be Mr. Famous Actress. The marriage becomes history, but the Hollywood life has become too much for her and she leaves it all behind. But it's not over - the final 50 pages or so of the book is Mr. Washed-Up Who Has Turned A New Leaf trying to get back custody of their daughter.
It was all rather predictable, except for some really improbable revelations and plot turns at the end that seemed like a desperate way to wrap it all up rather tidily. For a book covering only 4 years I felt that a lot was glossed over with some very quick recapping and rather unimaginative writing. There were a few scenes that stood out for me that I thought were done very well, but the rest of it felt very workmanlike.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this book was the inaccuracies and what they were. Things that were very easy to look up (even before the on-demand answers of the Internet) were wrong and some of the more esoteric names and dates matched up. For instance, Erich von Stroheim is referred to by a character in 1918 as an innovative director, but he didn't even direct his first feature film until 1919. Ivor Novello is mentioned as co-starring with Marguerite Clark in 1918 - although Clark was in Hollywood at that time, Novello was not and actually being quite famous on the British stage. Valentino is mentioned as always losing the Latin lover roles to John Gilbert and Ramon Novarro in 1919, and both of those guys hadn't even hit their stride in Hollywood yet, let alone being seen as romantic leads. Then the author throws out the name of lesser-known Hollywood figures like Charles Brabin and Thomas Meighan, and it's all accurate. She did a pretty good job presenting Mabel Normand, Mary Miles Minter, and William Desmond Taylor and thankfully we don't delve into that scandal too much.
Which comes to the reason why I did like this book so much. Many of the Old Hollywood books I've read use the famous celebrities as background, getting perhaps one line of dialogue directed toward our main character before moving on. These celluloid gods and goddesses became honest-to-goodness real characters with more than a superficial relationship with our main protagonist. Rudolph Valentino wasn't the steamy Latin lover but a gregarious young Italian man who befriends our heroine and is absolutely frigging adorable and carefree. Mabel Normand also claims a fair share of "screen time" as a person in her own right.
I was very surprised that Julia didn't follow the typical trajectory of these Hollywood stories - she didn't become Gloria Swanson or Greta Garbo famous. Her career seemed somewhat lackluster, only in 6-8 films, and playing the American girl next door. Maybe more of a Barbara Kent famous. (I hear you say, Barbara Kent who?)
And finally, I give major props to Riefe for not having Charlie Chaplin appear once. Huge icon of the silent days, would have been a perfect opportunity for a lech episode with sweet Julia, but nary a glimpse of him. Yay!
Final rating of 3.5 stars, but knocking it down to 3 for GR because I can't ignore shit like the Stroheim or Novello errors. And the creepy likeness of Skeletor Nicole Kidman on the cover. (And why did the cover artist think a Packard popping out the guy's stomach looked good?)(less)
11/15/13: I'm just not in the mood for non-fiction right now. My brain is fried. I'll come back to it later. (Plus it's big and bulky - need the ebook...more11/15/13: I'm just not in the mood for non-fiction right now. My brain is fried. I'll come back to it later. (Plus it's big and bulky - need the ebook!)(less)