Julie's Reviews > Fay Wray and Robert Riskin: A Hollywood Memoir

Fay Wray and Robert Riskin by Victoria Riskin
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 2019, biography, e-book, non-fiction, history

Faye Wray and Robert Riskin: A Hollywood Memoir by Victoria Riskin is a 2019 Pantheon Books publication.

“You will star opposite the tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood” – Merian C. Cooper, co-director of King Kong, 1933

I don’t recall the first time I watched the original version of King Kong, but it was aired frequently on television when I was very young. I watched it over and over again. I never felt afraid, only fascinated by it. Fay Wray’s performance probably had a lot to do with that fascination. It has been over a decade, at least, since I watched the old, original classic, which, if memory serves, aired on the Turner Classic Movie Channel, at the time.

However, I remember the movie vividly, and despite remakes of the film, the Fay Wray classic is the only one I have ever seen, or ever will watch.

Yet, not once, can I ever recall feeling the slightest bit interested in Fay Wray’s personal life. However, when I stumbled across this book on Overdrive, my interest was piqued.

Written by the daughter of Fay Wray and famous screenwriter, Robert Riskin, this is not only a biography, but a piece of unique history and a real, authentic Hollywood love story.



This book is well-researched and very organized- the first things I look for in any kind of memoir or biography. The book is packed with wonderful memories of some of the best old movies, with plenty of wonderful bits of behind the scenes information. The book alternates between Fay’s career and personal life and Robert’s, leading up their marriage, which wasn’t until Riskin was in his forties.



From there the author explains the ups and downs the couple initially encountered due to world war two and the climate in Hollywood at the time. This portion of the book is a very interesting and informative period of history.

The information is backed up with lovely letters written to Fay from Robert while he was away from home. Unfortunately, Fay and Robert had a limited time together, due to Robert’s health, but one can practically feel the humming chemistry between them while reading this book.

“Every time I’m in New York, I say a little prayer when passing the Empire State Building. A good friend of mine died up there.”
Fay Wray


I didn’t know anything about Fay personally, and embarrassingly, didn’t initially recognize Robert’s name. Now, of course, I do recall his name and understand his vast contribution to films, many of which were collaborations with Frank Capra. I also learned that Fay appeared in many feature films prior to and after her most iconic role. I had a lot of fun looking up these old movies!

Overall, this not a standard biography, it feels like a labor love for the author- a tribute to her mother, and a vindication for her father, who didn’t always get the credit he deserved. It’s a movie lover’s dream, and, is also a treat for those who enjoy history. It will even appeal to romantics who enjoy a good love story- especially one that is true!



I for one, found this book endlessly fascinating, and enjoyed the overall tone of the book. It is obvious the author poured herself into this project, remaining objective, yet allowing her love for her parents to flow through the pages. But, course, no one could blame her for setting the record straight when it came to her father’s work. Victoria’s research is impeccable, but most importantly, I felt like I got to know her parents in an intimate way, which is a feat most biographers rarely accomplish.

I came away with a deep respect for Fay and the life she carved out for herself and the impact she had on cinema and pop culture.

I also feel Robert’s work, is equally important, and I was awed by his body of work and the amazing movies his writing helped bring to life.



However, the most important impression I was left with is that in a business notorious for self-absorption, Fay and Robert prioritized home and country giving them the levity and attention they should have.


Anyone who loves old Hollywood, movies, pop culture, and history will find this very personal, touching, and quite impressive biography of great interest.

4.5 stars
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Reading Progress

March 10, 2019 – Shelved
March 10, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
March 14, 2019 – Started Reading
March 14, 2019 – Shelved as: 2019
April 15, 2019 – Shelved as: biography
April 15, 2019 – Shelved as: e-book
April 15, 2019 – Shelved as: non-fiction
April 15, 2019 – Shelved as: history
April 15, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 58 (58 new)


message 1: by Sandra (new)

Sandra Wonderful review Julie.. it sounds a fascinating read 😊


Julie Sandra wrote: "Wonderful review Julie.. it sounds a fascinating read 😊"

Thank you, Sandra!! One of the best biographies I have read in a long while! 💕


RedemptionDenied Excellent review, Julie!


message 4: by Amy (new) - added it

Amy Great review! I love this time in Hollywood, but I don't know a lot about it.


message 5: by Nicola (new)

Nicola Absolutely wonderful review Julie! I love old Hollywood movies and those gorgeous movie posters. 😘❤️


Julie RedemptionDenied wrote: "Excellent review, Julie!"

Thank you, RD!! 😊😊


Julie Amy wrote: "Great review! I love this time in Hollywood, but I don't know a lot about it."

Thank you, Amy!! I think you would enjoy this one. The correspondence between Fay and Robert really puts a fine point on the atmosphere during the war. Very interesting! 😊😊


Julie Nicola wrote: "Absolutely wonderful review Julie! I love old Hollywood movies and those gorgeous movie posters. 😘❤️"

Thank you, Nicola!! You will recognize many of these movies, Nicola. I had no idea Riskin wrote so many hits! 😊💕


message 9: by Paromjit (new)

Paromjit Wonderful review, Julie xxo


Julie Paromjit wrote: "Wonderful review, Julie xxo"

Thank you, Paromjit!! 🤗😊


message 11: by Cherie (new) - added it

Cherie This sounds unique and like it was well done. I love the classic Hollywood era and TCM and Frank Capra had a lot of awesome movies. I am adding this one, thanks for your review bringing it to my attention and raising my interests.


Mary Beth *Traveling Sister* Fantastic review, Julie! 💜


message 13: by KAS (new)

KAS Glad you found this to be an extremely well-written novel ;) Superb review, Julie!! 😘❤️😘


Julie KAS wrote: "Glad you found this to be an extremely well-written novel ;) Superb review, Julie!! 😘❤️😘"

Thank you, dear KAS!! 😊💕🤗


Julie Mary Beth *Traveling Sister* wrote: "Fantastic review, Julie! 💜"

Thank you, Mary Beth!! 🤗💕😊


Julie Cherie wrote: "This sounds unique and like it was well done. I love the classic Hollywood era and TCM and Frank Capra had a lot of awesome movies. I am adding this one, thanks for your review bringing it to my at..."

Thank you, Cherie!! I hope you enjoy it! Happy reading!! 😊💕🤗


message 17: by Selena (new)

Selena Absolutely amazing review Julie!


message 18: by Kaceey (new)

Kaceey Excellent review Julie!💕


Julie Selena wrote: "Absolutely amazing review Julie!"

Thank you, dear Selena!! 🤗


Julie Kaceey wrote: "Excellent review Julie!💕"


Thank you, Kaceey!! 🤗💕


Jaline - (on partial hiatus) Amazing review, Julie! I love all the artwork you found to accompany this! :)


Julie Jaline wrote: "Amazing review, Julie! I love all the artwork you found to accompany this! :)"

Thank you, Jaline!! I had a lot of fun with it!!🤗💕


message 23: by Lori (new)

Lori Wonderful review, Julie!


message 24: by Joseph (new)

Joseph Sciuto That is a really wonderful and thoughtful review, Julie. You make many interesting observations. Very happy you enjoyed is so much and learned a lot about two people in Hollywood who at times seem to be forgotten. Very Nice. Thank you.


message 25: by Maureen (new)

Maureen Lovely review Julie, it was a wonderful era 💕🤗


message 26: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn Fabulous review, Julie! A movie lover's dream book? I'm there!


Julie Lori wrote: "Wonderful review, Julie!"

Thank you, Lori!! 🤗


Julie Carolyn wrote: "Fabulous review, Julie! A movie lover's dream book? I'm there!"

Thank you, Carolyn!! So many great old movies mentioned in this book!! 🤗


Julie Maureen wrote: "Lovely review Julie, it was a wonderful era 💕🤗"

Thank you, Maureen!! Such great films, so many of them I'd forgotten about. 🤗


message 30: by Julie (last edited Apr 16, 2019 04:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Julie Joseph wrote: "That is a really wonderful and thoughtful review, Julie. You make many interesting observations. Very happy you enjoyed is so much and learned a lot about two people in Hollywood who at times seem ..."

Thank you for your nice words, Joseph!! It was a breath of fresh air to see the offspring of Hollywood legends write a classy, tasteful biography of her parents.


message 31: by Angela M (new)

Angela M Fantastic review, Julie!


Julie Angela M wrote: "Fantastic review, Julie!"

Thank you, dear Angela!! 🤗


message 33: by Meredith (new)

Meredith Fabulous review, Julie! I learned so much just from reading your review! Glad you enjoyed!


Alex ✰ Comets and Comments ✰ Lovely review, Julie! Glad you got a 5 star read! <3 x


message 35: by Peggy (new)

Peggy I need to look up this book...sounds wonderful!!


Julie Meredith wrote: "Fabulous review, Julie! I learned so much just from reading your review! Glad you enjoyed!"

Thank you, Meredith!! 💕🤗


Julie Peggy wrote: "I need to look up this book...sounds wonderful!!"

Thank you, Peggy!! I hope you can find a copy. I just happened across it. A very pleasant surprise! 🤗


Julie Alex ✰ Comets and Comments ✰ wrote: "Lovely review, Julie! Glad you got a 5 star read! <3 x"

Thank you, dear Alex!! 🤗💕


Julie Julie wrote: "Alex ✰ Comets and Comments ✰ wrote: "Lovely review, Julie! Glad you got a 5 star read!

Thank you, dear Alex!! 🤗💕"



message 40: by Celia (new) - added it

Celia WOW!! Thank you Julie. Really looking forward to this one.


Julie Celia wrote: "WOW!! Thank you Julie. Really looking forward to this one."

Thank you, Celia!! I think you will enjoy this one a lot!! 💕


message 42: by Libby (new)

Libby Julie, I really enjoyed your review; I'm adding this one to my long TBR list. I love some of the old movies, but knew nothing about the history of this one. The love story makes it even more interesting.


Julie Libby wrote: "Julie, I really enjoyed your review; I'm adding this one to my long TBR list. I love some of the old movies, but knew nothing about the history of this one. The love story makes it even more intere..."

Thank you, Libby!! I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did. Victoria wrote a very honest, but classy memoir, which I found to be very refreshing! 💕


message 44: by Jen (new)

Jen Terrific review, Julie. I don’t think I ever watched King Kong through but remember it from the black and white TV days!


Julie Jen wrote: "Terrific review, Julie. I don’t think I ever watched King Kong through but remember it from the black and white TV days!"

Thank you, Jen. It was a big deal when I was very young- five or six years old. Those old movies aired a lot back then- in B&W- of course. My cousins and I watched all the King Kong movies- repeatedly. LOL! 🤗


message 46: by Maureen (new)

Maureen Fantastic review, Julie!


Julie Maureen wrote: "Fantastic review, Julie!"

Thank you, Maureen!! 😊💕


message 48: by JanB (new)

JanB This sounds absolutely fabulous Julie. I loved your review. I so enjoy memoirs and this sounds like the best of the best 😊


Julie JanB wrote: "This sounds absolutely fabulous Julie. I loved your review. I so enjoy memoirs and this sounds like the best of the best 😊"

Thank you, Jan!! This is one of the best memoirs I've read in a while. Very classy! 😊😊


message 50: by *TUDOR^QUEEN* (new)

*TUDOR^QUEEN* Brilliant review! 🌹💗🌹


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