I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin
Published by Delacorte Press on January 16th 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction
An intimate portrait of the close friendship and powerful creative partnership between two of Hollywood’s earliest female superstars: Frances Marion and Mary Pickford. An enchanting new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue and The Aviator’s Wife.
Hollywood, 1914. Frances Marion, a young writer desperate for a break, meets “America’s Sweetheart,” Mary Pickford, already making a name for herself both on and off the screen with her golden curls and lively spirit. Together, these two women will take the movie business by storm.
Mary Pickford becomes known as the “Queen of the Movies”—the first actor to have her name on a movie marquee, and the first to become a truly international celebrity. Mary and her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, were America’s first Royal Couple, living in a home more famous that Buckingham Palace. Mary won the first Academy Award for Best Actress in a Talkie and was the first to put her hand and footprints in Grauman’s theater sidewalk. Her annual salary in 1919 was $625,000—at a time when women’s salaries peaked at $10 a week. Frances Marion is widely considered one of the most important female screenwriters of the 20th century, and was the first writer to win multiple Academy Awards. The close personal friendship between the two stars was closely linked to their professional collaboration and success.
This is a novel about power: the power of women during the exhilarating early years of Hollywood, and the power of forgiveness. It’s also about the imbalance of power, then and now, and the sacrifices and compromises women must make in order to succeed. And at its heart, it’s a novel about the power of female friendship.
When I started The Girls in the Picture my knowledge of Mary Pickford was slim to none and Frances Marion even less so. Like the women in the novel, I was going into uncharted territory.
In the era of #Metoo a novel about women being discriminated against because of their sex and not potential could not be more timely. I enjoyed reading about how these two women (mainly Frances) climbed a ladder that was predominantly men. The struggles of not being taken seriously and blatant dismissals were insightful.
Mary Pickford was like a lost lamb. She was constantly trying to find a way to jump over the fence but yet could never make the vault. Mary’s antics of playing jacks on set, and wanting to forever stay in Neverland were amusing. However, she unfortunately skipped the training bra and moved directly into a push-up. She begins a relationship with Douglas Fairbanks, a married man. This only shows her desperate need to mature and a lack of direction on how to do so.
I much preferred Frances’ story. She knew her self-worth and strove to get a high-powered writing career. This did not happen of course without a few slips up the ladder both personal and professional. Where France really shines is when she decides to pursue journalism during WWI. It gives her a look into cruelty and shows her resilience to overcome obstacles. Thus, she proves that women do have a place and can equally contribute to issues besides “What’s for dinner?”
Where The Girls in the Picture really shines is when these two forces of nature join together. Melanie Benjamin did a wonderful job showing the ups and downs of this camaraderie and gives a clear picture of the change in Hollywood where not only the pictures learned to talk.