The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin

A true Melanie Benjamin book – this one follows he intertwined lives of Frances Marion and Mary Pickford from the birth of the movie industry through the late sixties.  Told with a feminist slant, we are privy to the challenges and successes of two determined, intelligent, women rising to the top of their fields while dealing with fanny pinching, disdain, and outright hostility.

As always, Benjamin imagines the dialog, internal landscape, and behind closed doors events of the story beyond what is documented in historical sources.  I’m always a little uncomfortable with this as we of course don’t really know what was going through their minds (as Benjamin readily admits) but it makes for a very compelling story.

For history buffs, the readily documented portions of the story are fascinating all on their own – Mary Pickford started the first artist run studio along with Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and DW Griffith known as United Artists.  Frances Marion was the highest paid scenarist (the name for script writers before the talkies) in Hollywood.  There are lots of tidbits about what Southern California was like before the movie business really took off, and how it evolved into what we know today. Part biography, part history, part drama, this is another fascinating and highly accessible look into an intriguing piece of history.

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