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Fascinating Letters for Those Interested in the Period
on February 6, 2007
Valeria Belletti was an energetic, intelligent young woman who came to Los Angeles from New York and worked as a secretary to some of the most powerful and interesting people in Hollywood in the late 1920s. During this period, she wrote dozens of letters to her best friend, describing not only her experiences at the movie studios, but her personal feelings and day-to-day life in southern California and on an extended trip to Europe. These letters make up the bulk of this short book, which left me liking Valeria very much and wishing there had been more. Well-written background notes are provided by editor Cari Beauchamp.
While Beauchamp supplies some valuable padding-out of the events and personalities Valeria described, she tends to give the compilation a modern feminist point of view the author of the letters did not seem to have in mind. In contrast, the letters indicate that rather than being the victim of an "iron ceiling" (Beauchamp's term), Valeria, although a high school dropout, had opportunities to grow professionally beyond being a secretary, but chose not to pursue them. Furthermore, rather than half-heartedly marrying a man she was "only fond of" (Beauchamp again) as a sort of economic expedient in an oppressive patriarchal society, Valeria was an independent woman who went where she wanted to go and did what she wanted to do. She had no trouble supporting herself comfortably, and she enthusiastically married a man of modest economic means, of whom she wrote, "The more I'm with him, the more I love him."
I have the paperback edition and find it odd that the name of Valeria Belletti, the delightful author of the letters comprising this book, does not appear on the front cover or the spine, while Beauchamp's name is displayed in large print. For enthusiasts of early Hollywood or 1920s southern California, Valeria's letters are well worth reading, while taking her editor's feminist leanings with a large chunk of salt.