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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Starlet's story in the Golden Age of Hollywood
Laura LaMonts's Life in Pictures is set in the late 1920's and depicts the rise and fall of a Hollywood movie star. Elsa Emerson, as she is originally named, is born in Door County Wisconsin, to parents who run a theater company. Elsa has bold aspirations and as soon as she meets actor Gordon Pitts, who is cast with her in the play the "Royal Family", she knows that he...
Published on July 28, 2012 by Nitty's Mom

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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wanted So Much to Like This Book, but...
As I indicated in the title, I wanted so much to like this book but I just struggled to finish it. It was not a difficult read, but it was rather a boring one. Small town girl goes to Hollywood during the days of the Depression and ends up making it big in pictures -- the book follows her career and her marriages up through the early 1980's, but is just lackluster. Yes,...
Published on August 18, 2012 by Ms Winston


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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wanted So Much to Like This Book, but..., August 18, 2012
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This review is from: Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures (Hardcover)
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As I indicated in the title, I wanted so much to like this book but I just struggled to finish it. It was not a difficult read, but it was rather a boring one. Small town girl goes to Hollywood during the days of the Depression and ends up making it big in pictures -- the book follows her career and her marriages up through the early 1980's, but is just lackluster. Yes, the author is familiar with contract players and the old studio system (and how it changed), but as far as I am concerned she never brought the characters to life. Laura was frankly not particularly interesting and her marriages just seemed more like something out of a made-for-television movie for "Lifetime." If Laura brought magic to the screen, as the author suggests, she did not bring magic to the book. And I expected to be treated to long dead actors and actresses who were actually alive and making films during that time period, while for the most part what we got instead were mentions of them. I just found the book rather odd -- there was no real plot, just episodes that happened in different decades of Laura's life and career strung together. Not a terrible novel, just more a disappointing one.
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32 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Boring, July 29, 2012
This review is from: Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures (Hardcover)
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I was predisposed to like the new novel LAURA LAMONT'S LIFE IN PICTURES as the Old Hollywood setting is very appealing to me. And while the story of "Laura Lamont" hits all the usual Tinsel Town notes of failed marriages, drug addiction, corrupt studio bosses,jealousy, mental illness and suicide attempts the book is not only unoriginal but surprisingly not very compelling.

Laura was born Elsa in the resort area of Door County, Wisconsin in the 1920's. Her parents ran a small theater company there and the tragic death of her sister left a lasting impact on her life. As a teenager Elsa/Laura meets and marries another young actor in the company and together they take off for LA to try and conquer the movies. After two children the marriage ends unhappily and Elsa is taken under the wing of a studio executive who changes her name to Laura Lamont, rewrites her history and marries her. An Academy Award soon follows for Laura but also lots of setbacks and angst. The story ends with her returning to her roots in live theater.

Elsa/Laura and the other characters she encounters never really came alive for me and despite the sensational setting the book is quite dull. "Laura Lamont" is decently written though some strange choices in sentence structure sometimes make it more difficult to comprehend than necessary. The author hints at large themes but never really explores them. The book falls somewhere between a three and a four rating but became so tedious to read especially toward the end I am rounding down to a three.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Laura Lamont and the Big Snore, September 10, 2012
This review is from: Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures (Hardcover)
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In "Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures," author Emma Straub tells the story of Laura Lamont, Hollywood star, from her early days in her father's small Minnesota theater through her ups and downs in the studios of California, to her eventual comeback in her later years on Broadway. Laura's tale of motion picture success could be that of any quintessential starlet--or it could be based on a favorite screen goddess (or a composite of many) from Hollywood's golden era pantheon. Whatever Straub's intention, she presents her main character in the three-way mirror of her ambition and her desire for love in a straightforward story line that does indeed tell a chronological tale. Unfortunately, Straub's portrayal of Lamont and her so-called glamorous life waxes anemic rather than exciting and tinsel-shiny; Elsa/Laura seems nothing more than a frail leaf caught up in a studio wind of which she has no control. Not endowed with true grit, or femme fatalism, she simply simpers and we, as the reading audience, don't cheer for her or feel vindicated as she rides out her eventual downward spiral to other, smaller triumphs. Instead we fall prey to reading on, hoping the story will get better while ultimately descending into a rather boring "Big Sleep" of mediocrity.

Straub goes out of her way to describe Elsa's background--the history of her family, her sisters' influence and her mother's hard knuckle approach to anything she doesn't understand. When Elsa becomes Laura, hitting upon success after success once she is noticed by a studio head, the prose is so flat and emotionless that the reader is barely moved to even celebrate along with what should be genuine enthusiasm for someone who has had the will and has found the way.

Straub tells her reading audience what Laura supposedly wants--stardom, romance, love, marriage, a home, children, etc. but weakly illustrates any surge of true desire. Isn't Laura more than just a mid-western girl with a middle of the road personality? Guess not. Laura's emotional spectrum is so narrow that a scene where she is going to the grocery story has as much or rather, as little feel to it than a locale where she is dressed to the nines and winning a coveted Oscar. Where is the drama? Straub tries too hard to keep the stereotypical starstruck girl from the Midwest alive and well under the wraps of the illustrious personage of the created Laura Lamont and this reflects in flat prose and tone that is unable to compel, engage or sustain the reader for very long.

This reviewer is quite certain that Straub's intention was to depict her Laura, the star, as Everywoman. After all, personality and persona change, just like the roles that an actress takes on--we are born as children to our parents, sisters to our siblings--we seek not only our family's love but their approval and appreciation for all that we contribute to our special tribe as a whole. Once we leave the security of family, we may create little networks of our own--but then we are wives and mothers and that little kernel of soul that cries out for recognition is always there, peeking out from behind the game faces we must wear as we perform the duties that define and identify us. Straub shows us Laura's various masks--she labels them as chapter headings and delineates a good solid block of experiences within them that allows the reading audience a glimmer of that particular facet of Laura's personality. Nonetheless, it all would work so much better if there were more driving forces within the various permutations and Laura's middle road had more dramatic highs and lows. When I read a good woman's story, I want to cry at the sad times and laugh at the good moments; I want to engage.

Straub's secondary players are just as forgettable as Lamont. Ginger, the Lucille Ball facsimile, registers the same amount of petering likeability or unlikeability as the star, her children, her sisters and first husband Gordon. Perhaps, she is just thrown in for some Hollywood authenticity. Second husband, Irving has little sex appeal; I didn't cheer when they got together or boo or hiss because I thought he might give her a raw deal. I simply didn't care. Straub's illumination of them as flesh and blood people has all the scintillation and nuance of an obituary.

Bottom line? Old time Hollywood has many exciting stories to tell. If you want to read one, skip Emma Straub's "Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures" and read something that depicts the real deal like Vivien: The Life of Vivien Leigh, Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis, Ava Gardner: "Love Is Nothing", Jennifer Jones: The Life and Films or Love, Lucy and then hunker down and watch these babies act in some of their film classics on TCM or AMC.
Diana Faillace Von Behren
"reneofc"
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wan retelling of Jennifer Jones' life, September 17, 2012
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This review is from: Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures (Hardcover)
Based on Entertainment Weekly's ecstatic review, I was primed to love this book. Too bad. I found it listless and kind of pointless. Elsa/Laura goes through the motions of a life without much in the way of emotion or reflection. Not much of big historical importance (WW2, Viet Nam Draft, TV's move from B&W to Color, the relaxation of the Hays Code which allowed swearing and nudity) gets much attention even when it would have imposed on her family's life.
Further, Ms. Straub would have done well to have an older proof reader to help her avoid such current anomalies as "wellness center" among others. If you want a real movie star memoir from this period, Mary Astor wrote the best one. She was oblivious and morally blind in ways this author isn't mature enough to even imagine. This book is just straight ahead bland.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK!, September 15, 2012
By 
marybb (Salinas, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures (Hardcover)
I not only would like to have my money back, I would like to have my reading time back. I am predisposed to like stories about old Hollywood and settings in Los Angeles, but this book could have been about a tractor plant in Iowa for all the sense of time and place. This might as well have been a self-published free e-book. I was deceived by the fact that it came from a reputable publishing house. There was a definite lack of editing. Despite a fairly straightforward chronology, there are anachronisms and continuity errors as well as simple apostrophe misplacements. There were also many pronoun reference errors. Had I been reading an actual book, instead of on my Kindle, I would have been drawing lines and arrows on the page to figure out who was doing what to whom. And, biggest sin of all, the book was pointless and boring. I am sorry I didn't just give up on it early on.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Starlet's story in the Golden Age of Hollywood, July 28, 2012
This review is from: Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Laura LaMonts's Life in Pictures is set in the late 1920's and depicts the rise and fall of a Hollywood movie star. Elsa Emerson, as she is originally named, is born in Door County Wisconsin, to parents who run a theater company. Elsa has bold aspirations and as soon as she meets actor Gordon Pitts, who is cast with her in the play the "Royal Family", she knows that he is her ticket out of Wisconsin. Gordon Pitts from Florida is going to try his hand in motion pictures and when the theater season is over marries Elsa. Elsa eagerly leaves small town Wisconsin, however, a family tragedy leaves a imprint that will haunt her throughout her life.

Once arriving in Los Angles, Gordon Pitts finds work as a contract player at the Gardner Brother Studios. Elsa has two children in quick succession as she becomes disillusioned with both her husband and their life together. At a studio party and pregnant with her second child, she meets Irving Green , the silent partner in Gardner Brother Studios. Irving is enamored with Elsa and suggests that she come and see him at his studio after her baby is born. With the snap of a finger, Irving also changes her name to Laura LaMont and subsequently the trajectory of her future.

Emma Straub writes with a keen eye on what it takes to make it and sustain it in the Hollywood of the 1930s, 40's, and 50s. Laura's career spans four decades with many untold highs and lows. Her love and losses as well as the difficulties managing a career while remaining a good mother is explored with understanding and compassion. Throughout, Laura LaMont's talent and fortitude make this story uniquely her own, as she comes to realize that fame may not be all its cracked up to be and poignant memories from the past not easily forgotten.

Laura LaMont's Life in Pictures is subtle and at times slow moving. There is not much of a plot. Do not expect to read about the Hollywood of Angelia Jolie and Brad Pitt. Unfortunately Laura's perfunctory best friend, the family she left behind and her three children do not always help to strengthen her story. Still this is a different kind of story that depicts the fascinating history of a time in Hollywood that I knew little about. What Emma Straub does best is depict the emotional toll demanded in those that balance career with family.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Personality, please!, January 10, 2014
I had an issue. Picture this: Laura Lamont is so much an archetype that there isn't anything there-- at all. If you took every story you've ever heard about the life of an actress, mixed them up and boiled them down to their essence, this is what you'd end up with. The ultimate generic movie star. Nothing unique or particular about it.

Such a shame, really, because I think Straub could write a good book if her People had more Personality. Her subject is the big issue here, and it's kind of hard to overlook it when Laura Lamont is the star of the show.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Enough Stardust., August 12, 2012
This review is from: Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures (Hardcover)
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I thought Laura Lamont was some lesser-known film star with whom I wasn't familiar. Turns out she came straight from Emma Straub's imagination. The author did a lot of research about the golden age of Hollywood, and she put great care into the development of her story. Sorry to say, without any actual Hollywood touchstones, there's not enough stardust to keep it interesting.

The novel is rather bland and lacks the tang of reality. Even the film studios, execs, and names of other film stars are made up. You can guess who some of them are based on, but without real names and places, it just doesn't feel authentic.

For the character of Laura Lamont, Emma Straub has cobbled together a composite portrait from events that could apply to a variety of real starlets from the era. Laura is a generic example of the lives of small-town girls who made it big in Hollywood and were turned into commodities by the studios. Elsa Emerson of Door County, Wisconsin goes to Hollywood, gets discovered, and is made over into the new persona of Laura Lamont. Her star shines brightly and briefly, then fizzles, and her life goes downhill from there.

What I found most interesting was the way actors and actresses were essentially owned by the studios back in the heyday of film-star mystique. If you were under contract, they controlled every aspect of your life and cultivated an image you were required to maintain. If an actress had a baby, she wasn't allowed to be seen again in public until she'd regained her pre-pregnancy figure. All details of your private life were engineered by the studio to fit the biography they had created for you. If they saw fit, they'd rewrite your entire life story.

The story begins with some promise, but becomes too devoted to the domestic angle of Laura Lamont's life. As such it conveys little of the glitter and scandal of Hollywood in the old days.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Old Time Studio System Out Shines the Star, September 27, 2012
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This review is from: Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures (Hardcover)
The only thing mildly interesting in this book is its portrayal of the old time studio system when stars were under contract and worked directly for the studios. The actual story of Laura is a total cliche, complete with the small town girl making it big as she eclipses her hubby's hollywood career. Laura is a cypher - we know she had a traumatic even that happened in her childhood but other than that we really don't know her, or care about her at all. This book was totally ho-hum.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun and Snappy, September 20, 2012
By 
JLee "JLee" (Chicago, IL USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures (Hardcover)
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Okay, it's not great literature and the character development is non-existent. So what. It's a fun fairy tale, pure entertainment, and about as deep, and my review and rating are based purely on that. Hey, I read a lot of nonfiction, sometimes a little escapist light reading is appreciated, and this is sparkling and witty and charming. There are quite a few well-turned and clever phrases in the book. It's also fun, for those of us who love movie history, to try to identify the real movie folk the characters are based on (at least to some extent).

The fairly tale: innocent country girl dreams of stardom. Marries the big bad wolf, another would-be actor, mainly because they both want to go off to Hollywood. Next thing you know, she's Cinderella, a housewife, with one baby and very pregnant with another. But Prince Charming arrives at the ball, disguised as a studio producer, who sees past the swollen belly and ankles and offers to make her a princess, or at least a movie star, and they live happily ever after .... well, no, not really, that's just the beginning of the story, which covers roughly fifty years of Laura's life. An evil stepmother (or, in this case, a distant real mother) is thrown in for no particular reason other than there has to be some tension. The big bad wolf won't go away. And no one gets any younger, and people die, and people are born. And that's all I'll say as to the story of Laura Lamont.

I liked her, even though she didn't always seem to know who she was, much confused between her birth self (Elsa) and star (Laura). I wanted her to find happiness and success, even when things were at their worst. I wanted a fairy tale happy ending for her.

The author gets into a bit of trouble when she tries too hard to deal with the psychology of the family and identities and responsibilities. It really wasn't necessary and it wasn't always logical. It's not important. There are also some anachronisms, but this is not a factual biography, it's a story, so I'll cut the author some slack. I can highly recommend this book for entertainment, not studying psychology or history.
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Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures
Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures by Emma Straub (Hardcover - September 4, 2012)
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