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At the Center of the Frame: Leading Ladies of the Twenties and Thirties Paperback – September 27, 1999
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From Library Journal
Silent Stars is a fond yet perceptive look at some overlooked, misunderstood, or underappreciated stars of the silent era. With wit, enthusiasm, and a refreshing lack of condescension, Basinger (film studies, Wesleyan Univ.) surveys the lives and careers of stars like "America's sweetheart" Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Lon Chaney, and even animal star Rin-Tin-Tin (whose exploits helped save the fortunes of one studio). She explores Valentino's sexual ambiguity, shows that John Gilbert's high voice did not doom his film career in talkies, and explains that Marion Davies's status as the mistress of William Randolph Hearst overshadowed her considerable gifts as a comedienne. In her excellent introduction, Basinger also notes that the silence allowed audiences to bond with their favorite stars and that the easily translated title cards made international fame possible--though, incredibly, some studies were reluctant to reveal actors' names, which they feared would lead to exorbitant star salaries. This book deserves to take its place next to Kevin Brownlow's classic The Parade's Gone By (LJ 2/15/69). Drew's (Speaking Silents) oral history-based book focuses exclusively on lesser-known leading ladies of the late 1920s and 1930s. After giving a bit of background, he lets each actress--including Constance Cummings, King Kong star Fay Wray, and Claire Trevor (best known for her Oscar-winning turn in John Huston's Key Largo)--tell her own story. They discuss the different paths that brought them to Hollywood and the divergent turns their lives took after the days of stardom. The inclusion of many personal details here may put some readers off, but the appended filmography is valuable. Silent Stars is highly recommended for public libraries; At the Center of the Frame is for large academic and special libraries.
-Stephen Rees, Levittown Regional Lib., PA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.