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The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 30, 1900

3.7 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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The debut volume from the new L.A. Weekly imprint at St. Martin's Press, Diana McLellan's witty and penetrating study of the golden age of Hollywood sapphism will delight the armchair detective as well as the lavender movie buff. Thanks to McLellan's obsessive sleuthing, The Girls offers not only the most detailed biography of Mercedes de Acosta, seducer of the stars, but provides tantalizing evidence of an early affair in Germany between Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo, women who in later life claimed never to have met. Much of the book is devoted to Garbo--another sign of the author's good taste--and revelations abound. Sadly, the golden age gave way to McCarthyism. Even the "gayest" of Hollywood lesbians retreated into the closet, or, like de Acosta, left for Europe. McLellan tracks their disappearance in the 1950s and 1960s against the first stirrings of the gay rights movement, providing a satisfying conclusion to a fascinating but not always happy tale. --Regina Marler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Chill out, Ellen and Anne: flagrant lesbianism has been afoot in Hollywood for decades. This saucily written look at the lives of prominent lesbian and bisexual actresses from the 1920s to the '40s brings together old facts and gossip with new details and a cohesive analysis of the relationships between sexuality, feminism and power in the film industry. Drawing on standard biographiesAsuch as Gavin Lambert's Nazimova, Maria Riva's Dietrich, Brendan Gill's Tallulah and Barry Paris's GarboAas well as interviews, trade and movie magazines and studio publicity, McLellan focuses mainly on the lives of Garbo, Dietrich, Mercedes De Acosta and their circles. While the writing has a tinge of movie magazine breathlessness (e.g., "When Mercedes drove Greta to the studio for the first day's shooting on Conquest, Greta was in tears"), McLellan has an astute eye for psychological detail and a fine sense of industry power plays. Most importantly, this syndicated columnist and editor at Ladies' Home Journal understands that these women's sexuality and their innumerable affairs, flirtations and romances were not exotic, superficial dalliances, but integral to their lives, identities and art. Although basic information about Garbo, Dietrich and De Acosta has been available in the past, McLellan's investigations into such varied topics as Salka Viertel's political interests and Tallulah Bankhead's career and her affair with Hattie McDonald, bring a broader context and new sense of scholarship to the subject. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • ISBN-10: 0312246471
  • ASIN: B0000ALQ1B
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.2 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,071,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Girls provides quite a different look at the Hollywood environment of the 1920s to the 1940s as Diana McLellan examines the lives of lesbian and bisexual actresses of the times, analyzing relationships, power plays, and politics alike. The Girls provides a lively, fun chronicle of affairs and scandals and is a recommended pick for any fan of Hollywood intrigue and culture.
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By A Customer on January 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
I've never been a fan of biographies or gossip, biographies often seem too wooden and gossip too unreliable and salacious. But I read this book from cover to cover. Not only has Diana McLellan crafted a credible and well-researched account of the 'intimate' female community in Hollywood during the golden days of cinema, she has the brought the encouragingly entertaining, colourful and often hilarious lives of women such as Tallulah Bankhead so to life that the era has interested me like never before. The author has a wonderful sense of humour, often letting our heroines' own words and situations speak for themselves. She says in the introduction that the book grew not so much from what was right infront of her, as it did from that which was absent. A lie is always told to hide the truth, making it an excellent departure point for investigation. The web of lies that covered the contents of this book is fascinating, and McLellan's talent lies in the way she has managed to weave the public front: the 1930's Hollywood we remember from films and fan magazines; the notorious and infamous underground lesbian culture that was obviously evident if you knew the right people; and the intimately secret, private lives of the world's most famous women, hidden from not only the public, but even their friends and lovers.
I think that this book succeeds, not simply because of the revelatory nature of much of the material: the alleged affair Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo had together in Berlin prior to their Hollywood careers; Dietrich's marriage to Otto Katz, communist and spy during World War II; the other roles Dietrich played during the war besides those of 'morale-builder' and entertainer, but because of the way McLellan has captured the zietgeist of the era.
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By A Customer on November 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book should find a wide, appreciative audience. It captivates with the three beautiful women gracing the jacket, and sweeps the reader along with a stream of gossipy news. Everyone seems to have a mention, from the major players, (The Girls of the title) to fascinating parentheticals (Nancy Reagan). Film buffs will enjoy the exploration of a long suppressed area of Hollywood history, finding endless anecdotes of film-society life, a who-was-who of lesbian Hollywood. Love-matches are made, vows are broken, dirt is dished, Dietrich betrays Garbo's intimate secrets, and we are party to it all. Diana McLellan weaves a fascinating tapestry, that entertains and informs. She does far more, however, by probing the motives of women caught in the gears as American society turned down a prudish path, dragging Hollywood moguls along. If it's hard for lesbian and gay performers to be out in 2000, how must it have been in 1920? McLellan had a difficult task in unearthing deeply buried secrets, but she makes a compelling case that her deductions are correct. Of particular interest is her questioning the claim, made by both Dietrich and Garbo that they had never met, until formally introduced in Hollywood. Stuff and nonsense, says McLellan. Her evidence that the two women not only met, but were lovers, is central to the book's theme. (One would wish the Fatty Arbuckle scandal had been treated with more skepticism, but that's a quibble on my part.) This book is better than a night at most movies!
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Format: Hardcover
Dear Mr. Polt,
Thanks for your good note. I'm of course aware that some believe that Herta von Walther played the Dietrich role in the Garbo film Die freudlose Gasse, "The Joyless Street". The two women looked vaguely similar - although von Walther's features were coarser, her eyes a little closer together. They were probably friends as well as colleagues. (As you know, von Walther was considered by Josef von Sternberg for the juicy role of Lola-Lola in 1930's "Blue Angel", before it went so gloriously to Dietrich, and changed her life.) My theory is that Marlene asked Herta to lie for her when she promised to pipe down about being in "The Joyless Street" with Garbo, and that Herta agreed. (I go into the reasons at length in "The Girls".) No wonder she "laughed" when she was identified as Dietrich! Despite her vow, Dietrich, when cornered, occasionally conceded that she was "an extra standing in line" in "The Joyless Street". Only one figure in that line could conceivably be Dietrich - the one who catches the fainting Garbo in her arms. If one compares the close-up I show of the black-haired Marlene (with her widely spaced eyes!) in "Street" with certain shots made later (without von Sternberg's face-modelling lighting) it's very clear that it was she, not von Walther, in that role. She actually told her late-life friend and biographer David Bret, who knew from her Berlin friends that she had been in "The Joyless Street", "Yes, and in the end I killed the butcher..." To know about that ax-murder - so horrible that it was completely slashed by the censors - she had to be there. I too have seen that film program, by the way. I believe it was printed to accompany a later re-release of the film. Again, thank you for your communication. Sorry to bore the reader who doesn't want to know all this! All good wishes, Diana McLellan
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