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Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood Paperback – April 23, 1998
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Screenwriter Frances Marion (1888-1973) is the central subject of this excellent book, but mega-star Mary Pickford, journalist Adela Rogers St. Johns, bit-player-turned-gossip-columnist Hedda Hopper, and other high-powered female friends get nearly equal time. The author's skillful mix of biography with Hollywood history results in a densely textured portrait of an industry in formation and the intelligent, ambitious women who seized the opportunities it offered them for creative expression and financial independence. The text also instills new appreciation for the artistry of silent movies. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Film journalist Beauchamp's book is aptly subtitled, for this is not only about the pioneering screenwriter Frances Marion, whose credits range from silent classics to Garbo's first "talkie" to sophisticated comedy. This is also the story of the women with whom Marion worked, who creatively and symbiotically sustained one another. Chronicled here are her intimate working relationships with Mary Pickford, Marie Dressler, and Irving Thalberg; her qualified disdain of Louis B. Mayer and Joseph P. Kennedy; and her marriages, especially to cowboy film star Fred Thomson. Occupying the margins?but rarely marginalized?Marion cultivated power that often translated into casting decisions and salary negotiations on her own terms. She made the transition from silents to sound motion pictures and likewise survived the industry's swing from early respect for the director's vision to a later reverence for bottomline returns. To dub Beauchamp's work "revisionist" is inadequate: this is a welcomed rediscovery. For all film collections and larger public libraries.?Jayne Kate Plymale-Jackson, Univ. of Georgia Lib., Athens
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Francis Marion was the most prolific screenwriter during all of the silent picture days and years after. She was first woman to win an Academy award for screenwriting “The Big House” and an award for best story for “The Champ”.
Married four times she was also a war correspondent during the First World War reporting from the front lines. She also was a film director and author having after 1946 switched to writing novels and plays. Incredible as it seems she was also one of the highest paid in early Hollywood making $3,000 a week at MGM which was an unheard of amount at that time. She was a wonderful friend to have as she reached out to help the careers of many and provided economic support many women in the industry. (The book is a who’s who of early Hollywood names and history… like the three years Joseph Kennedy tried to monopolize the industry and destroyed Marion’s husband Fred Thompson’s acting career.)
There is not much I would criticize about the book beyond the fact that many times the book sidetracks into personal biography of people Marion meets along the way. When these are names we recognize like Hedda Hopper or Mary Pickford these journeys are enjoyable but when we meet those unknown to many of us today it is harder to focus on who is who. Yet it is amazing to learn of these people because they were so well known in their own time. Sorry to say what this means when it comes to the power of fame and of a familiar name.
Bottom-line this is a wonderful and enjoyable read. If you enjoy a good biography combined with social and industry history, especially Hollywood and films you cannot go wrong with this marvelous book.
(Note: Our copy is a paperback which we bought at the UCLA festival of books where we met Cari Beauchamp. She signed the book to my wife with this note “Wonderful women, wonderful friends, enjoy!”)
I hadn't realized how many classic films Marion worked on that I already know, such as "The Wind" and "Dinner at Eight." After I read the book, I found a DVD of "The Big House" at my local library. Beauchamp's description of the behind-the-scenes planning and changes, Marion's research, and the adjustments made for the censorship rules of the time, helped me appreciate this pioneering film more, as well as understand some of its weaknesses.
My only complaint about the book (apart from the strange tendency to misspell names--even "Pygmalion" is spelled wrong) is that I wish it had included more examples of Marion's writing. There's a tantalizing section from the script of Lillian Gish's version of "The Scarlet Letter" that really made me want to read on. Perhaps Beauchamp can put together a second volume that's just a study of Marion's scripts and other writings, in the manner of "Anita Loos Rediscovered." From the other reviews here, I'm not the only one who would welcome it.
I also have to say that I hate hate hate the title of the book, "Without Lying Down." The words come from an actual quote of Marion's, but out of context it sounds more sexual than the original phrase is. I wouldn't have used that phrase for the title anyway, because it makes it seem as though she framed her life in relation to certain male-female expectations, which isn't accurate, according to this book. She was remarkably independent, even by today's standards, but had plenty of love affairs, and appeared to frame her life according to her own beliefs, and around her need to write.