The Girls in the Picture Summary and Reviews

The Girls in the Picture

by Melanie Benjamin

The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin X
The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2018
    448 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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About this book

Book Summary

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue and The Aviator's Wife, a fascinating novel of the friendship and creative partnership between two of Hollywood's earliest female legends - screenwriter Frances Marion and superstar Mary Pickford.

It is 1914, and twenty-five-year-old Frances Marion has left her (second) husband and her Northern California home for the lure of Los Angeles, where she is determined to live independently as an artist. But the word on everyone's lips these days is "flickers" - the silent moving pictures enthralling theatergoers. Turn any corner in this burgeoning town and you'll find made-up actors running around, as a movie camera captures it all.

In this fledgling industry, Frances finds her true calling: writing stories for this wondrous new medium. She also makes the acquaintance of actress Mary Pickford, whose signature golden curls and lively spirit have earned her the title "America's Sweetheart." The two ambitious young women hit it off instantly, their kinship fomented by their mutual fever to create, to move audiences to a frenzy, to start a revolution.

But their ambitions are challenged by both the men around them and the limitations imposed on their gender - and their astronomical success could come at a price. As Mary, the world's highest paid and most beloved actress, struggles to live her life under the spotlight, she also wonders if it is possible to find love, even with the dashing actor Douglas Fairbanks. Frances, too, longs to share her life with someone. As in any good Hollywood story, dramas will play out, personalities will clash, and even the deepest friendships might be shattered.

With cameos from such notables as Charlie Chaplin, Louis B. Mayer, Rudolph Valentino, and Lillian Gish, The Girls in the Picture is, at its heart, a story of friendship and forgiveness. Melanie Benjamin perfectly captures the dawn of a glittering new era - its myths and icons, its possibilities and potential, and its seduction and heartbreak.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. This engrossing and rewarding read provides the same mixture of well-researched plot and fascinating characters [that has] made Benjamin's previous novels so outstanding." - Library Journal

"Benjamin immerses readers in the whirlwind excitement of Mary's and Frances' lives while portraying a rarely seen character, an early woman screenwriter, and deftly exploring the complexities of female friendship." - Booklist

"...the heady, infectious energy of the fledgling film industry in Los Angeles is convincingly conveyed - and the loving but competitive friendship between these two women on the rise in a man's world is a powerful source of both tension and relatability." - Publishers Weekly

"Melanie Benjamin, known for her living, breathing portraits of famous figures, takes on the Golden Age of Hollywood, and the friendship between icons Mary Pickford and screenwriter Frances Marion. As riveting as the latest blockbuster, this is a star-studded story of female friendships, creative sparks about to ignite, and the power of women. Dazzling." - Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You and Cruel Beautiful World

"With the artistry for which she has become renowned, Melanie Benjamin has simultaneously created an insightful tale of the relationship between writer and muse and a breathtaking view into Hollywood's most glittering era." - Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan's Tale

"y back in time to the gritty and glamorous days of old Hollywood. With elegant prose and delicious historical detail, Benjamin delivers a timely tale of female friendship - and the powerful duo who dared to dream beyond the narrow roles into which they'd been cast." - Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of Where the Light Falls and Sisi 

"The Girls in the Picture is a fascinating, fast-paced, and ultimately heartbreaking story about two kindred spirits and their struggle for professional and personal fulfillment." - Lauren Belfer, New York Times bestselling author of And After the Fire

"This vibrant portrait of two Hollywood groundbreakers is rich with insights about friendship, ambition and power... . A fascinating read." - Nancy Horan, New York Times bestselling author of Loving Frank and Under the Wide and Starry Sky

"Melanie Benjamin is a transcendent storyteller, and with The Girls in the Picture, she has created a spellbinding novel of female power and ambition, heartbreak and desire." - Dawn Tripp, author of Georgia

"Her many fans should get ready for the pleasure of yet another of these Benjamin miracles in The Girls in the Picture, where they'll venture into early Hollywood, the magic of 'flickers,' and women's struggles to find - and hold on to - power within that celluloid world." - Elizabeth J. Church, author of The Atomic Weight of Love and All the Beautiful Girls

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Reader Reviews

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Betty Taylor

A Test of Friendship
I thoroughly enjoyed “The Girls in the Picture” by Melanie Benjamin and learned a lot from it. That is why I have come to love the genre of historical fiction – I always learn something new. I knew very little about the early days of the movie industry and nothing really about Frances Marion and Mary Pickford. This book is the story of the intense friendship between Frances and Mary. In the era of silent films, Mary Pickford was loved and adored by everyone in America. Much of her popularity was due to the excellent screenwriting of Frances Marion, a true pioneer of her time.

Ms. Benjamin took me into the glitz and glamour of the time, and also the intense rivalries. From stage productions to silent films to “the talkies”, she brought it all to life. It was no secret that this was a man’s world, but Mary and Frances broke into that world and made it their own.
Mary had to work from a very early age to support her siblings and her mother. Thus she never had a childhood, and never had a friend - until she met Frances. They understood each other and, more so, Frances understood and shared Mary’s passion for the film world. Frances instinctively knew how to write for the character.

The book addresses the history of the film companies and the partnerships and mergers that took place. Many of the best known names appear in the story – Cecil B. DeMille, Adolph Zukor, Louis B. Mayer, Charlie Chaplin, Lillian Gish, Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo, and more.

The latter portion of the book addresses the tumultuous love affair and marriage of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. Mary and Frances had promised each other that they would never let men come between them. (How often have we heard that one?) As Mary ages and finally is no longer able to maintain the persona of the little girl with the golden curls she loses her fans and her husband. Thus begins her downward spiral into alcohol and insanity.

In the meantime, Frances has maintained a more realistic view of life, especially after spending time in Europe filming the impact of the war on women. Frances has also been “struck anew by how universal my world was, how what we did on a soundstage in Hollywood could travel across the ocean to the battlefields of France.”

Frances soon recognizes that Mary is losing touch with reality and fights to save her lifelong friend. But can she after all the accusations of jealousy and blame Mary throws at her? This is a true test of friendship.

lani

Surreptitious delight
A fascinating look at still movies and beyond through the lens of Mary Pickford and Frances Marion from the 1914-1969. How prescient of Benjamin to examine the sexual misconduct and the treatment of women as second class citizens in the movie industry. With the current climate, this could not have come at a more opportune moment. I love when a novel engages you but also teaches you about a pivotal time in the Hollywood scene, as well as the effects of war on the industry as well. But mostly this is a story of two women's friendship, with power imbalances and balances.Admittedly, I knew nothing about Frances Marion and was astonished at how much she had created in her life, while Mary Pickford's name seems to have stood the test of time. This engaging book should hook many a woman who loves romance, friendship, movies and women's rights...I think that covers a large swath of the female race.

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