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The First Lady of Hollywood
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Prologue PART I 1. Early Years 2. Essanay 3. The Column 4. New York 5. "The Lovely Miss Marion Davies" PART II 6. On the Way to Hollywood 7. Hollywood 8. Feuds 9. Radio 10. The Best and the Hearst PART III 11. The First Lady of Hollywood 12. Raising Kane 13. The Gay Illiterate 14. War and Peace 15. Scandal 16. The End of an Era 17. Eclipse Notes Bibliography Index

About the Author

Samantha Barbas has a Ph.D. in American History from the University of California, Berkeley, and is the author of Movie Crazy: Fans, Stars, and the Cult of Celebrity (2001).

Reviews

Historian Barbas's thoroughly researched and footnoted biography of the powerful gossip columnist who virtually invented celebrity journalism asks to be taken seriously as a chronicle of American history at a pivotal time-but it is also a fast and fascinating read. A smalltown girl from Dixon, Ill., Parsons married and separated early; at 29, she set off for Chicago as a single mother where she found a job as "scenario editor" to a small movie company in 1911, sorting through the hundreds of fan-written "screenplays" that arrived daily; the lucky few were turned into 15- or 20- minute silents at $25 a pop to the writer. She began to write about the movies for the Chicago Tribune, and eventually parlayed her friendship with Marian Davies, the actress who was mistress to William Randolph Hearst, into a column for the Hearst papers. The rest is history-riveting history, covering the rise of the talkies; the invention of the studio system, the star system and "Hollywood"; and the blatant lies, coverups, favoritism and blackmail. Parsons's famous feud with rival Hedda Hopper is here, along with her role in damaging the Hollywood careers of Orson Welles, Mae West, Charlie Chaplin and Ingrid Bergman. Of its kind, this is a terrific book about an unusual life, and the author has done future Hollywood historians a great service by documenting it so carefully, incidentally exposing all the falsehoods Parsons related in her own 1945 autobiography, The Gay Illiterate. Photos. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"An absorbing book about celebrity culture and Hollywood power politics... a pleasing amalgam of rigorous scholarship and popular history. It will appeal to a wide range of readers." - Sheldon Kirshner, Canadian Jewish News "Thoughtful, well-written." - Gregory, McNamee, Hollywood Reporter "The in-depth description of the power that Parsons wielded within the industry is especially illuminating, as is the chronicle of intense rivalries with other columnists-most notably, Hedda Hopper. Solid details of Parsons's life aid in presenting a three-dimensional portrait of both the woman and the public figure. This well-researched and finely written work will appeal to a wide readership." - Carol J. Binkowski, Library Journal (Starred Review) "This is a terrific book about an unusual life, and the author has done a great service by documenting it so carefully, incidentally exposing all the falsehoods Parsons related in her own 1945 autobiography, The Gay Illiterate." - Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) "A thoughtful biography." - Mark Lewis, New York Times Book Review"

Set within the framework of evolving American popular culture, this insightful first biography of legendary Hollywood columnist Louella Parsons is also a fascinating look at the world of movies, newspapers, politics, publicity, and ever-changing social roles. Barbas (Movie Crazy: Fans, Stars, and the Cult of Celebrity) portrays her subject as a talented and determined woman who rose above stereotypical boundaries and created her own opportunities. With an appetite for the entertainment scene whetted by an early job with Essanay Films, Parsons went on to work for William Randolph Hearst, writing her famous gossip columns and articles about the Hollywood scene from 1915 to 1960, uncovering and divulging exclusive details about luminaries from Charlie Chaplin and Joan Crawford to Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth. The in-depth description of the power that Parsons wielded within the industry is especially illuminating, as is the chronicle of intense rivalries with other columnists-most notably, Hedda Hopper. Solid details of Parsons's life aid in presenting a three-dimensional portrait of both the woman and the public figure. This well-researched and finely written work will appeal to a wide readership and will be a valuable addition to circulating libraries and large entertainment collections.-Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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