William J. Mann The Biograph Girl

ISBN 13: 9781575666662

The Biograph Girl

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9781575666662: The Biograph Girl
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Meticulously blending fact and real-life characters with fiction, this richly textured historical novel re-creates the life of Florence Lawrence, an early twentieth-century actress and vaudevillian who by 1910, was the "Biograph Girl," the world's first movie star. Reprint.

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From Publishers Weekly:

The birth of the film industry and the advent of the world's first film star, Florence Lawrence, the original "Biograph Girl," form the basis of this fictionalized account of one woman's life in a burgeoning industry that changed the parameters of entertainment. The real silent film actress Lawrence committed suicide in 1938 by drinking ant poison. In Mann's version, LawrenceAwho was at the height of her fame in 1910, but by the late '30s had faded into oblivionAand a besotted physician-fan use the suicide of Lawrence's housemate as a ruse to allow Lawrence to disappear gracefully from an industry that no longer wants or cares about her. The fictional Lawrence not only goes on to have her own life, but lives to the ripe old age of 107. Lawrence's compelling story could easily stand alone: she starts out in show business as a stagestruck child, famous as "Baby Flo" for her whistling talents; has a knack for hooking up with the wrong men; and in her new incarnation emerges as an independent, insouciant dame doing her own thing with ?lan. Mann (Wisecracker) unfortunately burdens this lively material with a cumbersome plot device concerning twin brothers at odds with each other. While researching a piece, New York Times journalist Richard Sheehan discovers that the legendary Florence Lawrence is alive, living in a Catholic nursing home as Florence Bridgewood. Struck by the ex-actress and her remarkable life, he decides to write her biography. His brother, Ben, however, has other plans. Once a film student wunderkind and now stuck in an unrewarding advertising job, Ben intends to use Florence's storyAand Florence herselfAto make his way back into the film industry. Though the subplot revolving around the brothers' rivalry pales next to the vivacious incarnation of Florence Lawrence, Mann builds each tale on the other, leading up to a fittingly cinematic grand finale. Agent, Malaga Baldi. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Skillfully blending facts, fancy, and a vision of the earliest days of moviemaking, the artful Mann (Wisecracker, 1998, etc.) resurrects the first movie star as a hot-ticket 107-year-old discovered in a Catholic nursing home in Buffalo by twin brothers who promptly start fighting over her to further their own agendas.In reality, Florence Lawrence was the Biograph Girl, cinema's brightest star, by 1910, and a suicide by 1938. Here, she's a sharp-witted, caftan-clothed, chain-smoking centenarian named Flo, stumbled upon by freelance journalist Richard Sheehan when the man he was supposed to interview in the home turns out to have just died. Captivated by her, Richard wants her story, but the first tantalizing clues that she's the Biograph Girl run up against the seemingly insurmountable fact of her having committed suicide. While Richard's sleuthing eventually gets the LAPD involved, with the result that the body in Florence Lawrence's Hollywood grave is exhumed, his idealistic documentary filmmaker brother Ben also takes an interest in Flo, spurred on by the sympathetic nun in charge of the home, who sees in Ben's eyes the eyes of her former lover. Ben's high-powered agent catches wind of Flo's mysterious and glamorous past, along with the scandal surrounding her at present, and suddenly Ben is having a script greenlighted by Hollywood's biggest mogul--on the condition that he can tease the truth from the reluctant Flo and turn it into docudrama. Will Ben sell out? Will Richard save Flo from his brother? Will forcing Flo to confront the shadows in her past be the end of her?For all the camp and melodrama, a finely detailed and satisfyingly complicated mystery, aided in its allure by several characters simultaneously coming to terms with how they came to be who they are. -- Copyright © 2000 Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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