Title: Dangerous Curves atop Hollywood Heels: The Lives, Careers, and Misfortunes of 14 Hard-Luck Girls of the Silent Screen
Author: Michael G. Ankerich
Format: PDF transferred to my Kindle Fire
Year Published: 2011
Source: I was sent this book by the publisher for review.
Dangerous Curves Atop Hollywood Heels: The Lives, Careers, and Misfortunes of 14 Hard-Luck Girls of the Silent Screen tells the mostly tragic stories of now-forgotten actresses of the silent film era.
The actresses included in the book are: Agnes Ayres, Olive Borden, Grace Darmond, Elinor Fair, Juanita Hansen, Wanda Hawley, Natalie Joyce, Barbara La Marr, Martha Mansfield, Mary Nolan, Marie Prevost, Lucille Ricksen, Eve Southern, and Alberta Vaughn.
Each actress gets a chapter devoted solely to her. I’ve read about some of these actresses before (Ayres, Prevost, La Marr), but some of them I had never heard of before (Hawley, Ricksen).
I found it fascinating to find out what happened to these women. Most silent actors faced a unique dilemma, because during the last years of the 1920s Hollywood began transitioning away from silent films to “talkies.” Some actors struggled to adapt to talking pictures, whether because of a poor voice or bad acting technique.
Then the stock market crashed right during that transition, and some of these women, through no fault of their own, were wiped out financially. Some of them struggled with drug or alcohol addictions, and some suffered from untreated mental illnesses, at a time when these conditions were little understood and there were no proper treatment programs. When their careers crashed, their stocks failed, their youth and beauty started fading and they lost their stardom, they were left broke and unemployed.
Others were simply incredibly unlucky, and a couple of the actresses profiled in this book managed to have somewhat normal lives after their fame faded away. Some of these are unbearably tragic and hard to read. It is actually sadder to read about the ones who weren’t self-destructive and died through no fault of their own – Martha Mansfield was killed in a horrifying fire, and little Lucille Ricksen died at age 14, possibly from tuberculosis.
I’m glad that Michael Ankerich wrote this book and really glad that he chose some silent movie actresses that have been neglected by other authors. There have been plenty of books and articles written about Mary Pickford and Gloria Swanson, for example. It is about time these actresses get their due. If you are a silent film fan, I heartily recommend this book.
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