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The Girls in the Picture

A Novel
Narrated by: Kimberly Farr
Length: 16 hrs and 31 mins
Categories: Fiction, Historical
5 out of 5 stars (1 rating)

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Summary

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue and The Aviator’s Wife, a “rich exploration of two Hollywood friends who shaped the movies” (USA Today) - screenwriter Frances Marion and superstar Mary Pickford.

“Full of Old Hollywood glamour and true details about the pair’s historic careers...a captivating ode to a legendary bond.” (Real Simple)

Named one of the best books of the year by Real Simple.

It is 1914, and 25-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. 

“A boffo production.... Inspiration is a rare and unexpected gift in a book filled with the fluff of Hollywood, but Benjamin provides it with The Girls in the Picture.” (NPR)

“Profoundly resonant, The Girls in the Picture is at its core, an empowering and fascinating tale of sisterhood.” (Bryce Dallas Howard) 

©2018 Melanie Benjamin (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

"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 best-selling author of Pictures of You and Cruel Beautiful World)

"Set at the dawn of Hollywood, The Girls in the Picture explores the friendship between renowned starlet Mary Pickford and screenwriter Frances Marion. 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 best-selling author of The Orphan's Tale)

"Melanie Benjamin's The Girls in the Picture is a scintillating journey 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 best-selling author of Where the Light Falls and Sisi)

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Profile Image for Kay
  • Kay
  • 12-02-18

Melodramatic

I have enjoyed other books written by Melanie Benjamin more than this title. It is not very well written - overly dramatic and sappy.
I have also listened to other titles narrated by Kimberly Farr - and have enjoyed her interpretation of those titles. This time - not so much. Again the phrase "overly dramatic" says it best.
I finished this title because I was interested in the subject and main characters. Although I did roll my eyes at the writing & narration - I enjoyed hearing about (even in a fictional way) the actors, writers and others who were there when the movies began.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Aaron Leonard
  • 12-02-18

More Fran, a little less Mary.

I enjoyed learning more about the life and career of Francis Marion. The Mary Pickford portions weren’t as interesting. I found the narrator completely wrong to voice these young, vibrant women.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • RueRue
  • 29-01-18

Disappointing

A big disappointment. I've enjoyed this author's previous books, but this was a bore. In the dedication, the author thanks an editor who "rescued this from the slush pile". It should have been left there, or at least been given a MAJOR rewrite. I'm sorry to be cruel, but this was really dull.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Annie Longley
  • 07-08-19

Very Thorough Portrait of Pickford/Marion

I have always been fascinated by the history of the film industry, so much so that I majored in Film Studies in college. Given that, The Girls in the Picture was a book that stood out to me immediately. I had a thorough understanding about the accomplishments and importance of Mary Pickford and Frances Marion in a Women in Film class and was intrigued to learn more about the duo in a personal sense rather than a professional one. While I cannot make any statements about the veracity of the book as far as the pair's personal lives go, it is pleasingly thorough and accurate in its portrayal of the facts of their professional lives.

With that said, I thought it went a bit too far with the personal stuff. It did get to a place where I believe it relied too heavily on conjecture rather than fact. This is far from the only historical fiction novel to do this but it is something that annoys me. I think it is disrespectful to misrepresent the thoughts and feelings of the dead. I also was a bit confused by the decision to present only Francis and not Mary through first-person narration. I know not being in control of her image or story was a big issue Mary Pickford faced throughout her life so to have that repeated in a book presenting itself as an empowering and personal portrait of both women rubbed me the wrong way.

I would say this book is worth a listen despite the issues surrounding representation. It is entertaining and does provide a very thorough history of their lives. Maybe too thorough as it felt very overdrawn and should have been at least 2-3 hours shorter.

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  • crissy
  • 05-06-19

beautiful story of two women

I loved this book. i have always been fascinated with the early stars of the movies. This book was fun and tragic and everything in between. The author does a great job of giving the characters a voice.

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  • Sheila
  • 01-02-19

Well written, but did drag.

This is considered historical fiction, meaning g that most of the main story is based in fact, with a lot of "filler" from the author's imagination. The story of the beginning of silent film was fascinating. However, I did get bored with the drama surrounding Mary Pickford and her relationship with other women and love interests. I am glad I read it, though.

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  • Amy
  • 31-08-18

Great read

Loved it! Great read about an era that deserves to be remembered! Wonderful narration, the narrator kept me interested from beginning to end.

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  • ATD
  • 05-08-18

Stick with it

Story is hard to get into but is interesting. It serves as good background to current Hollywood.

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  • Amzn Whr
  • 25-07-18

Narration kills it

I think I might have tolerated the book quite a bit more had the narration not been so horribly overdone. It was really hard to listen to.

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  • Pat W
  • 09-07-18

A well written and performed

If you are as movie buff and want something to think about regarding movies, how they really got started thisi is my book it a. Book you don’t wangt to miss. However it is more than just out that. It is about relationships too. I recommend it highly.