The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood

Diana McLellan, Author St. Martin's Press $26.95 (448p) ISBN 978-0-312-24647-1
Chill out, Ellen and Anne: flagrant lesbianism has been afoot in Hollywood for decades. This saucily written look at the lives of prominent lesbian and bisexual actresses from the 1920s to the '40s brings together old facts and gossip with new details and a cohesive analysis of the relationships between sexuality, feminism and power in the film industry. Drawing on standard biographies--such as Gavin Lambert's Nazimova, Maria Riva's Dietrich, Brendan Gill's Tallulah and Barry Paris's Garbo--as well as interviews, trade and movie magazines and studio publicity, McLellan focuses mainly on the lives of Garbo, Dietrich, Mercedes De Acosta and their circles. While the writing has a tinge of movie magazine breathlessness (e.g., ""When Mercedes drove Greta to the studio for the first day's shooting on Conquest, Greta was in tears""), McLellan has an astute eye for psychological detail and a fine sense of industry power plays. Most importantly, this syndicated columnist and editor at Ladies' Home Journal understands that these women's sexuality and their innumerable affairs, flirtations and romances were not exotic, superficial dalliances, but integral to their lives, identities and art. Although basic information about Garbo, Dietrich and De Acosta has been available in the past, McLellan's investigations into such varied topics as Salka Viertel's political interests and Tallulah Bankhead's career and her affair with Hattie McDonald, bring a broader context and new sense of scholarship to the subject. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/2000
Release date: 10/01/2000
Paperback - 440 pages - 978-0-312-28320-9
Paperback - 508 pages - 978-1-935961-54-3
Hardcover - 508 pages - 978-1-62015-188-4
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