by Lynn KearHaving just seen Brent in Von Sternberg's 1927 'Underworld', and being intrigued, I obtained her biography through interlibrary loan. In this $45 paperback there are 102 pages of biography and 137 pages of filmography, plus 18 pages of chapter notes. Read every bit of it and decided not to buy.
Brent's stardom was short lived - a mere 2 years during a 36 year career. It's odd that a 302 page book on her life and career was published, as she seems to warrant at most a chapter in a book on long-gone and forgotten movie stars, forgotten until Von Sternberg's 3 great silent films were recently issued on dvd. Further, this biography has some major drawbacks. Because Brent died 37 years ago and left no diary (as Kay Francis so kindly left her biographers), or letters or studio contracts or documents or other memorabilia (excepting, I assume, a scrapbook and stills), and as her contemporaries are all dead, and as she was not a big enough star to be written about extensively in previous film history books, the authors are obliged to get their information from fan magazines and newspaper clippings. Kevin Brownlow in the Foreword says "it's a pity biographers are so dependent on the output of press agents", and yet as there is no other source material readily available, Kear and King must draw from publicity articles. There probably is original source material in file drawers and trunks in Hollywood and elsewhere, but the authors have not done the research to uncover it.
Since the authors have little documentary material to work with, there is an annoying amount of speculation, such as the assertion that Brent was blacklisted when film offers dried up in the early 30s.However, it is far more likely that what was the common fate of most other film actors was Brent's fate as well, namely, that the movie going public lost interest in her and moved on to new favorites, hence, no more starring roles. Also, there is too much irrelevant background material on people who were important to people in Brent's life. For instance, there are several pages on the Dolly Sisters, one of whom was previously married to Harry Fox, Brent's 3rd husband. What's this doing in a bio on Brent? And why does the filmography include extensive detail of the plots of Brent's movies, most of which are not available or lost, as well as mini-biographies of each cast and crew member.
The authors mention too many times the rumor that Brent was a lesbian. They cite Brent's relationship with Dorothy Herzog, a Hollywood newspaper and magazine writer.To me it seemed that these 2 Hollywood working women had much in common and it was natural that a close friendship would develop based on their career interests. Also, unless the person acknowledges that they are gay, such as did William Haines, or there is actual proof, such as with Ramon Novarro, bestowing on rumors the respect they don't deserve is irresponsible.
Finally, this book contains too few, too small, and only fair quality black-and-white photos.The book I would like to have on Brent or any other of a hundred or more forgotten stars, is one that reprints all the fan magazine articles, portraits, candid snaps and bits of gossip therein; high-quality reproductions of film stills, posters, and lobby cards in color on half-or-full size pages; family photos; publicity portraits; film reviews from the NYT, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, fan magazines; plus excerpts and quotes from published biographies on other stars and from film history books.For THIS 300-page compilation of Life and Career materials, I'd happily pay $45.
|eBook format||Unknown Binding, (torrent)|
|Publisher||McFarland & Company|
|File size||4.3 Mb|
|Book rating||3.03 (6 votes)