The Book Report: Librarian and film fanboy Peter Shelley takes a new tack on explaining the waste that was the life of Frances Farmer: He gives a lot of background in a biographical essay, then analyzes quite thoroughly the actual work turned out by Frances Farmer in her short career. He goes on to bring us the details of the various post-mortem biopics made about her, with analysis of their merits aesthetic and factual. It's quite a lot of work, this, finding and screening and mulling over entertainments long unseen. Kudos for caring so much.
My Review: Because I certainly don't. This is amazingly dense stuff. Since I, a mere civilian, can't get most of these films, I have no context to put them in. I trust Mr. Shelley a little less with each sloppy mistake, like I do all authors. The one that came close to causing me to put the book down permanently came in the biographical essay, where Frances was was fobbed off with a car. A Plymouth Dusenberg.
Google is your friend. Use it. Duesenbergs were huge, luxurious cars not made after 1936. Plymouths were cheapiemobiles sold to Aunt Mildred and Uncle Cyrus to get them from the farm to the church on Sunday. Mr. Shelley's Australian, it's true, but a quick check would've told him what was what. Why, even a car-phobic friend to whom I bleated disgruntledly said "you're kidding" when I mentioned this!
There were others much more minor that I caught; but I find that, when I catch one or two howlers like this, I wonder what howlers I'm too ignorant to catch, and trust the book I'm reading less and less. So why give it three stars? Why not simply consign it to the local cathedral's charity bin, as I do with books I detest and don't ever want to see again? Because of Farmer and her enduring mystique. She's famous if you know who she is, she's got that tragic queen of Hollywood thing, she's forgotten by all but the few who, in this day and age, seek out Jessica Lange's memorable portrayal of her from 1982 in the film "Frances". I batten on obscure grandeur. This book limns it for me in klieg lights. I like that enough to hold my nose and add a star to what I feel the book, solely on its merits, deserves.