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Frances Farmer: The Life and Films of a Troubled Star Paperback – Dec 21 2010
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About the Author
Library assistant Peter Shelley is a produced playwright and has directed over a dozen theater productions in Sydney, Australia.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Back in the day of books and book clubs, most major stars got picture books published under titles such as "The Films of......" And I had really thought that the time would never come when Farmer's career would be given a similar treatment. I am happy to say that the day has come.
Shelley covers each of Farmer's films and the majority of her television appearances with exhaustive cast lists, production information, and many (though not many unfamiliar) stills. The joy is now that it is all in ONE place. The book itself has a Universal Studios portrait on the front - originally black and white, it has been reprinted with a golden glow that is most flattering. In fact, of all of the editions of the couple of books that have been published about Farmer, this cover is the most striking.
I was most taken with the biography section (and thankful to be mentioned, although my name gets mangled a couple of times). I also liked how Shelley presented ALL sides of the events. He uses Jeffrey Kauffman's terrific website[which can be found by searching "Shedding Light on Shadowland"]; "Will There Really Be A Morning?", the autobiography said to have been written by Farmer; "Shadowland", the discredited biography by William Arnold; and "Look Back in Love" a biography by Farmer's sister Edith. All sides of every event and controversy is presented so that we can make up our minds.
Each of her 16 films is given an extensive chapter. Her television work and films and programs about Farmer are also covered individually. Some new information is forthcoming, but just the fact that the book exists at all is a marvel.
A couple of minor irritations: the name of one family in "Party Crashers" is written as "Nickersors" when it is "Nickerson" and there are a few other typographical problems. Shelley also is of the opinion that "The Misty One" website is no longer available. It was taken down from Geocities, but exists at Reo-Cities and can be found by a Google search of "Frances Farmer Tribute."
And the bio I mentioned in my article is assumed by Shelley to be "Meet the Mertzes...." but is actually "The Other Side of Ethel Mertz" by Frank Castelluccio and Alvin Walker.
If you are a fan of Farmer or know someone who is - or who remembers her with fondness, as do many of us in Indiana - this book is a great gift. But get one for yourself, too.
The photographs of Farmer in the book are stunning and depict the range of beauty, depth, and character this talented, yet deeply troubled, actor could bring to her roles. A filmography is included that is laser honed and leaves no detail undisclosed. The Bibliography reflects the thoroughness of the author's research.
The book is over all a good read and my only wish is that it was available in a hard cover edition.
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.