“The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood” by Diana McLennan

"The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood" by Diana McLennanFrom the publisher’s book description:

THE GIRLS lifts the veil on the private lives of early Hollywood’s most powerful and uninhibited goddesses…The most unforgettable and immortal women of Hollywood’s golden era thrilled to a hidden world of exciting secrets. In THE GIRLS, Diana McLellan reveals the complex and intimate connections that roiled behind the public personae of Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and the women who loved them. Previously unseen FBI files, private correspondence and a trove of unpublished documents reveal a chain of lesbian affairs that moved from the theater world of New York through the heights of chic society to embed itself in the power structure of the movie business.

Why did Garbo and Dietrich deny knowing each other to the bitter end? THE GIRLS documents how they not only knew one another, but the swoon that started their ill-starred amour. How did Garbo-worshipper Tallulah Bankhead save Dietrich’s career? FBI files make it clear how an intervention with J. Edgar Hoover helped. When was Marlene Dietrich first married? Not when her official biography claimed she was-an early marriage to a sexy, smoky communist was hushed up; THE GIRLS shows how and why.

From the uninhibited appeal of lover-to-the-stars Mercedes de Acosta to the role of Garbo’s lover Salka Viertel in torpedoing her career, from the sapphic world of silent star Alla Nazimova’s Garden of Alla to Rudolph Valentino’s lesbian brides, THE GIRLS explores a rich stew of film, politics, sexuality, psychology and stardom.

Reader reviews on Amazon:

Fascinating Girl-Centric View of Hollywood
I really enjoy reading bios of the stars of Hollywood during its golden era. “The Girls” offers a needed corrective to the male-dominated perspective taken in the usual Hollywood expose. Her focus on Dietrich, Bankhead and Garbo gives the book a continuity to really assess the impact of lesbianism in Hollywood. But the tide also brings in some fascinating silent stars, and many others including Barbara Stanwyck and Marilyn Monroe. The political insights into the HUAC hearings and the studios’ fickleness on the issue of gay love makes this book an essential political history for the period. Ms. McLellan takes no prisoners as she writes the real “All About Eve”.

Who-was-who-with who
This book should find a wide, appreciative audience. It captivates with the three beautiful women gracing the jacket, and sweeps the reader along with a stream of gossipy news. Everyone seems to have a mention, from the major players, (The Girls of the title) to fascinating parentheticals (Nancy Reagan). Film buffs will enjoy the exploration of a long suppressed area of Hollywood history, finding endless anecdotes of film-society life, a who-was-who of lesbian Hollywood. Love-matches are made, vows are broken, dirt is dished, Dietrich betrays Garbo’s intimate secrets, and we are party to it all. Diana McLellan weaves a fascinating tapestry, that entertains and informs. She does far more, however, by probing the motives of women caught in the gears as American society turned down a prudish path, dragging Hollywood moguls along. If it’s hard for lesbian and gay performers to be out in 2000, how must it have been in 1920? McLellan had a difficult task in unearthing deeply buried secrets, but she makes a compelling case that her deductions are correct. Of particular interest is her questioning the claim, made by both Dietrich and Garbo that they had never met, until formally introduced in Hollywood. Stuff and nonsense, says McLellan. Her evidence that the two women not only met, but were lovers, is central to the book’s theme. (One would wish the Fatty Arbuckle scandal had been treated with more skepticism, but that’s a quibble on my part.) This book is better than a night at most movies!

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