Jeff Codori's COLLEEN MOORE: A BIOGRAPHY OF THE SILENT SCREEN STAR is a good book - no, it's actually a great book - just what a biography should be. And what it that? The focus is on the career, the movies, the time and environment in which they were made - and that's where Codori take us. As the author himself states, "Ten years of research went into the creation of this book, giving the most complete account of her childhood and film career to date, including a look behind the scenes of many of her films, as well as a look at the evolution of her studio First National, and how its fortunes were affected by Colleen's. Many never-before seen photos, including family photographs and candids." We feel Codori is being modest when he says, ". . . a look behind the scenes of many of her films." The films - how they were made, the planning, the challenges, the successes and failures - are the foundation for this book. But rather than "a look behind the scenes," we feel Codori has done a superb job of giving us an "in-depth" look at Moore's films and how her personal life was intertwined with their production.
As noted, Codori wrote this book about a great star's career - not the trials and tribulations of a star's personal life. However, when Moore was making "Flaming Youth" in 1923, she was in the midst of preparations to marry John McCormick, who would become her manager/producer. With a generous contract from First National, the next six years would prove to be Moore's most successful and her most trying. McCormick was an alcoholic who disappeared for days at a time on binges - yet he guided her career on every level. Through impeccable research in to the Warner Brothers archives (who acquired First National in later years), Moore's personal papers through assistance from her daughter, Judith Hargrave Coleman, accounts from newspapers and other publications, Codori pieces together the making of a film, and how McCormick impacted her work, as well as her dealings with First National. For example, Codori devotes almost two full chapters to a conflagration between the studio and the husband-wife team over delayed time frames for making films, a continuity Moore refused to approve, and back pay. In the midst of this, McCormick resigned, but, as Codori explains, McCormick was soon using Moore as his "ace" to get back in the good graces of the studio.
But there's more than that to this book. It is filled with interesting tidbits and anecdotes that make it an engaging read. Did you know that the studio had suggested a follow-up to "Flaming Youth" entitled "Flaming Wives" - an interesting concept that, unfortunately, never came to fruition. There are probably few who realize that, to cash in on the popularity of "Flaming Youth," she did make another film entitled "The Perfect Flapper" in 1924. Codori tells us that, sadly, only the first three-quarters of the film survive. During the making of "The Desert Flower" in 1925, Moore fell off a railroad handcar and dislocated two vertebrae requiring a cast and six weeks of rest - an injury that plagued her for the rest of her life. One of her most successful films, "Lilac Time" (1928) came close to having talking sequences since talking pictures were the rage after Warner's "The Jazz Singer" in 1927. However, instead, after the movie was completed, an orchestral score and sound effects were recorded. "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" (1929) was her first all talking picture, and Moore got good reviews for her acting and Irish accent. Unfortunately, the film was not a success. She only made one more talkie for First National, "Footlights and Fools" (1929), which fared only slightly better. After an almost four-year hiatus, she made four more movies in 1933 and 1934 and retired from films.
Since Codori has provided a book that hones in on Moore's career, readers may find the ending someone abrupt - basically coming to a close after THE SCARLET LETTER in 1934. But Codori didn't try to recreate Moore's autobiography (SILENT STAR, Doubleday, 1968), and that's what makes it such a worthwhile read and an excellent companion to Moore's own telling of her story. If you want to read more about her personal life after 1934, get the autobiography.
But in the meantime, COLLEEN MOORE: A BIOGRAPHY OF THE SILENT
SCREEN STAR is highly recommended for any fan of Moore's or any
silent movie fan, for that matter. It's a vividly painted, colorful
picture of a glorious era in the movies and a star whose career
did so much to make that era so great. It'll hold your interest.
It'll entertain you. It'll inform you. It'll even stir the emotions.
Get it. Read it!
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