Seeking Marie Prevost"
Richard Kirby (Bear Manor Media - 2014. 100 pages)
As the years pass further away from the silent era,
trying to research the lives of those stars - particularly those
who passed away entirely too soon - is getting more and more difficult.
Marie Prevost is an example - a tragic story of a beautiful and
talented silent movie actress who passed away in 1937 barely reaching
40 years of age. Author Richard Kirby has done a commendable job
of researching her life and provides us a very appealing overview
of this lovely lady in Desperately Seeking Marie Prevost.
Because of the absence of information on a life that left this
world so many years ago (and the fact
that her contemporaries are also long gone), the biography is
brief - 100 pages - but in the absence of anything other than
short biographical sketches on the Internet, Kirby's quarto is
very welcome. Starting out as a Mack Sennett bathing beauty in
the 'teens, we follow Prevost as she moves seamlessly into both
comedy and drama in the 1920's - even starring in her own series
of comedies (mostly bedroom farces) in the late twenties. As Kirby
points out, though, the turning point in her career that earned
her the respect she so much deserved was as the flirtatious Mizzi
Stock in Ernst Lubitsch's "The Marriage Circle" (1924).
He also discusses at length her outstanding performances in Howard
Hughes' crime drama "The Racket" (1928) with Thomas
Meighan and Cecil B. DeMille's 1929 drama about young people in
a reform school, "The Godless Girl." Kirby details well
her unsuccessful marriage to fellow actor Kenneth Harlan, the
death of her mother in a car accident in 1926 and the likely impact
on her life, her subsequent alcoholism, weight gain and eventual
decline into supporting and even uncredited roles during the 1930's.
Kirby also deserves credit for questioning and sometimes dispelling
some of the stories and information that were either the result
of unscrupulous publicity or sensationalism, one example being
author Kenneth Anger's claim that Prevost's corpse was "half
eaten" by her dog in his trashy book Hollywood Babylon
(1981). Kirby's writing style is in the first person and very
conversational - somewhat non-traditional for a book, but refreshing
and engaging for the reader as you feel you are discussing Prevost
over a cup of coffee. Desperately Seeking Marie Prevost
is a most enjoyable read for anyone who has ever seen this beautiful
lady's effervescence light up the screen.
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