Recommended Reading

"Desperately 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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