Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Books I'm Reading: Fast-talking Dames
The book gets off to a slow start. Its dense text requires more concentration to digest than I was expecting. It's a serious book of scholarly importance, not the quick read I had imagined before picking it up (based on no evidence). It was worth the work.
Di Battista's book seems valuable not only for its insights into Hollywood's attitudes toward gender roles in the golden age of the screwball comedy, but also for its looks at the careers of actresses such as Claudette Colbert, Jean Harlow, Ginger Rogers, Jean Arthur, Carole Lombard, and Myrna Loy (under the heading of "Hot Heiresses and Working Girls"); at the actresses she calls "The Grande Dames" (Katharine Hepburn, Irene Dunn, Greta Garbo, Barbara Stanwyck); and through detailed looks at a few of the most important films of the era--His Girl Friday, Bringing Up Baby, The Lady Eve, Ninotchka, and The Awful Truth. Along the way, there is much useful discussion of dozens of other films worth watching. Fast-talking Dames would be worth reading just for its indirect recommendations of good films from the period it covers. My one complaint is that there is no list of films mentioned in the text, which makes it tedious to find them once passed over. Halfway through, I started writing down titles that seemed worth seeking out. I've been visiting my local video store to rent quite a few I'd never seen. I've particularly enjoyed seeing Theodora Goes Wild, The Bombshell, If You Could Only Cook, and Wife Versus Secretary, among others. Recommended.