When dealing with childhood trauma as an adult, there are generally two paths to take. The first is that of possible mental illness, addiction, and life long emotional scars that never heal. The second is that of forgiveness, being open, and putting the past behind you.
I watched the new Netflix documentary, Audrey (2020) last night. It is an intimate vision of Audrey Hepburn, one of the most iconic performers from Old Hollywood. Using archival footage, interviews, and clips from her work, the film opens the door to an image of the icon that goes beyond the glitz and glamour. The movie documents her difficult childhood during World War II, her turn as one of the most famous performers in the world, and then her later years, highlighting the charity work she did in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
I loved this movie. It goes beyond the typical Hollywood documentary. I felt like I was introduced to the real woman, not the actress whose profile was specifically created by the studio system. As a fan, it made appreciate her more, both as a performer and a human being.
When it comes celebrities, there are sometimes two different people: the real person and the persona created by the public relations department.
Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise, by Scott Eyman was published last October. On screen, Cary Grant, was charming, affable, and an audience favorite for decades. But the actor movie fans thought they knew and the man who walked off the soundstage was two different things entirely. Grant (nee Archie Leach) was born in 1904 in Bristol. To say that his childhood was not easy is an understatement. His father preferred the bottle to his son and his mother was committed to an asylum before her son was a teenager.
His ticket out from his miserable childhood was to join a theater troupe as an acrobat. Eventually, Archie became Cary and the movie star we know him to be. But behind the scenes, the trauma from his youth was never far behind. Married five times, the inner conflict was just beneath the surface, but hidden from those who flocked to see him in the movie theaters.
I loved this book. I’ve been a fan of his since I was a teenager, but I was not aware of the man behind the screen. In digging into both Cary/Archie’s personal life and career, Eyman gives the reader an insight into the person, not just the actor.
It has been said that all that glitters is not gold. The same could be said about Hollywood.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Reid Jenkins, was published back in 2017. Back in the day, Evelyn Hugo was an A list movie star. But her time in the spotlight has long since passed. After years of living quietly in the background, Evelyn is ready to tell her story. She chooses Monique Grant, a young writer to be her scribe.
Monique has a lot on her plate at the moment. Her marriage is all but over and her career is stuck in the mud. Though she is not entirely sure why she has been chosen, Monique seizes upon the opportunity that has been handed to her. Evelyn’s life story is full of ambition, forbidden love, and friendships that were unexpected. Along the way, Monique discovers that she and Evelyn are connected in ways that surprise them both.
Sometimes, stories about old Hollywood, whether they be fiction or non fiction, can veer off into two different voices. They can either be a tabloid-y tell all, or sound like comes straight out of the studio PR department. I really loved this book. I loved the characters, I loved the narrative, and I loved the twist that was absolutely perfect.