“American Heiress” via Amazon.com.
Rush out and get Jeffrey Toobin’s new book about the Patty Hearst kidnapping, American Heiress. It’s really one of the best-written, best-researched books I’ve read lately, and is actually laugh-out-loud funny at points. I am quite old enough to remember how obsessed we all were by the case—it was like John Waters directed It Happened One Night (a madcap heiress kidnapped by The Filthiest People Alive).
I do have two quibbles, though. For one, Toobin misuses the word “decimated,” but I guess I have to just give that up as a lost cause at this point. But in discussing William Randolph Hearst, he dismisses Marion Davies as just a mistress whom he tried to turn into a movie star, “which her talent failed to justify.” To quote the 1990s, “oh no you di-‘ent, Jeffrey Toobin.” I thought we were long past the “Marion Davies was Hearst’s talentless mistress” crap that Orson Welles propagated (and let’s not get started on Welles’ own supposed acting skills—ever get a load of his “they’re always after me Lucky Charms!” Irishman in The Lady from Shanghai?).
Marion Davies—one of the nicest people in Hollywood, by the way—may have been only competent as a dramatic actress, though she was by no means awful. But as a comedienne—especially in the silent era—she was fully the equal of Mabel Normand, Constance Talmadge and Dorothy Gish.
Here she is in The Patsy (1928), doing wonderfully vicious parodies of her contemporaries Mae Murray, Lillian Gish and Pola Negri:
And here she is that same year in her best film, Show People, “Registering Emotion” for the poor central casting guy:
Now, I suggest you read the terrific American Heiress, but I also suggest you tell Jeffrey Toobin that he wouldn’t know a good comic performance if it bit him on the ankle and, oh yeah, people, please stop saying “decimated” when you mean “destroyed!”