Monday, June 08, 2009

Book Review: Linda Darnell, A Photo Gallery: The Girl With the Perfect Face

Linda Darnell is one of my favorite actresses, so I recently took the plunge and purchased LINDA DARNELL, A PHOTO GALLERY: THE GIRL WITH THE PERFECT FACE by Brenda J. Mills. (Click the title of this post for the Amazon link.)

The book is a softcover title which is 250 pages. Amazon says it was published last November by CreateSpace, but there is no traditional publishing information either at the front or the back of the book. Curiously, there is also no title on the book's spine, although there is plenty of space for it. Based on a Google search, it appears that CreateSpace is a self-publisher.

The paper of this photo book is not glossy. It works fine for some of the photos, which are reproduced with excellent results, such as the stills from BRIGHAM YOUNG or portraits such as the ones on Pages 66 or 144. If the entire book were of this caliber, I would be very pleased with the purchase. I would estimate about half the book meets expectations.

Unfortunately, the quality of some of the other photos is disappointing, if not downright shoddy, for example the picture from SLATTERY'S HURRICANE on Page 139. Some of the more poorly reproduced photos may even be screen captures rather than stills. Since the book's primary purpose is to serve as a "photo gallery," I think it is reasonable to expect consistent quality throughout, and not have to settle for whatever the author was able to put on the page.

There is one borderline offensive photo of Darnell costumed for MY DARLING CLEMENTINE which is so odd I wondered if I was seeing something which was Photoshopped. Whether or not the photograph is legitimate, I can't see any reason to have included it in the book, especially as it doesn't provide a good view of Darnell's face.

I bought the book for the photos, not expecting much of the text, but even so I was disconcerted that the plot descriptions appear to have been copied directly from an Internet website -- she credits Fandango -- with underlined, colored hyperlinks printed intact! Along with some of the poorer photos, this speaks to the book appearing to be a "hurry-up" job geared to make money rather than produce a high-caliber product.

The book retails for $35 and is currently sold by Amazon for $27.76. Mills has written a number of other titles on interesting subjects, including Paulette Goddard and Carole Landis. However, based on this book, I would urge potential readers to exercise a degree of caution.

I might be interested in another of Mills' photo books, but not at anywhere near this price -- particularly when compared to a recent book in the same price range, the superb LANA: THE MEMORIES, THE MYTHS, THE MOVIES by Cheryl Crane and Cindy De La Hoz, which is one of the finest film books of this or any year. I own an extensive collection of books on film and am often willing to pay premium prices for books from small publishers on subjects of interest, but in return I expect such a book to offer a higher level of quality than I received from the Darnell book.

(Something very strange: an Amazon reviewer who rated several of Mills's titles five stars, saying "One of the best books I have ever read!" gives the Turner book -- as well as another excellent book, Laura Wagner and Ray Hagen's KILLER TOMATOES -- one star reviews with the saying "One of the worst books I have ever read!" Whoever the reviewer may be, there's something odd going on there.)

For those who are interested in Darnell, I highly recommend the outstanding biography HOLLYWOOD BEAUTY: LINDA DARNELL AND THE AMERICAN DREAM by Ronald L. Davis.


Blogger mel said...

Oh, I didn't know that Laura Wagner and Ray Hagen published that book! These two people have made exhaustive studies of the process of voice dubbing in the movies (singers dubbing for non-singers as in the"Singin' In The Rain" story) and have posted much of this intriguing information on the web - for example,see .

Killer Tomatoes must be a most interesting book.

8:35 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Movie dubbing is a fascinating topic! Thanks very much for sharing the link.

I have high regard for Laura Wagner, whose work I'm familiar with from CLASSIC IMAGES. If you enjoy film noir and Warner Bros. movies, you'll enjoy KILLER TOMATOES. It contains profiles of a number of actresses, including Ann Sheridan (fascinating), Lynn Bari, Ann Dvorak, and Marie Windsor.

Best wishes,

9:09 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

P.S. I just added a hyperlink for KILLER TOMATOES to the original post.

Best wishes,

9:09 PM  
Blogger Missy said...

Can you return this dude book? Sounds a mess; to be polite!


9:25 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm currently debating whether I like enough of what's in it to keep it or to attempt returning it to Amazon. (That really peculiar CLEMENTINE picture didn't sit well with me...I can't remember a studio portrait of that era which is anything like it and I don't think I'm the audience for which it was intended -- ! -- otherwise there is some excellent stuff in it along with the disappointing pages.) I would probably lose shipping costs if I return it but on the other hand the book had a pretty steep price attached.

Best wishes,

9:48 PM  
Blogger Moira Finnie said...

Thank you for bringing this lack of thoroughness and professionalism to light, Laura. Unfortunately, such books do appear to be part of an illiterate and unfortunate trend. Even if you don't seek to return the Darnell book, you might want to post a review on Amazon to give people some sense of what to expect for their money.

I agree about Laura Wagner and Ray Hagen's "Killer Tomatoes" book. It is consistently entertaining and informative. Thanks & I loved taking that vicarious trip to England with you.

4:48 PM  

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