Ziegfeld and His Follies


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Cynthia and Sara Brideson are twin siblings, and the co-authors of Also Starring… , a 2012 book profiling forty character actors of Hollywood’s Golden Era. For their latest project, Ziegfeld and His Follies, they have chosen an even more ambitious topic – the life and times of that most fabled of Broadway producers. Many other writers and film-makers have explored this subject, but while Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.’s name remains a symbol of glamour and excess, the man himself is a shadowy figure – like the great and powerful Oz. Continue reading

Jeanne Eagels: A Fitzgeraldian Life


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Jeanne72dpiTarainAnother great review of Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed, this time from blogger David Marshall James. He compares Jeanne’s turbulent life to a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was fascinated by her husband, Ted Coy, a retired football star – even depicting Coy in his fiction.

It’s as if F. Scott Fitzgerald penned her life’s story:  Midwest girl with stars in her eyes makes it to Broadway, seizes the role of a lifetime, then declines as dramatically as she has arisen … Authors Eric Woodard and Tara Hanks have expended an exceptional effort in presenting Jeanne Eagels, through the record of her life and her accomplishments, and through the memories of those who knew her.

Liz Smith Loves ‘Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed’


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books2Liz Smith is a legendary columnist whose career began in the 1950s. She has known everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Madonna, and continues to offer her wise and witty opinions on today’s entertainment world. In her regular New York Social Diary column today, she has written an in-depth review of Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed.

The liberties taken with Jeanne’s life were extraordinary.  Now, there is some redress in a new book, Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed by Eric Woodard and Tara Hanks.  And of course, the real story is far more interesting than the exaggerations.

Eagels, who began working on stage as a teenager, was an intense woman and an even more intense actress, one who seemed lit from within, a fire too hot not to cool down and too blazing not to take a toll.  Her great legacy was a staggering four-year run as Sadie Thompson in the stage adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s Rain. This role would define her, in ways both positive and negative. There were those who felt that the always highly strung Eagels was driven over the edge, playing this role for such a long time.

She was fiercely independent, intelligent, resistant to authority (she famously fought against joining Actor’s Equity) and subject to substance abuse … A Life Revealed offers a startling look at the actress and her times. Stage work remains hard work, but in Jeanne’s day it was downright grueling. Her climb to the top was long, and once she attained stardom, she intended to keep it … Her films were few, but her strange, unique quality was just as evident on screen, especially in 1929’s The Letter 

I recommend this new book because it is packed with detail and drama, and does bring Jeanne Eagels into 21st century focus as an ambitious, driven woman who often fought the system, but could not defeat her own demons.

Born on This Day: Émile Chautard (1864-1934)


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Next up in an ongoing series profiling key figures in Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed is Émile Chautard. One of cinema’s early pioneers, he directed more than 100 films, and acted in sixty. Continue reading

Born on This Day: Ethel Barrymore (1879-1959)


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Ethel Barrymore, 1937

Next up in the series profiling major figures in Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed is Ethel Barrymore, the grande dame of America’s greatest theatrical dynasty. Continue reading

The Forgotten Flapper


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Laini Giles was born in Austin, Texas and lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her husband and three cats. An early devotion to Nancy Drew, and her discovery of Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon, spurred a lifelong interest in mysteries and scandals. She blogs about history, books and movies at Sepia Stories.

In her debut novel, Love Lies Bleeding (2013), a detective investigates the death of his great-aunt, a high society debutante torn between two lovers. Published on August 1, 2015, The Forgotten Flapper is based on the true story of one of Hollywood’s first stars, Olive Thomas. Continue reading

Born on This Day: Helen Broderick (1891-1959)


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helen broderick2As part of an ongoing series covering major figures in Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed, I’m looking at the life of Helen Broderick – who danced in the first Ziegfeld Follies, and made the transition from star of Broadway musicals to one of Hollywood’s most beloved character actresses. She was also a loyal friend of Jeanne Eagels, and the mother of Broderick Crawford. Continue reading


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