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Welcome to the website for Tara Hanks, author of The Mmm Girl and Wicked Baby.

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Ava Gardner: A Life in Movies

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Ava Gardner: the name conjures timeless elegance. She was a North Carolina sharecropper’s daughter whose beauty gave her the regal bearing of a goddess. Beyond the glamorous aura, she is most often recalled for her stormy personal life, and especially her marriage to Frank Sinatra. But this is only a partial vision of one of the greatest female stars of the 1940s and 50s. Even the most devout cinephiles often overlook her unique contribution to post-war American cinema. Continue reading

An Actor’s Truth: Jeanne Eagels in ‘The Letter’

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Mick LaSalle, film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and a champion of Pre-Code cinema, has often praised the few surviving film performances of Jeanne Eagels, who made her name in the theatre. Perhaps the best-known is her first ‘talkie’, The Letter, later remade with Bette Davis. Many viewers today are impressed by the raw power of Jeanne’s acting. In his regular ‘Dear Mick’ column, LaSalle answers an Oakland reader’s question: ‘Do you think that it’s possible to compare the quality of acting between generations?

Great acting has a truth, on its own terms, that may inevitably be influenced by its period in history, but which is grounded within the actor — it’s the actor’s truth … A perfect example of this is Jeanne Eagels in The Letter (1929). It’s a wild, mannered, crazy-over-the-top performance, with echoes of an earlier stage tradition. But you can’t take your eyes off her, because she is putting it all on the line and holding nothing back. You finish that movie, and it’s like Jeanne Eagels has just hit you in the face.

You can read more about her remarkable talent in Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed.

Remembering Diana, 20 Years On

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My first memory of Diana is visual: that blue suit she wore and the sapphire ring, on the day of her engagement. When she married Charles in 1981 I was nine years old; she was twice my age, but still hardly a woman. Continue reading

Midsummer Madness With Jeanne Eagels

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As I write, the hardcover edition of Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed is currently available for just £10.13 on Amazon UK – which is less than half the original price, and over £6 cheaper than the paperback. For readers abroad, it’s now £13.81 from the Book Depository (with free shipping to most countries.) I don’t know how long this bargain offer will last, so if you haven’t bought a copy yet, get it while you can!

Remembering Jeanne Eagels in July

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It’s hard to believe that two years have passed since Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed was published. I feel immensely proud to have been part of bringing her unjustly neglected legacy back to the spotlight, and will be eternally grateful to my writing partner, Eric M. Woodard, for giving me that opportunity. Continue reading

Ella Fitzgerald at 100

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Ella Fitzgerald in Cannes by Jean-Pierre LeLoir, 1958

Ella Fitzgerald was born a century ago today, on April 25, 1917. Her voice was like sunshine, or a glass of champagne. As a woman, she had great warmth and dignity. She was also a friend to Marilyn Monroe, who had been introduced to her work by jazz pianist and arranger Hal Schaefer in 1953. Continue reading

Art Decades 11: Interviewing Michelle Morgan

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The gorgeous sepia cover of Art Decades 11, out now, features model Belladonna photographed by Ian Preston Cinnamon, with an extended layout inside. This issue is dedicated to author and filmmaker William Peter Blatty. Elsewhere, Marcelline Block talks to fashion photographer Miles Ladin about his recent exhibition, Supermodels at the End of Time. Editors Jeremy Richey and Kelley Avery list their cultural highlights of 2016, and celebrate their recent move to Denver with a trip to the Fancy Tiger Crafts store. There’s also a profile of hip-hop collective Loyal-T, and another instalment in the popular ‘readers and pets’ series, starring Abigail Evans and her black cat, Boo.

Finally, I’ve been lucky enough to interview one of my busiest writer friends, Michelle Morgan, who has published biographies of Thelma Todd, Carole Lombard, Marilyn Monroe and Madonna. Art Decades 11 is available now via Amazon, priced at £9.60 (UK) or $13 (USA.)