Book Review: “‘Bare Knees’ Flapper: The Life And Films Of Virginia Lee Corbin”

If I tell you to picture a child star from the silent era, two that will come to mind are likely Jackie Coogan or Baby Peggy. Likewise, if I tell you to picture an actress famous for portraying flappers, you’ll probably think of Clara Bow or (I hope) Colleen Moore. But one actress who probably won’t occur to you is Virginia Lee Corbin, a former child star who also managed to transition to flapper roles as she matured. But happily, writer and researcher Tim Lussier is determined to get you acquainted with this overlooked actress with his fine biography “Bare Knees” Flapper: The Life and Films of Virginia Lee Corbin. Continue reading

Book Review: “Mabel Normand: The Life and Career of a Hollywood Madcap”

Decades before the likes of Lucille Ball, there was another comedienne who was every bit as well known and influential–the “madcap” Mabel Normand. She was one of the earliest screen comediennes, and for a time was the biggest. She coached Roscoe Arbuckle and directed Charlie Chaplin when they first arrived at Keystone. She was loved by moviegoers the world over. And yet, strangely, almost no books have been written about her. One “major” biography came out over 20 years ago, and…left a lot to be desired. (References and bibliographies are useful things.)

But cue the trumpets, for at long last a new biography is coming out, the result of seven years’ worth of research by author and enthusiastic fan Timothy Dean Lefler. It’s detailed, it’s sourced, it even has appendices. It gives Mabel the kind of thorough appreciation that’s been needed for decades. Is it, perhaps, definitive? Well, let’s take a look. Continue reading

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly Of Movie Star Biographies

Note: This article focuses specifically on biographies about silent film personalities, rather than their autobiographies–which in some ways are a whole ‘nother ballgame.

Every film fan wants to find out more about their favorite silent film stars or even directors. I know I always do, even though I always run the risk of dashing all my rosy preconceptions (“so in real life that sweet dimpled actress was actually a thrice-married drug smuggling blackmailer who drank a quart of whiskey a day and ran a dog fighting ring? DANG it!”). However, this hasn’t stopped me from devouring as much information as possible about my favorites. During this process it became clear to me: Think Before You Read.

Being attacked by a mutant doll is the least of your worries.

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