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December 2 Book Signing for My Biography, Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood

Join me on Saturday, December 2, from noon to 4 p.m., for the Hollywood Heritage Museum’s 6th Annual “Afternoon With the Authors.”  I will be signing copies of my newly-released biography, Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood (published by the University Press of Kentucky and sold by the museum), after briefly lecturing about Barbara’s tempestuous life and her contribution to cinematic history as one of the silent screen’s most laudable—and infamous—sex sirens.

The event will feature fourteen authors of books pertaining to Hollywood’s Golden Age (including Darrell Rooney [Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital, 1928-1937], Charles Epting [Bebe Daniels: Hollywood’s Good Little Bad Girl], and Mary Mallory [Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays: 1920-1970, Hollywoodland: Tales Lost and Found, and Hollywood at Play: Celebrating Celebrity and Simpler Times]), all of whom will present lectures and sign books.  (See photo below for a complete listing of attending authors.)  A percentage of book sales will go toward upkeep of the museum.

The museum is located at 2100 North Highland Avenue in Hollywood, in the fully-restored Lasky-DeMille barn, one of Hollywood’s first film studios.  Parking and admission to the event are FREE.

***Those unable to make the event may purchase Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood from the University Press of Kentucky, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Book Reviews:

“The ‘Girl Who Was Too Beautiful’ moniker is both a blessing and a curse for Barbara La Marr’s legacy.  It ensures her place in the pantheon of Hollywood’s most intriguing figures, but at the same time discourages modern audiences from viewing her as anything more than Roaring Twenties eye candy.  Therefore, the task that Sherri Snyder has undertaken is invaluable; Snyder manages to humanize an actress who is all too often defined merely by her physical appearance and freewheeling lifestyle.  Expertly researched and captivatingly written, Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood manages to paint the most complete picture of La Marr’s life to date.  A scholarly work on Barbara La Marr was long overdue; the silent film community as a whole should be thankful that Snyder was not only up to the task, but has created a work that will serve to define La Marr’s life and career for decades to come.” ―Charles Epting, editor, Silent Film Quarterly  

“Snyder’s work is fresh and enthralling.  Her dedication and compassion for her subject shines through.  And we are richly rewarded with a truly well-written biography of a long-forgotten star.” ― Stephen Michael Shearer, author of Patricia Neal: An Unquiet Life, Beautiful: The Life of Hedy Lamarr, and Gloria Swanson: The Ultimate Star

“Sherri Snyder peels away the gossip to reveal the truth of the life of Barbara La Marr.  Snyder illuminates La Marr’s artistic struggles and personal demons with depth and sensitivity.  Scandal seekers take note!  The truth is far more compelling than any fictional account on record.” —Karie Bible, co-author of Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays: 1920-1970, film historian, and Hollywood Forever tour guide

“Sherri Snyder digs deep into the life of Barbara La Marr, giving an in-depth look at the intelligence and talents of the ‘Girl Who Was Too Beautiful.’  We see the real three-dimensional La Marr for the very first time, a thoughtful, generous, and creative woman who died much too young.”  —-Mary Mallory, film historian and author (Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays: 1920-1970, Hollywoodland: Tales Lost and Found,  and Hollywood at Play: Celebrating Celebrity and Simpler Times)

“Snyder beautifully steps up to the task of providing film scholars a thoughtful and well-researched depiction of La Marr’s life, career, and legacy.  Snyder’s work offers an honest and incredibly personal perspective of La Marr’s life.  Snyder’s prose justly portrays both the rewarding and challenging moments throughout La Marr’s life and career.” —- Annette Bochenek, Hometowns to Hollywood

“Snyder’s completed manuscript is impressive in both its scope and detail . . . . A fluid and captivating narrative.”  —- Christina Rice, author of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel

My Barbara La Marr Biography Has Been Released: Receive 20% Off!

My biography, Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood, was released by the University Press of Kentucky on November 15, 2017!  Those who purchased the book directly from the University Press of Kentucky will receive their order any day now.  Book shipments will be making their way to Amazon and other booksellers over the coming weeks.  The University Press of Kentucky is running a 20% off holiday sale through January 31, 2018, on orders (for the cloth version) placed via their website.  Be sure to enter the discount code provided when ordering.

Barbara All Dolled Up: Celebrating the Work of Gregg Nystrom

Known as “the girl who is too beautiful” since 1914—-when law enforcement declared her, then seventeen, “too beautiful” to be on the loose in Los Angeles and subsequently banished her from the city—, silent screen legend Barbara La Marr has been the muse of many an artist.  Indeed, in her time, her exquisite beauty and smoldering allure captured the imagination of painters, photographers, poets, and filmmakers—and continues to inspire today.

Modern-day artist Gregg Nystrom discovered Barbara in his teens, while indulging his passion for the renowned beauty icons of 1920s-1950s Hollywood, fashion, film, and drawing.  Her “stunning,” exotic looks, specifically, her dark hair and green eyes,* “really spoke to me as an artist,” recalled Nystrom.  Later, as a published paper doll artist who honors the timeless glamour of twentieth century film stars and models through his work, Nystrom recreated Barbara’s beauty and essence in paper doll form many times (his favorite renderings are pictured below; in the center photo, Barbara is depicted in her costume from The Prisoner of Zenda [1922]).  “Barbara has long been my favorite silent star!” Nystrom admits.

Considered works of art, Nystrom’s paper dolls feature hand-painted, textured garments immortalized by the wearer: designer gowns and movie costumes, often adorned with glitter, sequins, and, on occasion, feathers.  Nystrom anticipates that his latest Barbara La Marr doll (pictured above on the right) will one day be available to Barbara’s fans and “will have her gorgeous film wardrobe.”

Whether in her surviving films, in photos, or as one of Nystrom’s paper dolls, Barbara certainly lives up to her epithet.  “To me,” Nystrom says, “Barbara La Marr truly is ‘the girl who is too beautiful.'”

 

*Amazingly, Barbara’s eyes were said to change color, at times appearing green, blue-gray, deep blue, and hazel.

*        *        *

View more of Gregg Nystrom’s dazzling work on his Facebook page and Amazon

Blog Entries Will Return…

As I complete my Barbara La Marr biography (refer to the Book Updates section for more information), blog entries are temporarily on hold.  Rest assured, however, that they will be back!  Many exciting things are happening behind the scenes and there is much I am looking forward to sharing (including many more images of the lovely and talented Miss La Marr).

For now, I leave you with the striking portraiture of Herold Rodney Eaton Phyfe (better known as Hal Phyfe).  Phyfe utilized his background in sculpting and painting to produce sketches for magazines and film studios throughout the 1920s.  His renderings, often done in pastels, melded his dramatic flair with his ability to capture the subtle intricacies of his subjects’ personas.  “If the eyes have ‘it’,” he believed, “everything else will be forgotten in their vivid, compelling attraction.  Eyes create individuality, they are the spokesman for the soul, the character, the mind.”

An image of Barbara from a promotional brochure for her 1924 film Sandra.

An image of Barbara from a promotional brochure for her 1924 film Sandra.

Photoplay cover featuring Barbara, January 1924.

Notes:

“If the eyes have ‘it’,”: Shields, David S., “Hal Phyfe,” http://broadway.cas.sc.edu/content/hal-phyfe

A Vamp There Was

Vamp

Barbara, photographed by Hoover Art Studios, during her ascension to worldwide fame.

The vamp first emerged on the screen in 1915.  She came in the form of Theda Bara in A Fool There Was, a film inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “The Vampire.”  She was a shocking figure: a woman who deliberately uses her femininity to ensnare men.  To some, she was a titillating deviation, the antithesis of the standard saccharine heroine.  To others, she was cause for alarm, an additional threat to society’s diminishing Victorian morals.  To film producers, she was gold, the precursor to a new breed of screen goddess.

In 1922, Barbara La Marr secured her launch to superstardom when she played a vamp in Rex Ingram’s Trifling Women.  Her portrayal of a cruel sorceress who plays men like pawns solidified her image as one of the silent screen’s leading temptresses.  At first, Barbara welcomed the opportunity to play vamps.  “I’m not silly enough to pretend I’m an ingénue,” she conceded. “It isn’t my line—on or off the screen.  I don’t want to be an ingénue.  I just want to be a woman.”

Barbara could indeed vamp with the best of them.  Director Fred Niblo once marveled that even a bad dressmaker couldn’t make her look virtuous.  Barbara likewise quipped that a true vamp was not dependent upon her bee-stung lips or the clinging gowns, trailing hemlines, and jeweled headpieces in which she was typically costumed.  “It’s the look in the eye that does it,” she insisted.  Yet Barbara’s style of vamping went beyond the popular conception of the vamp as a dimensionless caricature.  An actress of true substance, she alternately infused her roles with sprightly comedic touches and, more often, gripping, heartfelt emotion.  She, like the women she portrayed, was enshrouded in an aura of mystery.  “She is made for lurking tragedy,” writer Willis Goldbeck mused in the November 1922 issue of Motion Picture Magazine, “…one feels the beat of ravens’ wings about her…her radiance is that of moonlight in the heavy shadows of the night…Calypso she is, burning with the flame of subtle ecstasy.”

Even so, reporters and magazine columnists, upon meeting Barbara in the flesh, were pleasantly startled.  They were hard-pressed to find the slightest trace of the wicked ladies she enacted in films.  Adela Rogers St. Johns recalled how Barbara’s genuine charm and captivating wit disarmed even the most hardened newspapermen.  When one interviewer pressed Barbara to reveal something unusual about herself, she offered to stand on her head.  Los Angeles Times reporter William Foster Elliot, struck by her sincerity and directness, commented, “She is remarkably straightforward and man to man in her attitude,” and “…really human despite the exotic bunk.”

Barbara eventually tired of playing wayward women and shunned vamp roles altogether.  She yearned to play the more sympathetic roles she had proven herself capable of in such films as Louis B. Mayer’s production, Thy Name Is Woman (1924).  By 1925, public tastes were similarly shifting and fun-loving flappers began eclipsing vamps as the newest idols of the silver sheet.  Barbara, inextricably linked to her naughty onscreen image and declared washed-up in the trade magazines, fought for one final chance.

With her health failing and less than a year to live, she was given that chance.  She was determined to see it through…

©2013 Sherri Snyder

Trifling Women Costume 1922

Photographed in one of her costumes from Trifling Women (1922)

Richelieu Pearls 1924

Promotional image for Sandra (1924)

Heart of a Siren 1925

Film still from The Heart of a Siren (1925)

 

 

Notes:

“I’m not silly enough”: La Marr, Barbara, “Why I Adopted a Baby,” Photoplay, May 1923, pg. 31.

“It’s the look in the eye”: Drummond, Joan, “Beautiful Barbara,” Pictures and the Picturegoer, April 1924, pg. 44.

“She is remarkably straightforward”: Elliot, Foster William , “Not Like the Fan Stories,” Los Angeles Times, September 17, 1922.