Veronica: The Autobiography of Veronica Lake; Book Review.

When most people hear the name, “Veronica Lake” usually one of three things comes to mind – that incredible peek-a-boo hair, the Film Noir’s with Alan Ladd or possibly Kim Basigner playing a Miss Lake lookalike in L.A. Confidential (1997) – fun fact, she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for that role. Although, with Veronica’s heyday being well over half a century old, that’s sadly usually as far as it goes.

However, with the Classic Hollywood Era being hugely timeless and forever coming back into fashion, the genre is becoming less of a niché subject and more Stars are on the public radar. If you’re a long time Vintage Lover like myself, you’ll be aware that unfortunately, a lot of our favourites don’t have many books written about them, or if they do, they’ve been out of print for a number of years and can be hard to find, or very expensive. Therefore, when I came across the news that Dean Street Press were publishing a reprint of Veronica’s Autobiography, which was first released in 1969, I was absolutely ecstatic! As most who know me are probably aware of my love for Blonde Bombshells, it may not be as well known that Veronica is my other favourite, after Marilyn.

There have only been two books published on Veronica, which I must add, astounds me – and one of them is this one which was co-written by ghost writer Donald Bain, who sadly passed away in October of 2017. The other is by Jeff Lenburg and I am fortunate enough to have both. However, Lenburg’s book is fairly controversial as he takes a lot of his information from Veronica’s mother, who claims a lot of detrimental things about her daughter – yet was estranged from her for many, many years. I think it’s actually being reprinted this summer and I will read it again, but would definitely advise new fans to stick to Veronica’s own words.

The republished version of Veronica’s Autobiography features a new cover with a stunning publicity photo of her in Ramrod (1947) which was directed by her then Husband, André de Toth. The book is a shiny paperback, with a non crease format, so even when you’ve finished reading, it will be in great condition and can take pride of place on your bookshelf! At 215 pages and 27 chapters, it’s not a huge length, but definitely a substantial read and full of personal anecdotes from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Broadcaster and writer, Eddie Muller adds a new Introduction and his following words really stuck with me, their relevancy still to this day does not go unnoticed,

I’ll point out instead that while the public has granted Sterling Hayden, a legendary boozer and hash-head, a legacy as a heroic, larger-than-life iconoclast, it has branded Lake’s life after Hollywood a steady downward spiral of abasement, worthy of only pity. Blame a cultural double standard that applauds reckless rebellion in men but shames it in women.”

As the chapters do not have titles, I’ve decided to write down a snippet of information which sums up the pivotal points and various timelines in each section.

______________________________________________________________________________

Chapter 1:

– Starts in 1938 and traces Veronica’s move to Hollywood with her mother, step-father and cousin on the 4th of July. Veronica enrolls in the Bliss Hayden School of Acting and has her first role in a movie as an extra in RKO’s Sorority House (1939).

Chapter 2:

– Veronica’s signature peek-a-boo hairstyle is unintentionally created on the set of Forty Little Mothers (1940) by Director, Busby Berkeley who stated, “I still say let it fall. It distinguishes her from the rest”.

Chapter 3:

– Director, Freddie Wilcox sets up Veronica’s first Screen Test, whilst at home her step-father suffers a collapsed lung.

Chapter 4:

– Veronica joins the iconic William Morris Agency and recounts her knowledge of the infamous Hollywood Casting Couch and how she turned away from the many advances.

Chapter 5:

– Veronica meets her first husband, John Detlie and has her named changed by Producer, Arthur Hornblow Jr., who, after a second Screen Test, decides to cast her as Sally Vaughn in her breakout movie, I Wanted Wings (1941).

Chapter 6:

– Focuses on the location filming of I Wanted Wings (1941) from August 26th 1940 in San Antonio, Texas.

Chapter 7:

– Continues filming in Hollywood for I Wanted Wings (1941) and elopes to marry her first husband, John Detlie.

Chapter 8:

– Veronica discusses the first 8 years of her childhood and her move to Florida in her teen years and the two schools she attended in Montreal and Miami.

Chapter 9:

– Recounts various appearances in Miami Beauty Pageants as a teenager.

Chapter 10:

– Returns to 1941 with the release of I Wanted Wings (1941) and focuses on the worldwide phenomenon of the famous hair. Also finishes with Director Preston Sturges hiring Veronica for the role of The Girl in Sullivan’s Travels (1941).

Chapter 11:

Veronica shares the news of her first pregnancy with her mother and how her third trimester would coincide with the physical demands of filming Sullivan’s Travels (1941).

Chapter 12:

– Covers the filming of Sullivan’s Travels (1941) from May 12th 1941 and the revelation of Veronica’s pregnancy. It’s simply incredible when watching the film all these years later to come to the realization that she was between six to eight months pregnant!

Chapter 13:

– The filming of This Gun For Hire (1942) and The Glass Key (1942).

Chapter 14:

– The filming of I Married A Witch (1942), So Proudly We Hail! (1943) and The Hour Before The Dawn (1944). Veronica also discusses the deterioration of her marriage and the tragic loss of her second baby, Anthony, who died a week after being born two months prematurely.

Chapter 15:

– Veronica divorces John and retells various anecdotes of the Hollywood Lifestyle in it’s heyday in the 1940s.

Chapter 16:

– Veronica discusses the filming of Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) and also her dating history during this period. She shares some fascinating stories of various celebrity anecdotes which include such Stars as, Errol Flynn, Katharine Hepburn, Howard Hughes and Gary Cooper.

Chapter 17:

– The filming of Bring On The Girls (1945), Duffy’s Tavern (1946) and Hold That Blonde! (1945). Veronica recalls marrying her second husband, Andre de Toth and shares a moving story from her visit to The White House in January 1945.

Chapter 18:

– The filming of Miss Susie Slagles (1946), Out Of This World (1945), Ramrod (1946), The Blue Dahlia (1946), Saigon (1947) and The Sainted Sisters (1948). Veronica and Andre expand their family as she has her third baby, a boy named Michael. She also talks about her and Andre obtaining their Pilot Licenses and how the death of her step-dad deeply affected her.

Chapter 19:

– Features a highly entertaining story of Veronica flying her plane, whilst carrying her forth child, in her fifth month of pregnancy. With her on board is her secretary Marge, who up until then had never flown before.

Chapter 20:

– Veronica gives birth to her forth baby, a girl named Diana and talks about the turmoil of her relationship with her mother, who decided to sue her for, “lack of filial love and responsibility” and over $17,000.

Chapter 21:

– The filming of Slattery’s Hurricane (1949) and Stronghold (1951). Veronica discusses her frustration with Andre’s prolific spending, which results in them filing for bankruptcy and ultimately, the deterioration of their marriage.

Chapter 22:

– Veronica moves to New York in 1951 and continues her acting career through various television appearances and the stage. She enters her third marriage to husband, Joe McCarthy, which she admits was volatile from the start and they divorce after just four years, in September 1959.

Chapter 23:

– Covers the years 1959 through to 1961. Veronica discusses her time taking a job as a cocktail waitress – which contrary to popular belief, she actually quite enjoyed. She also talks about the traumatic accident which resulted in a severely broken ankle, which caused her inability to act for two years.

Chapter 24:

– Delves into her relationship with Andy Elickson, a Merchant Seaman, who she met during her time working in the Martha Washington Hotel and focuses on the period between 1961 and 1966. She also writes about a high note in her stage career; appearing in Best Foot Forward in 1963.

Chapter 25:

– Veronica discusses her move to Miami from New York in 1966.

Chapter 26:

– The filming of Footsteps In The Snow (1966) and Flesh Feast (1970) which was then known as Time Is Terror and was originally shot in 1967.

Chapter 27:

– Ends in October 1967 with Veronica discussing her reading performance of The World of Carl Sandburg, which she describes as one of the, “finest moments” of her life.

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Veronica’s words are full of honesty, she does not sugar-coat her flaws and her anecdotes convey a great sense of humbleness towards her career and lots of self criticism to her talent, the latter which saddens me. I’ve noticed many of the great Stars rarely seem to have any belief in themselves. If only they could see how loved and appreciated they truly are. However, her loyalty and generosity towards her close friends and even acquaintances does not go unnoticed. It’s refreshing to see her be able to share her own story, without various opinions and conspiracies that have grown over the years being included.

Overall, there’s only two downsides that springs to mind. Firstly, as the book was originally published in 1969 and finishes at the end of 1967, we’re missing the six final years of her fascinating life and tragically nothing can be done to change this. Of course no one is at fault, it’s just a shame that those last years will remain mostly a mystery to us. It would have been wonderful to read about her time in England. Lastly, in the original edition, a number of pages featured very rare photos of Veronica throughout her years, including her own comments. Sadly, only a small version of the cover photo reappears at the end of the newly republished book. I’m assuming this is down to cost and or copyright, but it would be nice to see these rare treasures reappear in the latest edition for fans that are not fortunate enough to also own an original copy.

Ultimately, Veronica always maintains her true self and comes across as not a Screen Icon, but just like one of us – albeit with some extraordinary Hollywood stories. She’s simply, and I mean this in the most complimentary way – a human being. It’s been almost a decade since I discovered Veronica, eight years in fact and I for one have not only became even more endeared to Miss Lake, but, I have also developed a warm space in my heart for my fellow 5’2″ little lady, Miss Connie/Ronni Keane.

Lastly, a huge thank you to Dean Street Press for believing in the popularity of Veronica and so wonderfully reprinting hers and Donald Bain’s special words for us all to enjoy.

For anyone who wants to see more of Veronica, I’ve amassed a fairly large archive of photos over the years which can be viewed on my blog devoted entirely to her; missveronicalakes.

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The Little Book of Marilyn: Inspiration From The Goddess of Glam by Michelle Morgan; Book Review.

If there’s one Author to be excited about, upon hearing an announcement of an up and coming Marilyn book, it’s none other than Michelle Morgan. Michelle has been a true super fan since discovering the beautiful blonde on a postcard, whilst Holidaying in Devon in 1985. Since then, she has gone on to write a staggering six books devoted to my favourite lady, with her first being Marilyn’s Addresses, written over twenty years ago in 1995. Therefore, all I can say is – thank you Devon!

In the almost nine years since I first Discovered Marilyn, I’ve been incredibly lucky to not only find and appreciate Michelle as a wonderful writer – recommending her work to many Marilyn fans, but I’ve also been able to call her my friend! Not only have her books taught me so much about Marilyn the human and artist, she has always supported me by listening and offering me advice with her kind words  – something which has always been greatly treasured.

I’ve been very fortunate to know about The Little Book of Marilyn for over a year and for one almost surreal reason why – Michelle kindly asked me if I wanted to be interviewed for inclusion in the book! Needless to say I didn’t hesitate for a moment to say yes and one month before publication, I’ve kindly received a complimentary copy of the book to share my thoughts with you all! 

If you’ve read any of Michelle’s books then you’ll know you’re never disappointed and she always manages to blow even the highest expectations out of the water. Therefore, it’s no surprise to say that The Little Book of Marilyn, is of course, no different! 

The book features a stunning glamour shot of Marilyn with a beautiful pink and orange Fleur-de-lis background, it’s flexibound format means it will always stay in beautiful condition and its travel size makes it easy to carry around with you and stay inspired by only the best! If the beautiful outer packaging wasn’t enough, the 224 pages are filled with many high quality pictures – quite a few rare ones too!

The contents include the following sections;
______________________________________________________________________________

Introduction

Chapter 1: Her Story

Chapter 2: Inspiration

Chapter 3: Style 

Chapter 4: Beauty

Chapter 5: Life Skills

Chapter 6: Personal Effects 

Chapter 7: Walk With Marilyn
______________________________________________________________________________

It’s no secret that there have been definitely hundreds, possibly thousands of books written on Marilyn since her passing, almost fifty seven years ago. A unique few, (Michelle’s most definitely are included) have been amazing, a fair amount have been pretty good and a large sum have been downright awful. However, none have had this fabulous concept and that is further reason for it to be a must have in any collection.

It’s full of details on Marilyn’s life and career, but includes many tutorials and lessons on how to be inspired by a Star that is so often misrepresented in society and the media. Michelle offers a true, genuine insight into the real Marilyn and stays clear of the ridiculous conspiracies and lies. She gives fans like myself, the chance to express just how truly inspiring Marilyn has been to so many even half a century after she left us. The guide like format means you can read it in any order you please or choose to focus on a particular section that is interesting to you.

Ironically enough, I feel the person that would benefit from reading this book the most is Marilyn herself, she was her biggest critic and often full of doubt and disbelief. Therefore, I feel if she could read and see the impact she has had on the millions of fans who love and appreciate her, she may have felt just a little less alone.

Lastly, on behalf of all Marilyn fans, I want to thank Michelle for writing such beautiful books about Hollywood’s Brightest Star and continuing to educate and preserve Marilyn’s very special memory. A big thank you to Running Press for publishing Michelle’s amazing work and for kindly gifting me this beautiful copy, I will truly treasure it!

The Little Book of Marilyn is available to Pre-Order from Amazon UK at £11.34 and will be released on July 25th and is out in the USA on July 9th!

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The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist by Michelle Morgan; Book Review.

Whenever I hear the news that a new Marilyn book is to be released, I’m mostly filled with joy and excitement, as well as slight trepidation around the accuracy and respect given towards my favourite lady. However, if the Author is Michelle Morgan, aka in my opinion, the best Marilyn writer, I know one hundred percent that there’s truly nothing for me to worry about.

Michelle has recently released her latest book on Marilyn, which takes a refreshingly new focus beyond the image of the legend and on the actress herself. The Girl overall stays between the pivotal years 1954 to 1956 and tells the true story of Marilyn taking control of her career by breaking through the male dominated Studio Systems and proving to the world she was so much more than just a pretty face.

Thanks to Michelle and Running Press Publishers, I had the pleasure of receiving a media copy to read and review before the release date and as I expected, I was definitely far from disappointed. The introduction alone was truly memorable and it’s so refreshing to read how much Michelle herself loves and cares for Marilyn, writing with respect and sensitivity, whilst staying completely unbiased. Furthermore, she makes sure to portray the three dimensional person Marilyn was, conveying her many struggles and successes, dedicated to preserving the truth and staying far away from the gossip and sensationalism that sadly so often is unfairly connected to our Star. Plus, I love how witty the title is; any super Marilyn fan will know that The Girl is in fact Marilyn’s character name in The Seven Year Itch (1955) and writer George Axelrod actually had this to say about the unnamed lady.

“I have been asked if there is any symbolic significance in the fact that the Girl has no name. The truth of the matter is that I could never think of a name for her that seemed exactly right, that really fit the girl I had in mind. I think if I were writing the play today, I might be tempted to call the Girl Marilyn.”

Even though Marilyn lived for just 36 years, it’s undeniable the amount she achieved in such a short lifetime and for any Marilyn fan or someone who’s interested in Hollywood, Feminism or the 1950s, this book is simply a must have for your Library. I personally feel Michelle has done such a good job with accuracy and creating a detailed perspective that she could write many volumes focusing on each year of Marilyn’s life! In fact, I really hope she does.

At just over 300 pages long, this book is just right – not too long and intense and not too short and lacking detail. Even though it doesn’t document Marilyn’s full story, through focusing on these such important years, you arguably learn more about Marilyn than you would in a standard biography. However, if you’re wanting to read more and well, who could blame you, there’s always Michelle’s other books on Marilyn and I recommend them because in my opinion, they are the best – respectful, honest and sincere.

Out of Marilyn’s 30 Films, three are discussed in The Girl and those are the following; The Seven Year Itch (1955), Bus Stop (1956) and The Prince and The Showgirl (1957). Even though this is due to the specific time period documented in Marilyn’s life, I think it’s wonderful for someone who may know Marilyn only for her image and Icon Status. I say this because the three discussed throughout the book show her versatility and strength as an artist – something she continually dreamed to be known and appreciated for.

The Girl consists of a Preface, ten Chapters, an Epilogue, selected Bibliography and Source Notes, with between 30-40 beautiful photos of Marilyn featured throughout the book. The colour theme consists of red white and gold and I absolutely adore the cover photo chosen; a 1955 Marilyn wearing a Red Sweater by Milton Greene. It’s refreshing to see a different perspective of Marilyn shown yet still being undoubtedly, The Star. Plus, it’s lovely both a photo from 1955 was used and one by Milton – someone so pivotal in believing in Marilyn as a human being and helping her change the course of her Career.

Each Chapter Title conveys many important words that should continually be used to describe Marilyn, some may say I’m biased and I would never deny that. However, you cannot be biased about the truth and each of these titles contain important moments and achievements Marilyn herself made happen, through sheer strength and determination. Although beautiful and talented, she was never viewed as anything but a Blonde Bombshell, a Sex Goddess who added glamour to the Silver Screen and ultimately Marilyn had all the odds against her throughout her whole life. Yet, through The Girl, Michelle shows that even the Underdog can prove to everyone that not only was she Beautiful, she was also strong, passionate, intelligent and believed that she deserved better.

I can without a doubt say that The Girl is one of my favourite Marilyn books and definitely a staple in my Marilyn Book Collection – 167 and counting! At £19.99 this isn’t the cheapest one available, but quality and authenticity are priceless and this is something that will be treasured and kept in your library forever. Even though I’m fortunate enough to have an early Media Copy, I will of course be purchasing one for myself! You can never have enough good Marilyn books and this will have pride of place in my Marilyn book shelf, yes, she really does have her own library.

I can’t say enough good things about The Girl and Michelle herself, I’ve been fortunate enough to know this wonderful lady for quite a few years and I know that if Marilyn was here she would be honoured to have such a thoughtful and authentic writer tell her incredibly brave and progressive story. I think it’s fair to say that I know a lot about Marilyn and with Michelle’s books there’s always unique, special anecdotes and trivia that I continue to discover. Ultimately, go to amazon or your local bookstore and start reading The Girl, I can assure you any stereotypical views you may have of Marilyn will quickly vanish and you’ll be astounded and in awe of what an incredible person she really was.

The Girl is available to Pre-Order from Amazon UK and will be released on May 31st and is out in the USA now!

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