After a little known suburb of Los Angeles named Hollywood became the center of the American film industry beginning in the 1910’s, huge numbers of people poured into the southern California area. They came in all shapes and sizes, from every corner of the United States and the world, from every religious and ethnic background, and all economic groups. No one’s reason for coming was identical, but the vast majority of the new Hollywood immigrants harbored a desire to find employment in the ever expanding industry of making movies. Many were chasing a dream of cinematic stardom which for most, would soon end in disillusionment.
The twelve individuals profiled in this book: Nancy Carroll, Gloria Dickson, Claire Dodd, Richard Greene, John Hodiak, Marian Marsh, Karen Morley, Edward Norris, Jean Parker, Paula Raymond, Zachary Scott, and Gloria Stuart were among the tiny, elite group of new immigrants who achieved their initial goal of becoming successful actors on the silver screen. In fact, all twelve won major studio contracts, achieved fame, fortune, and acclaim. Yet, despite their achievements, all twelve failed to ascend to the very top of the professional ladder, never attaining their ultimate goal: superstardom. Given their abilities, ambition, and other significant assets, how could this be? With the invaluable assistance of major studio and library archives, recollections of the actors themselves and/or those who knew them, this book traces the lives and careers of the twelve in an attempt to determine what went right and what went wrong. The essays herein, (originally published in two acclaimed magazines, Classic Images and Films of The Golden Age), are also opportunities to offer a “tip of the hat” to twelve extremely gifted, hardworking, and unsung actors who coulda been contenders!
A Michigan native, author, biographer Dan Van Neste has been chronicling vintage entertainment history for over thirty years. His work has appeared in innumerable newspapers, magazines, and film journals including Classic Images and Films of the Golden Age. He is the author of two acclaimed books: The Whistler: Stepping Into the Shadows (2011), and The Magnificent Heel: The Life and Films of Ricardo Cortez (2017). The latter was named one of the “Best Film Books of 2017” by The Huffington Post, and was a nominee for the 2018 Richard Wall Memorial Award given by the Theater Library Association to honor “English language books of exceptional scholarship in the field of recorded or broadcast performance.”