November 5, 2010

Book Review: "Lucky Stars" by Sarah Baker

Book Description:  From their first iconic pairing in 7th Heaven (1927) and in eleven films that followed, Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell created an unparalleled cinematic romance. Their partnership was so utterly complete that in the minds and hearts of their adoring public, they were as one. Even though both enjoyed successful solo careers-Janet Gaynor won the first Best Actress Oscar and played Vicki Lester in the original A Star Is Born (1937) and Charles Farrell enjoyed a successful television career, playing Vern Albright on My Little Margie-their work as a team stood out. Even decades after their onscreen partnership ended, any mention of Gaynor in the press merited a mention of Farrell, and vice-versa. Behind the camera, Gaynor and Farrell carried on a secret romance that lasted from their first meeting in 1926 until Gaynor's first marriage in 1929. Supporting and encouraging each other's lives beyond Hollywood, they were able to maintain a mellow friendship that lasted their entire lives. Drawing upon previously unpublished interviews with Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor, formal interviews with family and friends who knew them best, and meticulous archival research, author Sarah Baker details the fascinating behind the scenes story of the greatest romantic team of all time. The book includes a detailed filmography and is lavishly illustrated with over 100 photographs, many from Charles Farrell's estate. Includes a foreword by director Allison Anders (Grace of My Heart, Things Behind the Sun). (from Amazon)

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Article first published as Book Review: Lucky Stars: Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell by Sarah Baker on Blogcritics.

Actress Janet Gaynor once said of her frequent co-star and one-time love interest Charles Farrell “There will never be another love couple like Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell” and after reading Lucky Stars, I am most inclined to agree.

As much of a devout lover of old Hollywood and especially movies from the 1930s as I am, I feel somewhat ashamed to admit that I have never seen a Janet Gaynor/Charles Farrell movie. In fact, before picking up this book, I had no idea how very popular the duo were in the late 1920s/early 1930s - - a sad statement on how many of the silent screen stars and teams have largely been forgotten. I knew Ms. Gaynor from her wonderful performance in A Star is Born but have never seen her Academy Award winning performances (the first best actress winner) in Sunrise, Seventh Heaven and Street Angel (the first ceremony in 1929 was for films from 1927 and 1928). Additionally, I knew of Mr. Farrell from his 1950s television work but have never seen one of his films when he was a matinee idol. Lucky Stars does a solid job of delving deep into both actors’ backgrounds, showcasing not only their decades long careers and star-making roles but their (at times) flawed human sides of their personal lives.

Author Sarah Baker does a wonderful job in bringing Charlie and Janet to life, using interviews with family and friends, archives, libraries, historians and documents from Gaynor’s and Farrell’s own personal files. The result is a splendid dual biography which will leave the reader in no doubt as to why movie audiences took so strongly to Gaynor and Farrell. Ms. Baker leaves out the gossipy speculation and rumors that are found in many biographies but does address some of the speculation on sexual orientation that has dogged both Farrell and Gaynor throughout the years . She does so with straightforwardness and without an ounce of sensationalism.

I did wish that there was more on Gaynor’s marriage to designer Adrian and I would have loved to have seen pictures of their marital homes which certainly would have been a visual feast given both Adrian’s and Janet’s love of fashion and art.  However, I was gratified to learn that Janet was no shrinking violet and a woman very much ahead of her time. 

In the end, you will walk away from Lucky Stars feeling as if Charlie and Janet are friends, as if you know them personally. I was left with admiration at both of their careers, as well as a sadness that their real life love story, like so many movie plotlines, was left unrequited. It is a great joy to know that Charlie and Janet are forever captured and saved on film, for many generations to enjoy and treasure. I know that Lucky Stars has given me a desire and a passion to find these films myself and, as movie audiences of the 1920s and 1930s did, fall in love with the incomparable team of Farrell and Gaynor.

Lucky Stars is available for purchase now at major booksellers, including Amazon.  I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission. 

For more information on author Sarah Baker, please visit her website

Review copy of this book provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.


Tales of Whimsy said...

Breathtaking cover.

Cindy said...

This sounds like a nice read, great review :)