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Book Review: 'Complicated Women'

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Complicated Women

Current Status:
In Season
Mick Lasalle
St. Martin's Press
Women's Studies, Movies, Biography, History

We gave it a B+

Rescuing the likes of Ann Dvorak and Joan Blondell from film-guide footnotes, Mick LaSalle writes wittily in Complicated Women about the risqué world Hollywood created in the pre-Hays-code 1920s and 1930s. Though he focuses on the careers of the biggest female stars of the era, Greta Garbo and Jean Harlow, LaSalle is at his best describing little-known actresses like Mae Clarke and Ann Harding tearing up the screen in obscure yet tantalizing films. The book veers into the ridiculous with comparisons between the emancipated pre-Code women and some of today’s unlikely heirs (Garbo and … Mimi Rogers?), but the examination of women’s roles in pre-Code and present-day films is sophisticated and provocative. B+