A HOLLYWOOD LIFE by David Freeman


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 Lively, likable novel from Freeman (a story collection, A Hollywood Education, 1986; The Last Days of Alfred Hitchcock, 1984) about a child star who grows into an adult star. Questions abound as the reader digs into what is at nearly every turn a familiar story that keeps glancing off real lives without ever focusing on one. At novel's beginning, the heroine drowns near Santa Barbara under circumstances very much like those that claimed former child star Natalie Wood, at about the same age, so one expects a roman Ö clef about Natalie. But when we get into her child-star period, the novel keeps echoing Shirley Temple. At a later age, the heroine--who marries a radical reporter who spends two years in Vietnam--wants to stand up against the government and later does a movie about exercise and weight reduction--all from the hills of Fonda. So what Freeman gives us in Carla Tate, born Karen Teitel, is a collage heroine but one with a strong enough character to carry the story herself. Carla makes her first screen appearance at six days of age. A few years later she's making a kiddie series at MGM as Georgina with her horse Lewis. What the studio sees instantly in little Carla is a screen natural, a magnetically relaxed actress. After some initial sex experiences, 17-year-old Carla falls under the protective hand of her married lover Jack Markel, 30 years her senior. Jack is a huge power and dark handler of labor unions. It's his idea that Carla marry and have kids while keeping up a liaison with him, and Carla goes through three husbands without ever discarding Jack. When her end comes, nothing much is resolved, no sense of tragedy stirs the reader. It's all as empty as a wonderful-to-watch piece of fluff, like The Barefoot Contessa. Sharp Hollywood detail, gripping--that will fade like smoke.

Pub Date: July 31st, 1991
ISBN: 0-671-72738-9
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1991


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