An extensively researched look at the life of silent-movie star Mae Murray (1885–1965).
Ankerich (Broken Silence: Conversations with 23 Silent Film Stars, 2011, etc.) structures this biography chronologically, beginning with Murray's birth to poor German immigrants in New York City's Lower East Side. As an adult, Murray offered little to no factual details about her childhood, shrouding "her own birth date and her early years in a veil of secrecy." Early on, she lost her father to alcohol-related complications; before she was 18, she cut off all contact with her mother and her brothers, one of whom showed up years later demanding money and threatening to reveal Murray's sordid family story to the press if she didn't pay up. Passionate about dancing, the teenage Murray lingered around stage doors and got her start in theater, dancing and singing. Ankerich tracks Murray’s multiple failed marriages and her lucrative career in Hollywood, including the dramatic back stories of such films as The Merry Widow. Her penchant for hiding the truth about her life revealed itself yet again when she secretly gave birth to a son in 1926. Five months later, despite her love for the man she described as her "soul mate," Rudy Valentino, Murray wed David Mdivani, an aspiring filmmaker who falsely identified himself as a Georgian prince. Shortly thereafter, Valentino died, leaving Murray devastated. Her marriage to Mdivani unraveled with endless fighting and a custody dispute as Murray struggled with financial problems that would plague her for the rest of her life. In 1965, she died of a stroke. Ankerich's studied biography leaves no stone unturned, and he integrates hundreds of quotations and sources, grounding Murray's life with fascinating facts.
Will appeal to film buffs and readers interested in the rise and burnout of long-ago Hollywood stars.