"This significant book is the first full length biography of one of the most influential women in Hollywood. It spans a momentous time in terms of the film industry and, with superior scholarship, examines that era through a different and important lens."Cari Beauchamp, author of Without Lying Down
"This book makes an important contribution to the study of the relationships among journalism, publicity, and celebrity, skillfully connecting issues that have impact on Parson's life and career and thoroughly documenting her rise to extraordinary power. The research is extensive and fills in details that will interest even those who know parts of the story well."Charles Affron, author of Lillian Gish: Her Legend, Her Life
"More than just an addictively engrossing study of the infamous gossip columnist, Barbas' The First Lady of Hollywood: A Biography of Louella Parsons, is a deftly written historical, political and cultural chronicle of the United States during the first half of the 20th century."Susan King, Los Angeles Times
"Who speaks for Louella Parsons? Now nearly forgotten, she was once the most powerful woman in Hollywood, the vehicle through which the stars spoke to the world. Samantha Barbas' enviably thorough and readable biography restores Parsons' voice and her position in the movie firmament. It's about time."Kenneth Turan, columnist for the Los Angeles Times
Historian Barbas's thoroughly researched and footnoted biography of the powerful gossip columnist who virtually invented celebrity journalism asks to be taken seriously as a chronicle of American history at a pivotal time-but it is also a fast and fascinating read. A smalltown girl from Dixon, Ill., Parsons married and separated early; at 29, she set off for Chicago as a single mother where she found a job as "scenario editor" to a small movie company in 1911, sorting through the hundreds of fan-written "screenplays" that arrived daily; the lucky few were turned into 15- or 20- minute silents at $25 a pop to the writer. She began to write about the movies for the Chicago Tribune, and eventually parlayed her friendship with Marian Davies, the actress who was mistress to William Randolph Hearst, into a column for the Hearst papers. The rest is history-riveting history, covering the rise of the talkies; the invention of the studio system, the star system and "Hollywood"; and the blatant lies, coverups, favoritism and blackmail. Parsons's famous feud with rival Hedda Hopper is here, along with her role in damaging the Hollywood careers of Orson Welles, Mae West, Charlie Chaplin and Ingrid Bergman. Of its kind, this is a terrific book about an unusual life, and the author has done future Hollywood historians a great service by documenting it so carefully, incidentally exposing all the falsehoods Parsons related in her own 1945 autobiography, The Gay Illiterate. Photos. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.