Nov 25, 2009

Book Review-- Lucky Stars: Janet Gaynor & Charles Farrell

There can never be a Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell love team again.
--Janet Gaynor, 1970

Though you wouldn’t know it from the sparse attention they get today, Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell were the most popular screen couple of the 1920s and 30s. Starting with a sensationally swoony pairing in Seventh Heaven (1927), they starred together in an impressive twelve movies. They not only successfully made the jump from silents to talkies, but also to musicals, where they lost some romantic mystique, but retained their mesmerizing charm. Their secret off screen romance, born on the set of their first movie together, matured into an affectionate, lifelong friendship.

Both stars had their share of independent success. Gaynor won the first Academy Award for best actress and starred in the silent classic Sunrise (1927) and the first version of A Star is Born (1937). Farrell had a handful of solo silent successes and a late career resurgence as the star of the popular sitcom My Little Margie. However, they were never better than when they were together. Their mutual affection gave a potent charge to every scene they shared.

Film historian Sarah Baker explores both the public and private lives of this celebrated pair in her loving, carefully researched biography. She draws on thorough archival research and interviews, many of them previously unpublished, with both the subjects and the people who knew them best. There’s hardly a key moment in the text that isn’t illustrated by one of over 100 photos, several of them from Charles Farrell’s estate.

It is a practical choice to write a dual biography of Gaynor and Farrell. Though they were often separated for years, just as any press mention of one star inevitably includes the other, their careers and lives seem also to have been colored by the influence they had on each other. And what vibrant, exciting lives they were. This is one case where the real story is as intriguing as what unfolded in the movies.

This much-needed tribute is an engrossing read, and should please any fan of classic Hollywood. Silent movie lovers will find Baker’s account of this legendary partnership particularly thrilling.

Published by BearManor Media, Lucky Stars: Janet Gaynor & Charles Farrell will hit bookshelves 12/1.


  1. I just ordered it :) awesome review.

  2. Oh good--you'll love it! Great story, amazing photos--even the preface Allison Anders wrote is fantastic. Let me know what you think.