Fading Fame: Women of a Certain Age in Hollywood, Short Stories & Plays
Adelaide Books, 2021
In a world that tends to mock, dismiss, and misunderstood “women of a certain age,” it was interesting to find a book dedicated to approaching the subject with empathy and respect. Pam Munter’s Fading Fame: Women of a Certain Age in Hollywood is an intriguing exploration of the magnificence of famous women moving past middle age, flaws and all.
This collection of stories and plays features women that are a mix of the real and imagined facing the challenge of careers, lovers, and other aspects of their youth drifting away. It sounds glum, but the richness of the characters draws you into their orbit. These are multi-faceted ladies who have lived extraordinary lives and they remain remarkable.
In addition to characters created out of whole cloth, Munter imagines the inner life of cinematic celebrities like Doris Day, Frances Marion, and Mary Pickford. The tenderest piece features a frail Ethel Barrymore facing the challenge of her last film, Young at Heart (1954). It’s easy to imagine this witty, acerbic, but ailing woman reminiscing in her dressing room and wryly managing Frank Sinatra on the set.
There are two lightly humorous, but deep-reaching plays in the book: Life Without and Janet, Drake Private Eye. The former a four-hander featuring three women who slyly get the best of a narcissistic man whose ambitions to be a cabaret performer outweigh his talent. The latter an interesting exploration of ambition and the satisfaction that can come from choosing life over career.
In the end, I found this a fascinating collection because of the way the stories embrace the complexities of fame and being a woman in a rocky industry. It’s bittersweet, but you are constantly reminded that these characters are remarkable people, with memories that will always elevate them.
Many thanks to Adelaide Books for providing a copy of the book for review.