Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures
Elsa Emerson is the youngest of three sisters growing up in the wings of the popular Cherry County Playhouse in Wisconsin. When a tragedy befalls their family, Elsa vows to leave Wisconsin for bigger and brighter things. She gets her chance when a young actor, Gordon-from-Florida, whisks her away to Hollywood. The marriage is short-lived but provides a stepping-stone to achieving her dreams. In Hollywood, plain Elsa Emerson is discovered by studio executive Irving Green. He changes her from a buxom blonde into a willowy brunette and renames her “Laura Lamont.” A star is born.
The novel follows Laura/Elsa as she moves through the studio system, trying to balance career and family while holding tight to the few happy things in her life. But, true to Hollywood, happiness only lasts so long. Things begin to disintegrate for Laura, both on and off the screen, and she begins to miss being unassuming Elsa Emerson.
This is a fascinating glimpse into early Hollywood in the heyday of the studio system era. Through Laura’s sometimes dispassionate eyes, we see a system that created and then carefully guarded stars. Having done research into this era of film, I was struck by the depth of historical detail, which made for an absorbing read. Though the story itself is idealistic at times – Laura finds and loses fame with surprising ease – it echoes the setting. Her rags-to-riches story seems plucked straight from the big screen.