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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Fay Wray and Robert Riskin: A Hollywood Memoir - Book Review

The first book by Victoria Riskin, daughter of Fay Wray and Robert Riskin, is an engaging read that pulls one into a private view of Hollywood during its Golden Age. As the title indicates, this is first and foremost a memoir of the notable parents of the author. All the same, there are some intriguing insights into the machinations of the tinsel town of years gone by. From the early days of its subjects, to the film industry in the days of WWII, and to the settled life of Hollywood royalty in the glow of the new American ideal, Victoria Riskin records a fascinating picture of the lives of an iconic actress and a legendary screenwriter.

I'm ashamed to say I did not read this book as soon as it was delivered. I greatly regret the fact because it's so damn good and I delayed myself the enjoyment of a delightful read. Once I finally did pick up the biography I literally had a hard time putting it down. Unlike other children who write about their famous parents from their own point of view, this particular offspring makes no accusation of ill treatment, nor does she present an overly sentimental idyll of her upbringing. On the contrary, Ms. Riskins' memories lack effusive praise or damning accusations. In fact, it is well researched and supported by archival letters, the first hand reflections of third parties, and studio records. It is clear there are no ulterior motives and the book is simply what it appears to be - an insiders look at an "A" list couple from yesteryear.

I was particularly intrigued by the recounting of the early years of both Wray and Riskin. People today have no concept about the lives of the prominent players during the Studio Era. This Hollywood memoir does an excellent job of expressing those details in words that flow effortlessly as if in a conversation with the author face to face without meandering or tangents. The intention is clear and to the point, with the right balance of authority to avoid a tone of nostalgia. I became involved with the lives of those represented within the book and found myself turning the pages quickly to find out just what was going to happen next.

I know I'm being a bit effusive regarding the writing of this book, but I really enjoyed the experience found between the covers. It's not often I can pick up one of these writings without finding myself needing a break from pages of content that is obvious speculation presented as fact. Motives of the subjects are speculated upon through the perspective of one who can not possibly know, let alone be unbiased about what was going on in a loved one's head. Ms. Risking avoids these trappings, steering clear of the temptation to make assumptions. The rare times that she does partake in this practice she makes it clear that that is exactly what she is doing.

I'll admit to being a huge fan of everything about the history of cinema, so I am most definitely among the targeted audience of this specific type of recollection. I'll also hazard to say that there are many more just like myself who will very much enjoy reading "Fay Wray and Robert Riskin: A Hollywood Memoir". I would also like to recommend the book to anyone who likes a good biography, regardless of the subject. As an example of such a genre of literature, I believe this book offers a wonderful glimpse into a bygone time, set in a specific place that is particularly relevant to American history.

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