Title: The Blue Butterfly
Author: Leslie Johansen Nack
Publisher: 3rd May 2022 by She Writes Press
Pages: 250 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, Hollywood
My Rating: 4.5 cups
New York 1915, Marion Davies is a shy eighteen-year-old beauty dancing on the Broadway stage when she meets William Randolph Hearst and finds herself captivated by his riches, passion and desire to make her a movie star. Following a whirlwind courtship, she learns through trial and error to live as Hearst’s mistress when a divorce from his wife proves impossible. A baby girl is born in secret in 1919 and they agree to never acknowledge her publicly as their own. In a burgeoning Hollywood scene, she works hard making movies while living a lavish partying life that includes a secret love affair with Charlie Chaplin. In late 1937, at the height of the depression, Hearst wrestles with his debtors and failing health, when Marion loans him $1M when nobody else will. Together, they must confront the movie that threatens to invalidate all of Marion’s successes in the movie industry: Citizen Kane.
I have always loved the old Hollywood movies thanks to my mother - my youth was all about Saturday nights and Bill Collins, Golden Years of Hollywood. The Blue Butterfly tells the story of Marion Davies, an actress from both the silent and talking films and long time mistress of publishing magnate, William Randolph Hearst. It makes for compelling reading if stories of this era interest you.
“Remember this day. Your life is about to change.” I whirled around as she studied me for a few minutes. “You’re like a blue butterfly with dew on its wings.”
Growing up I knew the names of Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman, Joan Crawford, and many others but I had never heard of Marion Davies. I knew of the film Citizen Kane, yet still nothing associated with her. This book shed amazing light on all these connections (I have to watch Mank now which I believe is on Netflix). The Blue Butterfly has taught me so much about Marion and more. The author does an incredible job of weaving fact and fiction in telling Marion’s amazing story, so much so that I felt like a guest at one of her lavish parties.
“I’ve never heard so much fuss about a twenty-five-year-old who’s never made a movie,” WR said. “Why is it called Citizen Kane?”
This really is engaging historical fiction. The amount of research the author has done is impressive (although at times a little too much with the info dump and thus missing half a star for me). There are so many characters to appreciate eg. Charlie Chaplin, along with information about Hollywood, movie making and lifestyles of the then rich and famous. It is also about relationships - family, friends and partners. This book will have you racing to Google to see and learn more which, to my mind, is always a good sign.
“Please drop the quest for a Best Actress award for me. It isn’t possible with the caliber of films I’m offered.”
If you love stories of the original golden years of Hollywood, look no further. I feel embarrassed not to know of Marion and her incredible life. Thankfully this book rectifies all that and takes you on an incredible journey from Marion’s early days through to her sad end. It leaves you wondering what her life and career may have been if not for her involvement with Hearst. If you love this era then I definitely recommend reading this book.
‘I was William Randolph Hearst’s girlfriend, and I had everything a girl could ever dream of - except for an authentic life.’
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.