New Mystery Novels Celebrate What Would Have Been the Hundredth Birthday of a 1940's Movie Actress
For the Author, Commemorating Her and Her Career Has Become Quite Personal
Dandola introduced Marjorie Reynolds in the third novel of his series as she takes part in an East Coast radio broadcast during a 1942 War Bond Tour. She and the crime-solving male protagonist just click.
"She works so well in keeping my protagonist on beam that there's no reason to split up the two of them," Dandola explains. "I didn't specifically target her actual hundredth birthday for the newest book's release but after the manuscript was completed, it seemed like a no-brainer to do it then since the story involves my protagonist desperately indecisive about what to give her for her twenty-sixth birthday in 1943."
The main plot of Dead in Left Field has that protagonist solving a murder while Marjorie Reynolds simultaneously delves into producing a B-movie. The subsequent novels follow the production of that B-movie interwoven with three more murder mysteries.
Whereas readers and audiences have come to expect actresses to be portrayed as difficult divas who are more than a little self-absorbed, terribly odd, and rather scandalous, Dandola paints Marjorie Reynolds as someone remarkably normal and quite intelligent.
"It's the only way I've ever heard her described," he admits. "I would be the first one shocked to hear anything off-color about her. Every one of her peers described her as polite, charming, very intelligent, and very much of a lady so that is how I approach her character. Of course, my being smitten with her also goes a long way. An interviewer once commented in print that Marjorie Reynolds 'could teach Marilyn Monroe how to move in a dress'—now that's impressive."
Dandola knows of what he writes and his novels ooze with an appreciation of 1940's dolls, dames, and femmes fatales yet he is more than a little perplexed at how boosting his Marjorie Reynolds character into the position of producing a movie has garnered more attention than what Dandola describes as "a simple plot point" and he insists that the woman-producer situation he set up could have happened in 1943. Although the real Marjorie Reynolds never became a movie producer, Dandola maintains that she had the film experience and the smarts so he broadened her horizons for the sake of his stories. After all, Gail Patrick, one of Miss Reynolds' female co-stars from Up in Mabel's Room, went on to executive produce the long-running Perry Mason television series. Out of all this has arisen yet again the public's fascination that a man can write so three-dimensionally about women.
Dandola's response is that he doesn't understand how one equates to the other. "I'm a man. I like women. Why does that preclude that I also can't comprehend them as strong or smart? My women characters are very much like the women in my family. They were all products of the generation in which they grew up and they therefore learned to play by the rules of society during those times but they were hardly weak or passive—or unladylike. They were very conscious of convention but they were creative enough to work around the hurdles."
Navigating around accepted norms has always been a Tinsel Town mainstay and indeed, whatever happens in Dandola's novels, his female characters are hardly victims. They never whine. They just face things head-on.
Marjorie Reynolds was born in Buhl, Idaho, as her family traveled cross-country from Maine to settle in Los Angeles, California. She began in silent movies as a child, quit to concentrate on school, and then resumed her career as a teenager in B-movie talkies. With Holiday Inn, she graduated to major motion pictures. She was one of the very first entertainers to visit our fighting troops during World War II and she did the same during the Korean War. As film roles waned, she made the transition to 1950's television appearing for six seasons as the wife of William Bendix in The Life of Riley.
She was a show business survivor with no scandal ever attached to her.
In remembrance of what would have been the hundredth birthday of a very classy actress...
Go to http://www.johndandola.com/