Title: The Movie Star and Me
Author: Kelly Durham
Set against the backdrop of Hollywood in the 1940's just after World War ll, Kelly Durham spins an historical fiction tale involving a twenty-six year old veteran, who had recently returned to Los Angeles after serving in Okinawa with the 10th Army.
At the center of The Movie Star and Me is Lieutenant Frank Russell who is lucky to have survived the war and has his army buddy, Mickey Moreno to thank who rescued him after his futile attempt to save an Australian newsreel photographer during a military operation against the Japanese.
On being discharged from the hospital and on a ship home, Russell discovers in his duffel bag the dead Australian's rucksack containing his wind-up camera, a film canister, and a Japanese pistol. Apparently, who ever found the photographer on the battlefield mistakenly mixed his items with Russell's personal effects. Noticing the name Pacific Pictures stenciled on the duffel bag, Russell is determined to return the items to the company that had been the photographer's employer.
Little did Russell anticipate that returning these items would dramatically change his life forever and land him a position with a Hollywood studio that he could only have dreamed about. As an added plus, it also included a love relationship with a starlet that would be working her way up through the star system.
Within a period of three months Russell advances from assistant producer to head of production and for someone that knew nothing about the movie industry, this was quite a feat. It should be mentioned that this was not exactly given to him on a silver platter as he did demonstrate to the company's head honcho, Abe Baum that he was an extremely hard worker with a great deal of imagination and business acumen. And although Baum practically adopted him as a surrogate son, nonetheless, he had taken quite a gamble on an inexperienced and untested young war veteran as his new head of production. We will learn that the gamble will pay off and the movie studio substantially increases their profitability.
The Movie Star and Me is Durham's fifth and his first in the Hollywood themed Frank Russell-Pacific Pictures series. Admittedly, he is very good story-teller with quite an imagination who has vividly captured post World War ll Hollywood where motion picture companies made a great deal of money by operating under the studio system.
Readers fascination will be heightened as the yarn had been inspired by actual events in Hollywood in the 1940's. These studios were able to provide employment for thousands of people, actors, producers, directors, writers and others. In addition, with improved sound and film technology they were able to pursue new creative directions which, as we read, was the focus of Russell's responsibility.
His tasks also included baby sitting actors that from time-to-time went off the rails with drunken sprees, actors and actresses with inflated egos, union difficulties, salary increases, and the chilling investigations of the Un-American Activities Committee to investigate the Communist influence in the motion picture business.
Readers will also be captivated by Russell's achievements even though they may appear far-fetched. However, with all that said, the novel would have been even better if Durham paid more attention to conflict and tension development enabling readers to have a better understanding of what made Russell tick and consequently leaving us with a more interesting and developed character. Nonetheless, the yarn is entertaining and a quick read that takes us to several unexpected directions particularly its ending.