Thursday, April 9, 2015
Crowned Heads is a collection of four novellas that all deal in one twisted way or another with Old Hollywood and its strange, often grotesque, secrets. "Fedora" deals with a writer who once met the famous movie star of the same name, who is now a recluse, and uncovers the startling truth about her true identity. In "Lorna," the fifty-something actress Lorna Doone, who never quite made it in "A" pictures and who is a pyromaniac, shop-lifter and nympho, tries to escape reality in a Mexican resort, but winds up awash in a sea of sex and booze that causes her more anguish than anything else. [One funny-sad scene has Lorna "paying a call" on a handsome flamenco dancer half her age despite the fact he's expressed no interest in her whatsoever.] "Bobbitt" is an interesting story about the fate of a child star who once owned the world and is now forgotten, but while it's suspenseful and well done it's also a trifle cloying at times, especially at the finale. "Willie" deals with the final hours of a former star who makes the mistake of allowing certain "fans" into his home. This story seems to be inspired by the life of Clifton Webb and the death of Ramon Novarro, which is hardly in the best of taste. "Fedora" was made into a movie, but I've always thought that "Lorna" would have made a fascinating picture as well; it is easily the best novella of the quartet. In the first story it seems to take forever for Tryon to get to the revelation, and similarly Willie's segment is stretched out to inordinate length. For my money, "Lorna" is decidedly the best read in the book. As an actor, Tryon appeared in such films as The Unholy Wife, The Cardinal, and I Married a Monster from Outer Space.
Verdict: Well-written plumbing of Hollywood scandal. ***.