We seem to have gone backwards in acknowledging Jennifer Ann Redmond’s useful books. Recently we profiled her biography of Corliss Palmer, but it turns out that’s her most recent offering. Before that came Reels & Rivals: Sisters in Silent Film, which we plug today because it is Sisters Day!
The smart non-fiction author looks to fill a needed niche; here Redmond succeeds less because the topic of sisterhood in films is in crying need of scholarship than the fact that many of these neglected actresses are. As she did with Corliss Palmer, Redmond’s performed valuable research to paint thorough pictures of these forgotten females of filmdom. That said, she assumes a pre-existing deep knowledge of the topic. She skims over the most famous cinematic sisters, the Talmadges, the Gishes, Dolores and Helene Costello, the Youngs, the Flugraths (Viola Dana, Shirley Mason and Edna Flugrath), and the sisters Duncan, Dolly, Brox and G on the assumption that most readers of a book like this already know about them. She devotes more time and space to 13 pairs you probably know less about: Constance and Faire Binney, Priscilla and Marjorie Bonner, Grace and Mina Cunard, Alice and Marceline Day, Madeline and Marion Fairbanks, Laura and Violet La Plante, Mae and Marguerite Marsh, the three McKenzie sisters, Beatriz and Vera Michelena, Mary and Florence Nash, Sally O’Neil & Molly O’Day, Mabel and Edith Taliaferro, and Olive and Alma Tell. (As always, don’t make the mistake of assuming profiles of these performers on this blog are exhaustive. There is way more on all of these 13 sister-groups in the Redmond book than on Travalanche.)
As with the better remembered talkie era sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine, many of these siblings were in competition with one another (hence the title), adding a bit of spice to the read. But in plenty of cases the rivalry was friendly, pretended, and occasionally non-existent. After all, blood is thicker than celluloid. Or…is it? To state the obvious, Reels and Rivals is a perfect gift item for the right silent-movie-loving sister in your life. Get it here.