The Detective’s Daughter – Hollywood Glamour

Good morning – we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming with a special announcement!

The winners of the Jess Lourey and Shannon Baker contests are:

Gail Arnold (Shannon’s winner)
Ann Mason (Jess’s winner)

Gail and Ann, message us your emails on the WCA Facebook page and we’ll put you in touch.

Now, over to Kim!


Kim in Baltimore melting from the intense heat.

A few months ago I read a book called Design for Dying by Renee Patrick which I highly recommend. I love reading about old Hollywood and show business, in fact I’m a bit obsessed with it. I blame my grandmother. She had subscriptions to Photoplay magazine and Rona Barrett’s Hollywood. We spent hours – and I do mean hours – flipping through the glossy pages covered with updates on everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Paul Newman. While other girls on my block were dreaming of Robby Benson and Parker Stevenson, I was setting my alarm to get up at 3am to see a Robert Mitchum movie. The best nights were the ones where a Barbara Stanwyck film followed.
As much as I enjoyed the movies and magazines, what I really loved were imageNana’s stories of her older brother Al. Al was a bandleader who had his own club in the D. C. area in the 1940’s. I was fascinated with the photos of his orchestra and the many acts that had performed in his club. I could picture William Powell and Myrna Loy sipping martinis and watching as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers glided around the dance floor.image
Just like all good Hollywood pictures, Al Norton’s life had a dramatic end. Nana told me many times how her brother, dejected by the woman he loved, died of a broken heart in his kitchen. Many years later I found a newspaper clipping about his death that revealed the truth; it wasn’t so much his broken heart that killed him as it was the gas on his stove he had purposefully turned on. Nana would never admit to that, but would tell me two notes were left. She burned hers after reading it.image
Though I never met this man, he has been a great influence on my life; from the books I read to the cocktails I drink. When I find a delightful book like Design for Dying or watch I Love Lucy reruns, I can’t help wishing to be sent back to that glamorous era.

If you could be transported back in time, where would you want to go? Would you want to meet one of your ancestors or a famous historical figure?

27 Thoughts

  1. I understand that feeling, Kim. When I put on a long full skirt from the late nineteenth century and feel it sweep along the ground, I imagine I’m back in that time. I wouldn’t want to live then, but I’d love a visit with Mr. Whittier, Celia Thaxter, Lucy Larcom, Elizabeth Cady Stanton – and of course a Quaker midwife!

  2. An interesting question, Kim. I am not a big fan of discomfort, and any time period that would require a corset would be x’d off the list, out of principle. The time periods that most interest me are the Roman Empire under Constantine and World War I, but I don’t think I’d want to see it in person. So I will give in to the Downton Abbey influence, and because I love Nancy Mitford, and play it safe to choose between-the-wars England.

  3. Though I might regret it, I’d like to be in Asdee, Co. Kerry, Ireland around the run of the last century (1900). That’s when my grandfather and his brothers emigrated to (respectively) Australia, England, and America. They told us little, and only with two fingers of whiskey, but I can’t believe it was a cut and dry decision. Why the different destinations? How was the family torn apart and what strands held them together across the miles? What were the women thinking and how did they persevere? Many stories there.

  4. I always think I would like to have been a fly on the wall in the years from the Declaration of Independence through the ratification of the Constitution, because–amazing. I also would like to have watched William Shakespeare work with his actors at the Globe. I realize that as a woman, I would have been a mere observer, best case, in these situations, but imagine the stories you could tell when you returned. (Not to mention straightening a few people out.)

  5. Because of the whole discomfort thing Ramona mentioned, I don’t want to go any place past the 50s and really not even then for any length of time because of the way women were treated. However, if I could beam back for a day or two, I’d love to meet Jane Austen.

  6. If you love reading about old Hollywood, you would enjoy “Silent Murders” by Mary Miley. I interviewed her about her mysteries for the Writers Who Kill blog this past winter. Mary’s mysteries include early Hollywood legends. Her first book in the series, “The Impersonator” starts with the old vaudeville greats. Lots of interesting history there and some good mysteries.

    1. I love Mary Miley’s books! When The Impersonator first came out, I knew that was the book for me. Before I had a chance to buy it, I had the wonderful opportunity of sitting at her table at the “new author” breakfast at Malice Domestic. She gave everyone at her table a copy of her book. Needless to say, I was thrilled and have been a devoted fan since.

      1. Lucky you! I heard Mary speak at a program at George Mason University in Virginia. Last fall I drove to Richmond to hear her speak at one of the Richmond museums. She is a terrific speaker. (On the same visit, I got to see an exhibit of the costumes from Downton Abbey.)

  7. I’m so spoiled by technology that I’m to sure I want to go back in time. Although I wouldn’t mind revisiting the stirrup pants and long sweaters fashion trend in the 80s.

    1. I lived through the eighties, trust me, stirrup pants need to stay there! That being said, I loved that time and would definitely revisit my punk princess days. I would need to take my cellphone with me, though!

      1. I could never make stirrup pants work for me. Short legs. Sigh. But the whole idea seemed so comfy/

      2. I actually liked the stirrup pants. They were in a lot of ways the precursor to the yoga pants I wear today. (And I don’t even do yoga!)

  8. Design for Dying has been on a radar since Malice. Obviously, I need to get that.

    I have a fascination with Hollywood of all eras, but there is something about the glamour of old time Hollywood isn’t there?

    1. Mark, you absolutely must read Design for Dying! It is one of my favorite books of the year. People seemed so much cooler and self-assured back then. I think I just want Edith Head to design all my clothes! It’s all about the clothes with me.

  9. Kim, if you like that era and have Netflix, I think you would enjoy Foyle’s War. He’s a detective during WWII. No glamourous movie stars, but good stories.

    1. Terry, first off, thanks for reading! I LOVE Foyle’s War and just finished watching the series about two weeks ago. Now I am well into The Dick Van Dyke Show with only about 125 more episodes to go!

  10. OK, so I ordered Design for Dying- it should be here tomorrow but I’m sure I won’t get to it until the fall- I have a ton of books to read! Good problems to have!

    I think that would be the period I would be most interested in- the 1920’s-1950’s. They were sad times though- all the unrest and the war and the Depression. But there was magic then too. As a film studies student, that was favorite time period. When the studios were cranking out movies and creating that Hollywood magic but there was still room for the creative folks- Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, Freaks….

    I always find it fascinating how our families re-write their stories. What seems scandalous to the previous generation might not seem as horrifying to us but maybe it’s because we didn’t know the family member or didn’t know them well.

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