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Dynamic Dames: 50 Leading Ladies Who Made History Book Review

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“Dynamic Dames: 50 Leading Ladies Who Made History” is another terrific TCM book.

Written by author Sloan De Forest (who also provides an intro for the book), “Dynamic Dames: 50 Leading Ladies Who Made History” kicks off with a foreword by Julie Newmar (best known as Catwoman) before diving into 8 sections that cover various genres as well as Hollywood history. The sections include pre-code bad girls, reel role models, big bad mamas, fatal femmes, ladies who laughs, women of mystery, strong survivors and superheroines. In each section, a number of actresses get the spotlight for a particular groundbreaking role (take Pam Grier in “Coffy” for example). Each spotlight is accompanied by a written piece that talks about the significance of the part, what the actress brought to the role, some history about the film, pictures, and a factoid (like a tidbit about how director George Cukor found Angela Lansbury for “Gaslight”). Among the greats that are discussed are Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Audrey Hepburn, Meryl Streep, Katharine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, and Charlize Theron. I won’t spoil which films and roles are given the spotlight though so that you can discover that for yourself. As an added bonus, there’s an additional list of 56 more actresses in specific groundbreaking roles (such as Michelle Pfeiffer in “Batman Returns” and Sally Field in “Norma Rae”). The book closes out with a bibliography and an index.

For anyone with an interest in cinema and its history, “Dynamic Dames: 50 Leading Ladies Who Made History” is a wonderful tribute to Hollywood’s leading ladies. The book is a celebration of the artists who broke new ground on screen, influenced and inspired others, and paved the way for themselves and colleagues to get more nuanced roles. Most of the all-time greats are covered here be it Jodie Foster’s strong FBI character Agent Clarice Starling in “Silence of the Lambs,” Joan Crawford’s complex role in “Mildred Pierce” or Carrie Fisher as the influential take charge Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” series.

The book is not without its flaws however. In addition to a few noticeable absences (seriously, where is Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench?), some of the selections are a bit questionable. For instance, Pam Grier in “Coffy” instead of “Foxy Brown”? Ingrid Bergman in “Gaslight” instead of “Notorious”? Kathy Bates not listed for “Misery”? These may be minor nitpicks as not every great performance and role could obviously be talked about in a single medium sized book, but it still feels like there were some major oversights to be sure.

Overall Thoughts: Every TCM book I have reviewed has been a winner. “Dynamic Dames: 50 Leading Ladies Who Made History” is no exception. Pick it up.

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July 16, 2019 - Posted by | Book review | , , , , , , , , , ,

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