Author Guest Post | An inside glimpse behind the inspiration for the story “The Limits of Limelight” by Margaret Porter

Posted Wednesday, 29 September, 2021 by jorielov , 1 Comment

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Hallo, Hallo dear hearts and fellow book bloggers from the #LimitsOfLimelight tour!

You’ve might have noticed an absence of Self Published Fantasy on Jorie Loves A Story this September as well as a clear lack of Mythos & discussions surrounding The Odyssey. In truth, the hours clicked off the clock too fast this month and I lost a fortnight to severe allergies and clustering migraines which wrecked my chances of succeeding in my goals I originally had outlined for September. I had only a handful of blog tours this month as I had pared down hosting after Summer’s wrath of lightning storms and felt it was going to be a good month to seek out a personal footpath of stories to read and listen to via audiobook. Instead, I found myself battling through some difficult bouts of ill health and even, on the morning of this post needing to go live – I suffered through a disastrous allergy attack and had to take time offline to recoup.

However, I will table my plans to re-attempt those previously disclosed reads at another time – what I want to celebrate today is my personal love and affection for Old Hollywood and my wicked fascination with Classic films! Ever since I first tucked into watching Turner Classic Movies (TCM) in my mid to late twenties (as I’m now a forty-something appreciator!) as I was fully burnt on police procedurals and hard-boiled Suspense tv serials – Classic films provided a new opportunity to fall in love with the history of film and the progression of how film transitioned through those earlier years from the Silent Film era into the present. I loved getting a personal glimpse of the journey – both of the actors themselves and of the filmmakers – as I watched how Hitchcock found his wings first in the Silent films and then, how he grew in both execution and vision into the ‘talkies’ of what we’ve all found wicked spellbinding in his category of Thrillers and Psychological Suspense.

Yet it wasn’t just Hitch who intrigued me. No, it was all of the actors and actresses of those bygone eras as TCM had a way of highlighting different actors and actresses every month and I’d delight in joy in seeing full blocks of their collective works. Claudette Corbet, Ginger Rogers & Fred Astaire, Harlow Jean, (adult) Shirley Temple, Spencer Tracy, Rosalind Russell, Barbara Stanwyck and this on top of already loving Jimmy Stuart, Bob Hope, Shirley Temple, Rock Hudson, Doris Day as well as William Powell and Morna Loy (ie. “The Thin Man” series) among many others. As this is a very short snapshot of whom I’ve loved discovering and of whom have kept me glued to the films in which they brought wonderfully to life!

I even found myself wonderfully intrigued by the set designs and the costumes – which is how I became further in love with the work of Edith Head whilst I also found it keenly curious how large the productions were for Musicals. Being a lover of Broadway, seeing Classic Musicals and especially those which were both song/dance ensembles or a combination of those mixed with water scenes (as they used synchronised swimmers, too!) were absolutely fantastic! I also loved of course seeing actors/actresses stretch themselves into different genres – such as comedic men in dramas and vice versa. The only hard bit I found were good guys trying to play nefarious characters or characters without a soul which did not quite go off as well as I think they hoped. With one exception of course was Spencer Tracy in Jekyll/Hyde of whom you truly believed as as mad and batty as his character was portrayed! The depth he achieved is unreal!

The Limits of Limelight allows us to re-examine what we thought we knew about Old Hollywood and what we might have missed whilst chasing after our favourite Classic films as this is an exploration of the lives lived behind the films themselves. One of my top favourites duos of course outside of William Powell and Morna Loy or even Rock Hudson and Doris Day were the pairing of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. I had learnt about Astaire’s dedication and his work ethic as well as how much he rehearsed and how difficult it was for him to be matched with partners due to the bar of excellence he set for himself and others; yet you cannot deny the artistry he gave and maintained either. I had oft wondered about Ginger Rogers – both as a person behind the camera and as a woman who pursued her passion for acting and performance.

I was truly wicked happy when I learnt of this blog tour and even further enthused with the chance to converse with the author behind the story as it is one more book I’ve found which re-explores Old Hollywood in a way which is a delightful entrance back into the past in an era of interest which continues to inspire me in the present. I hope you’ll appreciate the topic and theme of discussion I’ve selected to examine on this lovely blog tour and find the author’s responses as keenly intriguing as I had myself.

And, without further adieu – enjoy where the conversation I had with Ms Porter took us!

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Author Guest Post | An inside glimpse behind the inspiration for the story “The Limits of Limelight” by Margaret PorterThe Limits of Limelight
Subtitle: Hollywood turned Ginger Rogers into a star. What will it do for her cousin?
Source: Author via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Pretty Oklahoma teenager Helen Nichols accepts an invitation from her cousin, rising movie actress Ginger Rogers, and her Aunt Lela, to try her luck in motion pictures. Her relatives, convinced that her looks and personality will ensure success, provide her with a new name and help her land a contract with RKO. As Phyllis Fraser, she swiftly discovers that Depression-era Hollywood’s surface glamour and glitter obscure the ceaseless struggle of the hopeful starlet.

Lela Rogers, intensely devoted to her daughter and her niece, outwardly accepting of her stage mother label, is nonetheless determined to establish her reputation as screenwriter, stage director, and studio talent scout. For Phyllis, she’s an inspiring model of grit and persistence in an industry run by men.

While Ginger soars to the heights of stardom in musicals with Fred Astaire, Phyllis is tempted by a career more fulfilling than the one she was thrust into. Should she continue working in films, or devote herself to the profession she’s dreamed about since childhood? And which choice might lead her to the lasting love that seems so elusive?

Genres: Biographical Fiction, Historical Fiction, Biography / Autobiography, Film History | Classic Hollywood

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9780990742012

on 14th September, 2021

Format: Trade Paperback

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Converse via: #HistFic or #HistNov as well as Biographical Historical Fiction
+ #LimitsOfLimelight, #GingerRogers and #ClassicFilms as well as #HFVBT

Available Formats: Trade paperback and Ebook

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via| Discussing Old Hollywood | with Margaret Porter

As an appreciator of Biographical Historical Fiction and of the Golden Age of Hollywood, I was quite chuffed to see you’ve now released two novels about two lovely actresses from that era. What first draws your eye to your chosen person to feature and how does your research into their life shape and influence the story you’ve devised to write ahead of time?

An obscure feature or incident in a relatively well-known person’s life grabs my attention, that that’s the seed from which a novel will sprout. All my life I’d known about Hedy Lamarr, because she was my late father’s favourite movie star crush. When my mother and I were dressed especially nicely, or formally, his habitual compliment was “You look just like Hedy Lamarr!” (More accurately of her than of me.) During my graduate studies in film, I was an avid viewer of classic cinema.

One day, I was doing an internet search on Golden Age female stars and studios—I think it might have been Katharine Hepburn and MGM. Hedy kept popping up as a hit, because they were both at that studio during the same period. Some of the news stories referred to her as the co-creator of spread-spectrum and frequency-hopping technology, in order to invent a wireless torpedo that would help the Allies in their fight against Hitler. This fascinating fact is more public today, due to the publication of several Hedy biographies and a couple of documentaries. I was writing about the royal court of 17th Century England at the time, but I filed the beautiful and brainy Hedy away as my next heroine.

Then, while writing Beautiful Invention: A Novel of Hedy Lamarr, I was researching some of her contemporaries and colleagues—Greer Garson, Bette Davis—and wondered if she was at all acquainted with Ginger Rogers. As I was tracking Ginger through Hollywood, using newspaper archives, I kept noticing references to her starlet cousin, Phyllis Fraser. What I read intrigued me. When I pursued additional information about her, and her relationship with Ginger and Ginger’s mother Lela, I knew I’d found my next subject!

Initially I do enough research about a person to determine the high and low points of her (or his) life, always seeking gaps in the historical record open to speculation, and my imagination fills in the mysteries. I create a simple plot outline and layer it and layer it, over time to construct a more intricate plot, fitting in the secondary characters. They are real people, too, and I’m determined to present them accurately as accurate as possible. The more I know, the more I want to know. I have to rein myself in a lot, so I don’t go off in tangents, and try to focus on fact-gathering directly connected to my plot and my characters.

That said, any excuse to watch a movie from Hollywood’s Golden Age is a delight, and I can always make the case that it’s “research.” I don’t only watch the ones my characters appear in, but lots more, looking for clues about lifestyle, travel, fashion. A 1930s film shows me what an ordinary person’s telephone looked like, and how it compared to a rich person’s. The clothing in those movies is always overstated, even regular people seem to be wearing the height of style for the time—during the Depression moviemakers relied on design in sets and costumes to provide escapism for the audiences. But that’s an easy way to discover what a refrigerator looked like back then, and a railway carriage, and cars, and so much more.

What stood out directly with the connection between Ginger & her cousin, Helen which sparked the idea for this novel?

I was so intrigued that Ginger wasted no time, hardly a moment, sweeping her cousin off to Hollywood. She came up with the plan, her mother Lela—extremely fond of Helen and fully aware of how bright and lively she was, agreed they should “adopt” her. Barely twenty-four hours later, the three of them boarded a train together. Ginger changed Helen’s name to Phyllis Fraser during the journey. That is absolutely true. Both of them describe it in almost exactly the same way, in their memoirs. Their cousinship was really a sisterhood. They had known each other since they were little girls. They were each other’s closest confidante and companion during those years trying to make it in the movies.

Obviously, Ginger fared so much better than Phyllis, in terms of stardom and career longevity and lasting fame. But she also provided Phyllis with a home, and occasionally, stopgap employment, until Phyllis was able to support herself. Ginger always took Phyllis along on her vacations, they played games and sports together. Someone who knew them both in a later stage of life, when they seldom saw each other, declared that the two behaved like sisters whenever they were together. Evidently, the years didn’t alter their relationship.

I’m drawn to stories that feature females being present for each other, helpful and encouraging. There’s no better example of that than Ginger and Phyllis and Lela.

What do you love most about writing the back-stories of persons we all might recognise from a distance but not know on a personal level until we’ve read your story?

Referring to something I mentioned earlier, I rely on the gaps in the historical record, the unknown incidents or space between known episodes in someone’s life that makes me ask, “I wonder what happened that we don’t or can’t know about? What was said? And done? And why? Or why not?” I strive to be as accurate and faithful as possible in my depictions of real people. But even ones like Ginger and Phyllis, who wrote or made recordings of their reminiscences, were selective in what they revealed, for reasons that we cannot be sure about. I want to draw a recognisable portrait for the reader. But I also treasure my role as a fiction writer, rather than a nonfiction biographer. My fact-based assumptions and interpretations and representations, I hope, are reflective of what might have occurred in reality. I certainly can’t prove that my imaginary episodes and made-up conversations really took place. But at the same time, nobody can disprove it!

Lastly, what are your favourite Classic films which interrelate to this novel and why?

I’ll start with Ginger’s films. It probably goes without saying that I love them all, but some more than others. The Gay Divorcee has a special place in my affections. It was the second film Ginger and Fred made together, but the first in which they were the stars, the leading couple. I find the situations ridiculous but funny, and the supporting cast is a delight. Plus, I just melt over “Night and Day,” that romantic Cole Porter number.

Then there’s Top Hat, with the wonderful Irving Berlin score. The plot is built on misunderstandings not unlike the ones in Gay Divorcee, but it doesn’t matter to me. I get a kick out of that totally fake-looking, sumptuous and gorgeous Venetian canalside hotel setting. And Ginger wears her famous feathery evening gown when she and Fred dance “Cheek to Cheek”—a source of conflict and controversy at the studio, as depicted in The Limits of Limelight. Incidentally, Ginger’s favorite of her films was Swing Time. Yes, I love that one as well. “The Way You Look Tonight,” sung by Fred, while Ginger’s head is covered with shampoo—classic! My favourite non-Fred, non-dancing Ginger films are Stage Door (reminds me of my days in the theatre) and Vivacious Lady, which contains one of the best catfight scenes in cinema. And Phyllis has a very, very brief moment with Jimmy Stewart.

I can’t claim that the films Phyllis made are as entertaining as Ginger’s. But I’ve watched them, I can always pick her out in a crowd, and sometimes she gets a line, or a few. In Tough to Handle, she even sings! In later life, she referred to the movies she made as “junk,” but in my opinion no more and no less than many of productions the studios were cranking out during the 1930s.

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Thank you, Ms Porter for such a conversational response and for giving me and everyone else following this lovely blog tour the chance to better understand your motivations and inspirations for telling these kinds of stories! Being a girl who has her heart half spent in the world of Art and half spent in the world of Science, I definitely want to seek out your other novel about Hedy as I found the whole premise of her story wicked fascinating — plus, as I’ve never had the chance to discover her yet on film, it would be a lovely way to become introduced to her before I pursue after her own career.

One of my favourite sub-niches of Historical Fiction are the Biographical Historical Fiction novels because they allow us to see persons of the historic past in a new lens of light – allowing us to peer directly into their lives and the persons they knew whilst they were alive as if we had hugged ourselves as close to them as we could without interferring with their lives at all. And, that is a truer blessing – to step back into that veil of time and better understand a person’s life as if we walked and lived it ourselves.

I must admit, too, I had no idea Ginger had a cousin who was attempting to break into Hollywood either – as sometimes, though I am aware of some actors/actresses have family in the business, it is harder to pin down how and whom are related. Especially if they have differnet stage names or their married, etc. The Barrymores were a bit easier to track and of course, I knew about a few others, too along the way, but for the most part I am always happily surprised who is related to whom! Laughs.

In regards to Ginger Rogers on film – I’ve mostly only have seen her paired with Astaire and ahead of this tour, I attempted to re-borrow the films I had watched through my local library however, I was dearly disappointed all those films are missing now. They only had one “Swing Time” and I’m waiting for it to arrive – though sadly, I cannot remember as much as I wished about “The Gay Divorcee”. Plus, I love Cole Porter — who wouldn’t? and had wanted to watch “Night and Day”. One day! I did find the Criterion Channel via Roku so perhaps that is an option in future, too.

I find through Biographical Historical Fiction we get this beautiful interpersonal look into that part of their life which they may or may not have revealled to us otherwise – as Ms Porter mentioned herself – sometimes people are more reserved about the details they want to share with the world or perhaps, through personal perservation feel they are not as inclined to be as open with everything at any given time for their own privacy. Whichever way it unfolds, writers like Porter give me a wicked good read as I get to follow persons of interest into the past and see how their lives could and must likely were once lived. And, for that – I am continously grateful.

Be sure to return this October when I am able to share my reactions to reading The Limits of Limelight as I have already begun reading it and am wholly enthused by what I’ve already round!

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This blog tour is courtesy of:

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours - HFVBT

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours!

Follow the Virtual Road Map

especially as there is a beautiful giveaway attached

whilst you visit others participating: along the route:

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 I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome! Likewise, if you’re a ready appreciator of Old Hollywood – which are your favourite actors/actresses of that particular era of interest and which are your top favourite films and why!?

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NOTE: Similar to blog tours wherein I feature book reviews, book spotlights (with or without extracts), book announcements (or Cover Reveals) – I may elect to feature an author, editor, narrator, publisher or other creative person connected to the book, audiobook, Indie film project or otherwise creative publishing medium being featured wherein the supplemental content on my blog is never compensated monetarily nor am I ever obligated to feature this kind of content. I provide (98.5%) of all questions and guest topics regularly featured on Jorie Loves A Story. I receive direct responses back to those enquiries by publicists, literary agents, authors, blog tour companies, etc of whom I am working with to bring these supplemental features and showcases to my blog. I am naturally curious about the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of stories and the writers who pen them: I have a heap of joy bringing this content to my readers. Whenever there is a conflict of connection I do disclose those connections per post and disclose the connection as it applies.

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “The Limits of Limelight”, book synopsis, author biography, author photograph of Margaret Porter the tour host badge and HFVBTs badge were all provided by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Writerly Topics (Guest Posts) banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Wednesday, 29 September, 2021 by jorielov in 20th Century, Blog Tour Host, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Reader Submitted Guest Post (Topic) for Author, the Fifties, the Forties, the Nineteen Hundreds, the Roaring Twenties, the Thirties, The World Wars

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