Saturday, July 31, 2010

Beth Hilton: Model (1961)

Lee Wyndham
1961, Julian Messner

"Honestly, Beth, the way you stumble along, I expect you to fall over the flowers in the rug!" Mother said after an exasperating half-hour of walking and pivoting instruction in the living room.

New Jersey girl Beth is 17 when the painful comparisons to her cousin Lissa, a model since childhood, and an unfortunate experience in a school fashion show prompt her to enroll in charm school. Initially, all she wants is to learn some grace and poise, but a chance meeting with an arrogant young photographer spurs her to a long-derided ambition - modeling. She scrapes her way into the Queen's Agency and, upon graduation from high school, enters the world of modeling in New York City.

During the fifty-three minutes she had spent before Alex Turner's camera, she had eaten a bite out of seventeen generously spread peanut-butter sandwiches - and after the first nine or ten, it wasn't easy to "glow" over The Product.

Meanwhile, jaded child model Lissa is growing dissatisfied with her own lot, yearning toward Hollywood and jealous of her heretofore meek cousin's new confidence and ambition. Matters come to a head during an ice storm on a mountain, surprisingly enough. Matters between Beth and the treacherous photographer Amos resolve somewhat earlier; it will be no surprise that the two have chemistry.

Wyndham's books are always clear and well-written, and make the most of the careers highlighted. With such a glamorous career, though, she seems to have been overly cautious. There are nice bits about the realities of modeling, but not as much atmosphere as you might hope. There is one very funny scene when Beth, at a shoot to model a wedding gown, finds herself locked out of the church as a sympathetic crowd gathers around her, thinking she's been jilted.

Clothing porn, of course:

Her number was a swash-buckled black broadtail, supple as finest fabric and cut like a smart cloth coat, with a large notched collar and a saucy black beret to top it off.

But not as much as you'd expect. There is a sense of serious purpose about the career of modeling; history is given, techniques discussed, and it's made clear that Beth's half-hearted jump into the field has to become something more if she hopes to be a success.

Beth was impressed. John Robert Powers had founded the very first model agency. She had read about him and his famous "long-stemmed American Beauties" - Powers Girls who went on from modeling to earn fame and fortune in other fields as well: as actresses, motion-picture stars, fashion directors, designers, stylists, fashion-show producers.

At the end of the book is a short piece titled "If You Want To Be A Model." In italics is the advice "Don't let anyone "sell" you on the idea of doing anything which you suspect is not right or proper."

Other Editions
1964 Tempo paperback

Author Bio
Jane Andrews Lee Hyndman aka Lee Wyndham was born in Russia in 1912. She came to the U.S. in 1923, and married in 1933. She worked in book publishing as an editor, for the Philadelphia Inquirer in the 1950s, and was a lecturer and columnist through the 1960s. This book draws on her own modeling experience. As a teacher at an NYU writing class, she taugh a young Judy Blume.


Young Adult Fiction
Candy Stripers, New York, Messner, 1958
Lady Architect, New York, Messner, 1957
Buttons and Beaux, with Louise Gallagher, New York, Dodd, Mead, 1953
Golden Slippers, Vera Bock, illustrator, New York, Longmans, Green, 1953
Dance to My Measure, New York, Messner, 1958
Slipper Under Glass, Vera Bock, illustrator, New York, Longmans, Green, 1952
Camel Bird Ranch, Bob Riger, illustrator, New York, Dodd, Mead, 1955

Children's Fiction
A Dance for Susie, Jane Miller, illustrator, New York, Dodd, Mead, 1953
On Your Toes, Susie!
Susie and the Ballet Family, Jane Miller, illustrator, New York, Dodd, Mead, 1955
Susie at Dance Camp
Family at Seven Chimney House
Sizzling Pan Ranch, Robert D. Logan, illustrator New York, T.Y., Crowell, 1951

First Book of Opera
Writing for Children and Teen-agers, New York, Writer's Digest, 1968
Florence Nightengale
Holidays In Scandinavia
Ballet For You
Thanksgiving, Hazel Hoecker, illustrator, New York, Garrard, 1963

Fairy Tales
The Mermaid and the Three Magic Rings
Russian Tales of Fabulous Beasts and marvels, retold by Lee Wyndham
Tales of Ancient Araby, New York, Watts, 1960
Tales from the Arabian Nights, Robert J. Lee, il, Racine, Whitman Publishing Co., 1965
Chinese Mother Goose Rhymes
The winter child; an old Russian folktale retold by Lee Wyndham

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ever After (1948)

Ever After
Phyllis Whitney, il. Elinor Darby (cover)
1948, Houghton Mifflin Company

The blue eyes that took in everything and gave out nothing examined Marel critically, coveted her hat and came wearily to rest when they reached her portfolio.
"Oh," she said. "One of those. Just out of art school, I suppose?"

Margaret Elizabeth "Marel" Pope comes to New York City from Chicago determined to make her way as an illstrator of children's books. When her initial interview at Embree Studios ends in the gentle observation that her drawings lack life, Marel goes off freshly determined to improve her work and win a place there. She luckily has a wealthy aunt, Peggy, whose fame as a hatmaker has resulted in a penthouse apartment she's opened to her struggling niece.

Marel won't stay long with Peggy. She quickly befriends a young writer, Chris Mallory, and they fall in love. But with postwar housing at a premium, the young couple can only find a tiny studio, which blows the problems of their early months of marriage all out of proportion. Does Marel believe that a woman can't have a career and a husband, as so many of her friends claim?

Whitney had a talent for summing people up. Marel's cynical coworker Gail:
...a tall, rather brassy-looking girl came to the door of the waiting room. No hair could ever have grown that color, but it was beautiful, sleekly combed and certainly eye-taking. She'd have been quite pretty except for the hard lines about her mouth and the suspicious way her blue eyes regarded the world.

The romance is quite nice, and Chris is a model young husband, willingly sharing the chores in a very modern way. Everything, in fact, is very 21st century until Marel realizes, as have so many heroines in so many romances, that their problems are all her fault.
About the author
Phyllis Ayame Whitney worked in libraries and bookstores in Chicago before marrying George A. Garner in 1925. They had a daughter, Georgia, in 1934. She worked for the Chicago Sun and the Philadelphia Inquirer during the 1940s. Her first book, A Place For Ann, was published in 1941. In 1950 she re-married; according to her NYT obituary, she divorced Garner in 1945 partly because he was not supportive of her writing. Two of her mysteries for children won the Edgar Allen Poe Award, and she was awarded the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1988.
Books for teens
Nobody Likes Trina (friendship)
The Fire And The Gold (early San Francisco)
A Long Time Coming (migrant workers)
Step To The Music (Civil War)
Linda's Homecoming
Willow Hill (race)
A Place For Ann

Creole Holiday (acting)
The Highest Dream (working at the UN)
Love Me, Love Me Not
The Silver Inkwell (writer)
A Window For Julie (window dresser)
A Star For Ginny (illustrator)


Other editions