The Girls in the Picture

It is 1914, and twenty-five-year-old Frances Marion has left her (second) husband and her Northern California home for the lure of Los Angeles, where she is determined to live independently as an artist. But the word on everyone’s lips these days is “flickers”—the silent moving pictures enthralling theatergoers. Turn any corner in this burgeoning town and you’ll find made-up actors running around, as a movie camera captures it all.

In this fledgling industry, Frances finds her true calling: writing stories for this wondrous new medium. She also makes the acquaintance of actress Mary Pickford, whose signature golden curls and lively spirit have given her the title of America’s Sweetheart. The two ambitious young women hit it off instantly, their kinship fomented by their mutual fever to create, to move audiences to a frenzy, to start a revolution.

But their ambitions are challenged both by the men around them and the limitations imposed on their gender—and their astronomical success could come at a price. As Mary, the world’s highest paid and most beloved actress, struggles to live her life under the spotlight, she also wonders if it is possible to find love, even with the dashing actor Douglas Fairbanks. Frances, too, longs to share her life with someone. As in any good Hollywood story, dramas will play out, personalities will clash, and even the deepest friendships might be shattered.

With cameos from such notables as Charlie Chaplin, Louis B. Mayer, Rudolph Valentino, and Lillian Gish, The Girls in the Picture is, at its heart, a story of friendship and forgiveness. Melanie Benjamin perfectly captures the dawn of a glittering new era—its myths and icons, its possibilities and potential, and its seduction and heartbreak.

News & Awards

Featured in NPR Books
Featured in USA Today
Chosen as one of Southern Living’s “Books Coming Out That We Can’t Wait to Read This Winter”
Chosen as one of PopSugar’s best books of Winter 2018
Named a Barnes and Noble top fiction pick for January 2018
Named one of Real Simple’s “Best Books of 2018 (So Far)”
Named one of BookBub’s “Best Historical Fiction 2018”


“In the era of #MeToo, Girls could not be more timely—or troubling—about the treatment of women in the workplace. Benjamin has a flair for historical fiction about women’s lives…. As Hollywood preps for an Oscars season riven with the sexual mistreatment scandal, the rest of us can settle in with this rich exploration of two Hollywood friends who shaped the movies.”
USA Today (Read full review)

“Melanie Benjamin, who has built an entire oeuvre out of dramatizing the lives of real historical heroines, delivers what in Variety lingo would be termed a boffo production with The Girls in the Picture, the saga of Pickford and Marion from the first flush of their friendship to its ignominious end…. One of the pleasures of The Girls in the Picture its no-males-necessary alliance of two determined females—#TimesUp before its time….Inspiration is a rare and unexpected gift in a book filled with the fluff of Hollywood, but Benjamin provides it with The Girls in the Picture.”
NPR (Read full review)

“Benjamin fully captures the giddy excitement of the blossoming movie business in the 1910s and 1920s and has chosen intriguingly flawed protagonists with compelling life stories that aren’t widely known today. This engrossing and rewarding read provides the same mixture of well-researched plot and fascinating characters who have made Benjamin’s previous novels so outstanding.”
Library Journal, Starred Review
“Benjamin immerses readers in the whirlwind excitement of Mary’s and Frances’ lives while portraying a rarely seen character, an early woman screenwriter, and deftly exploring the complexities of female friendship.”
Library Journal

The Girls in the Picture is at its core, an empowering and fascinating tale of sisterhood. This deeply affecting story of the birth of cinema pulls back the veil of Hollywood to reveal the stories of two iconic women who played integral roles in building the entertainment industry from the ground up. Mary Pickford and Frances Marion were entrepreneurial, savvy, brilliant, courageous and vulnerable, and through their eyes we learn so much of what it took to defy the status quo and build an empire. This sublime historical fiction reads like an intimate memoir. Melanie Benjamin has resurrected these women in telling the story of their friendship. This book isn’t just timely, it’s necessary!”
—Bryce Dallas Howard

“Benjamin, known for her living, breathing portraits of famous figures, takes on The Golden Age of Hollywood, and the friendship between icons Mary Pickford and screenwriter Frances Marion. As riveting as the latest blockbuster, this is a star-studded story of female friendships, creative sparks about to ignite, and the power of women. Dazzling.”
—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author

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