Bleu’s Reviews: When No One Is Watching

For Black History Month I was committed to reading books written by black authors. It’s something I’m working on in general but I wanted to especially read one for the month. The next book on my read list is a book written by a black female author in a genre where we as individuals re grossly under-represented. Alyssa Cole has written a novel that shares a sinister twist on gentrification and how it impacts a historically black neighborhood and I was absolutely here for it. As always there may be spoilers in this review so if you’re planning to read I’d wait and come back. This book also is heavy on the trigger warning. There are serious racial themes in this book that will absolutely get your dander up. I’ll be talking about that later as well. There’s a murder scene described in this book that could also be upsetting to some people, just keep that in mind.

I really enjoyed the idea behind the book, as someone who has had the benefit of growing up in my childhood home I know exactly what Sydney was feeling. Coming back to a neighborhood with so many memories and finding out something was amiss. I had no conspiracies to blame for my neighborhood changes, and the block of Walton Ave. hasn’t been gentrified yet. The older home owners passed on and thankfully their loved ones either moved in to take over the property or put people who look like us in their spot. Other neighborhoods were not so lucky, in fact the apartment I moved from before moving into our house was surrounded by properties newly owned by every other race besides those who inhabited them for decades. 

Which brings me back to what I enjoyed so much about this book. Gentrification though unfortunate isn’t technically sinister, however the very real ways people find themselves victimized in an unfair housing market does color gentrification in a different light. I applaud Cole’s skill with weaving a very common, innocuous thing like the ebbs and flow of housing to create a thought provoking and truly suspenseful body of work 

The book did creep along in setting up the mystery at one point I did check to see if I was reading what was billed as a thriller, but once the action started it kept going until we careened to a stop at the end. On the back of the book its compared to The Rear Window, which I’ve never read nor seen, and Get Out which I’ve watched several times. I definitely got the Get Out vibes once the plot unfurled. 

I thought the characters in this book were amazingly written. I felt like i knew or had come into contact with each and every last one of them. Mr. Perkins reminds me a lot of my father in law. Ms. Candace like one of my many aunts. These neighborhood staples are also family roles that many of us needed filled. To have that community that grows up with and around you, Cole did an amazing job at weaving what I’m sure are real world people into her book. 

Sydney was a great main character she was strong but not too strong to ask for help, there was something broken about her but she was still resilient through the end. She had a constant vulnerability but never allowed it to swallow her up. She was me at times, battling through the stress of life while simultaneously dealing with all the horrible curve balls it can throw at you. I felt her loss and her frustration. Sydney was as everyday as any woman I have ever known, she just happened to stumble across a hidden conspiracy. She wasn’t a damsel in distress, she was a woman who needed some backup. I felt that. I’d love more of Sydney, I’m a sucker for a well written character. 

I thought making Theo a poor white man was a nice touch. He could’ve been any race or economic background but the author chose a poor white man to be the one to help our black female lead in this racial conspiracy plot.  His character was able to divulge parts of the plot that Sydney’s perspective wouldn’t have offered. His skin color was literally a key to a world being hidden in plain sight. We as the reader needed this, him being from a lower class made his character more relatable but also more realistic. In a situation where rich white people are taking over the neighborhood the poor white guy who’s known struggle and unfairness would side with the black people. 

I liked the elements that this one character was able to add to the book. He wasn’t a part of the shadow society moving behind the scenes but he definitely saw how they reaped the benefits. He could’ve easily walked away from it all, taken advantage of all that was being offered to him from the shadow people or he could’ve just stayed silent and still gotten the perks. It’s the very real decision those who call themselves allies face everyday. Which is what made his addition so important. He was constantly being questioned, even in the final moments of the book, yet he never waivered. He was genuine and again I’m a sucker for a well written character. 

I’m trying to expand my reading tastes, so I’ve been shaking up my book selection going for stories that sound interesting whether there’s magic involved or not. I found this on a book list from Goodreads, I can’t recall where if I’m being totally honest. I purchased it shortly after, I did get a lot of mixed reviews about the story but I can say that once I reached the midpoint I was hooked on this book.

Did You Read When No One Is Watching? What Did You Think?

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IRL: (In Real Life) Oz Is Racist

The Wizard of Oz has been called a political allegory inspired by the real life economic struggles during the early 19th century, but Wicked seems to be a social commentary on racial injustice and discrimination. Throughout the book we see as our main character, Elphaba, who is green being treated unfairly due to her skin color. We witness the discrimination of sentient beings by the mistreatment of the Animals vs the animals and the classism of Oz as the Quadlings are murdered for being less intelligent. All of these mirror the very real life landscape of racial injustice people of color have faced in America and around the world. The ranking of Ozians based on societal values also loosely mirrors the caste system where humans are treated differently based on skin color and socio-economic standing.

Did You Read The Original Wizard of Oz?

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IRL: (In Real Life) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Wicked and The Wicked Years Series is a retelling of The Wizard of Oz, from the perspective of Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West. However, the original Oz series was published 95 years before by author L. Frank Baum. This IRL is dedicated to the Original Wizard of Oz Series. Read More Below.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published in 1900 by American children’s author L. Frank Baum in 1900 when he was 44. By his death in 1919 he had written 13 other books set in the magical land of Oz, as well as 41 other novels excluding 4 lost, unpublished novels, 83 short stories, over 200 poems, and at least 42 scripts.

Most of the characters from Wicked seem to be from the original Wizard of Oz, however, Madame Morrible and Doctor Dillamond seem to have been specifically created for the purposes of our story.

The Wizard of Oz was received with critical acclaim when it was first released in 1900 and has become a classic among American literature. A well known children’s story, the first installment has been considered a political allegory by economists. The book is said to be inspired by the real life economic struggles during the Gold Standard, in the early 19th century.

During the filming of The Wizard of Oz several tragedies occurred that inspired the rumor about the film being cursed. The Tin Man’s makeup was silver in color and contained aluminum powder, which actor Jed Clampett was severely allergic to, causing him to spend weeks in the hospital barely able to breathe and suffering muscle contractions and more time away from the studio to fully recover. While he was gone Clampett’s job was given away to actor Jack Haley. Haley’s costume was so stiff that the only way he got a rest was by using a leaning board. The Cowardly Lion’s costume was made from real lion hide, weighed tons and was dangerously hot. Margaret Hamilton who played the Wicked Witch was severely burned during filming and her stunt double was also injured in another on-set accident. Judy Garland was given a steady stream of adrenaline shots to pep her up during filming and then Seconal to help her sleep at night. The snow in the poppy scene was pure asbestos chrysotile fibers. The Scarecrow’s costume and the Wicked Witch’s broom were also made from the carcinogenic material.

It is generally accepted that Dorothy is from Kansas but L. Frank Baum never stated which town. In 1981, a house was moved to the grounds of the Coronado Museum and transformed into a replica of the house shown in the movie and Kansas Governor John Carlin recognized it as the official home of Dorothy Gale. A 5,000 square foot “Land of Oz” which was originally displayed in Topeka was moved adjacent to Dorothy’s house in 1992. Visitors can tour both attraction for $7.

Special thanks to @BewareTheSphere from Redditt who did the math to confirm this. According to the original novel despite Dorothy only being asleep a few hours, she was actually in Oz for approximately 52 days. Spending several days and nights traversing the Ozian terrain before Glinda sends her home.

Just like in Wicked the original Wizard of Oz featured silver slippers instead of ruby ones. MGM was content to leave them silver however, since the movie was going to be in Technicolor, studio heads decided to change the shoes to Ruby as the bright red would contrast better against the yellow brick road.

Did You Read The Original Wizard of Oz?

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IRL: (In Real Life) Water Allergies

In Wicked, Elphaba is green and has an allergy to water. Though a rare condition, having a water allergy is a very real affliction. Called Aquagenic Urticaria, a person’s skin can develop red, itchy hives after exposure to water. Approximately 50 cases of the condition have been reported in medical literature.

It was first reported in 1964. In aquagenic urticaria, hives appear on the skin, usually on the chest, abdomen, pelvis, back and/or arms after exposure to water. The hives occur when the skin comes into contact with any type of water, including rain, snow, sweat and tears. In severe cases, it can cause wheezing or shortness of breath. Women are more affected than men. The hives can last 30 minutes to 2 hours before going away. Treatments are available but symptoms usually go away on their own.

Reactions do not typically occur when drinking water because the water doesn’t touch the skin. Some people may experience symptoms on the lips or inside the mouth. Since water avoidance is not a realistic practice, treatment with medications is often needed.

Treatments can be antihistamines, topical medications are effective in most cases. Creams form a barrier between the skin and water. The creams are usually petroleum-based or an oil-in-water emulsion, topical medications are effective in many cases. Ointments can help form a barrier between the skin and water. Patients are advised to apply a cream or an oil-in-water emulsion prior to water exposure. If oral antihistamines and topical treatments are not effective, there are other options. Phototherapy has been used to treat aquagenic urticaria successfully in some patients.

Did You Know That Water Allergies Was A Real Condition?

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Bleu’s Reviews: Dorothy Must Die

I just finished reading Dorothy Must Die and my very first thoughts on this book is Mission Failed. Hate to spoil it for everyone but, Shocker, Dorothy Does Not Die in book one! Instead it appears that our group of revolutionaries will be hunting down her friends and taking them out first. From a tactical standpoint it makes the most sense and should’ve been the plan from the beginning but we made it through 445 pages before they bothered to clue us in on how to really KILL Dorothy, allegedly, so that the writer and publishing house can cash in on our collective frustration.

So how did we even get here? Why am I rallying for Dorothy’s head on a spike? It actually started with a tornado, but this time instead of bringing Dorothy to Oz to slay a “wicked witch” the possibly self aware winds ran through Dusty Acres and grabbed itself an Amy Gumm.

Amy is our protagonist of the story and sadly, her life absolutely sucks. She is living in a trailer park with her substance addicted mom who is so far gone she leaves her teenaged daughter to fend for herself while she goes to “party” during an imminent tornado. Her father abandoned her and her mother possibly before the drug addiction maybe after, to start his life over with a new wife and new kids.

Amy is bullied at school for being poor, living in a trailer park, having a junkie for a mom and for generally being what most would call “undesirable” she is smart, her teachers acknowledge this and even we see she’s quick witted often being chastised for her sarcasm.

On what could possibly be considered. The WORST day of Amy’s life she gets in trouble for NOT fighting a pregnant girl. “Madeline Pendleton” a minor character because we won’t see her again, is a mean girl even though she’s clearly in her third trimester. At this school being poor is a punishable offense but being a teen mom gets you street cred I guess.
Madeline attacks Amy after they have a verbal exchange Madeline started and I’ve never wanted to punch a pregnant person more than in the first few pages of this book.

Thankfully the tornado comes and gets Amy out of Kansas before I ripped the book in half with my bare hands. Your life has to suck if being transported to a magical wasteland being siphoned of all magic is still an upgrade to your previous existence.
The book mentions someone must have summoned the tornado but no one knows who that is and by the end of the book the ONLY thing we know is that it obviously wasn’t Dorothy.

We travel with Amy in this warped version of Oz as she meets a peculiar group of characters who explain just what happened to the Wonderful World. After the credits rolled on the digitally remastered version of the movie, Dorothy realized that no one knew or even gave a crap about her adventures in Oz. She found herself back in Kansas with Aunt Em and the farm hands basic as she always was. Whether she landed back in 1900s Kansas when the original story was written or the 1940s Kansas of Judy Garland’s remake I’m not sure but either version bored poor Dorothy enough that she found a way back over the rainbow.
Once back in Oz, Dorothy finds the crown has changed hands several times, she becomes a princess and Glinda even teaches her magic. Still wielding the ruby slippers Dorothy becomes corrupt and her wickedness corrupts the Scarecrow, The Tin Woodsman and The Cowardly Lion. It’s unclear if Glinda was corrupted AFTER Dorothy returned or if the Good Witch of the North became Wicked after Dorothy left the first time.

All of this information had been provided by our first set of characters Pete, Indigo and Ollie the formerly flying monkey. Amy is rescued by Pete a very weird very handsome young man, who helps her out of her trailer before it falls into a never ending chasm. Pete also sets her down the yellow brick road which is crumbling and broken. Then he disappears a behavioral pattern he keeps up throughout the book.

Amy runs into Indigo in Munchkinland and gets a brief history on Oz to date as well as the run down on Glinda, a substance called Perma Smile, munchkin servitude and mining for magic. Indigo is sassy, has cool tattoos that tell the story of Oz before Dorothy came to power and has one of the worst death scenes I’ve ever seen in a book. She basically gets turned to sea foam in the middle of a forest, you’ll have to read it.

This all happens because Amy is determined to free a chained monkey named Ollie. At first he seems to be the reason Indigo dies and Amy is imprisoned but he becomes more crucial to the story later on. Amy seeing him chained in the woods, labeled a prisoner decides to free him. Doing so alerts the tin man and his tin soldiers, a group of deadly cyborg minions. Ollie runs leaving them to their fates which I think is in poor taste and Amy gets her first audience with Dorothy.

I love a food retelling. Make the story dark and twisted and you’re speaking my literary love language. Seeing this books version of Dorothy Gale gives me the feels. She is spoiled, ill tempered, cruel and a little insane. She’s spent years gathering power, becoming feared and unchallenged that she is more than confident no one could ever defeat her. You really do want them to kill her by the end of the book. But like any true villain, it’s never that easy. Especially when she has a vicious inner circle that’ll keep her in power.

The Twisted Inner Circle of Dorothy

The Scarecrow has an obsession with brains and becoming smarter. He does weird experiments on people and has a special brain goo serum he gets Astrid the maid to help him with. The most disturbing thing he can do is reanimate a corpse. A fate we see one of our heroes experience.

The Tin Man also has a weird lab and he also does strange experiments on people. Replacing their body parts with various mechanical parts like swords bicycle tires. His tin soldiers are usually forced into servitude. He has a twisted love for Dorothy which is unrequited as he is basically a robot with a human heart.

The Cowardly Lion does not have a laboratory instead he lives out in the forest with a zoo of menacing carnivores. He consumes fear from his victims and feeds them to his hungry hoard. He eats people, mauls them, general Lion things. He seems to be the muscle a Lion on steroids. Power unchecked.

One of the worst things about this book is the senseless death of Gert. To know why this is pointless we must first know the order of the Wicked.

The Order of the Wicked

Amy is rescued from Dorothy’s clutches by a witch named Mombi. Mombi is considered a Wicked witch which doesn’t mean much in Dorothy’s Oz. Mombi is a “good guy” in this world and she came to save Amy if Amy agrees to fight her way out of the dungeon. Amy agrees and off they go fighting tin soldiers and running like hell.

Mombie leaves Amy in a cave and that cave leads to Gert. Gert was once the Good Witch of the North. Obviously before Glinda and definitely before the classification as a wicked witch. But now she is considered wicked despite still fighting to defeat Dorothy. Gert is warm and welcoming, she convinces Amy to trust her, shares with her that she can read minds. She gets her into the spring and almost drowns her. Intentionally so that the healing waters could save her. But it is this moment that we may understand the reasoning behind her new title. A hilarious moment in the book by the way. It really sent home the message that no one is to be trusted in this version of Oz. Yet Gert proves to be the maternal figure that Amy desperately needed teaching her magic and helping her accept her place in the new OZ.

Amy is destined to be there, as the other girl from Kansas, the third Other Worlder to be present in Oz Gert is the first kind face she sees and Gert sacrifices herself for what I’m gonna say is absolutely nothing. During what was billed as a major battle fizzles very anticlimactically. Gert uses all of her power and might to siphon the Lions Courage from his body, his muscles shrink and he flees the forest. Gert dies in that very field without any proof that it did something to help them.

It’s here that I start to question Amy’s ability to get the job done. It’s one thing to tell her she has to “Kill Dorothy” it’s a completely different thing to watch as she continues to forget she’s in a war. Amy has too many feelings to be an assassin, this may stop her from being corrupted like Dorothy but it may also get her and everyone else killed.

When she first gets to the caves she meets Glamora, the very glamorous “evil twin” sister of Glinda. She obviously made a deal for her magic, sacrificing the ability to cry real tears she wields powerful magic and cries diamonds instead. Glamora teaches her proper etiquette and the culture and customs of Oz. Amy isn’t sure why all this matters until she’s neck deep under cover and relying on each mundane skill to get her through.

She relied most on her physical training from the only male wizard she meets in “The Order” he is around her age, apparently her type and has a backstory that makes your heart melt. Through eavesdropping in the chapters we hear the plan from Glamora and Gert that pitches the possibility of a relationship between the two teens.

My only real issue with young adult novels is the unwritten rule that says the protagonist a female of high school age cannot become the heroine in the story without first succumbing to her girly whims and falling for the first attractive guy aiding her in her quest. Nox was the sole survivor in his town following a visit from the Lion, the Tin Man or both. For years after that sad beginning he was a homeless child living off the mercy or malice of strangers. He was finally found by Mombi and turned into a hardened warrior, they’re hoping to turn Amy into something similar.

Nox and Amy spar for what feels like less than a month but what could’ve been a year, after she defeats one of the sentries having fought and lost to her repeatedly before, Mombi decides the one win for Amy means she’s ready. The group then splits up, leaving the best trained fighters and Glamora to guard their cavernous hideout in the Gilikin country while Mombi, Gert, Nox and a newly trained Amy go off to fight the lion.

Mombi gets tied up trying to rescue any remaining children from the neighboring town that the Lion slaughtered and Nox and Amy seek out the Lion and his gruesome menagerie. When they find him they send off a flare alerting the others of their location and are immediately attacked by flying monkeys.

Remembering the ONE flying monkey she saved who abandoned her after she freed him, Amy feels a bit of remorse and it almost costs her and Nox their lives. Amy has several of these inconvenient moments of conscience that finds her failing to act immediately. She does this a few more times and it costs her a shot at Dorothy in my not so humble opinion.
Suffice it to say that as a reader of books I’m no trained assassin but; if the only job I HAD to do was to collect information about your nemesis and wait for a signal, I’m sure I could handle that.

Amy cannot. She gets caught by the wizard using Dorothy’s magic oil painting. When Jellia gets her a job as Dorothy’s second handmade, she fumbles the opportunity. By helping Maude, Ollie’s sister, she gains allies with the wingless monkeys but ruins the mission she was already on from The Order of the Wicked.

If I’m being honest I was proud of Amy during her daring rescue of Maude the monkey. She and Ollie turn out to be useful helpers of the Wizard but only after Jellia gives herself up to save Amy and the Wicked Order breaches the castle.

In what could only be explained as the world’s most wtf moment in literary history. Dorothy who had no magic, was hurdling to the ground thanks to Amy who finally figured out HOW to kill Dorothy. Instead of stabbing her, she threw Dorothy and herself over a high balcony and was planning to kill them both. Yet somehow Dorothy mustered enough magic to click her heels three times and vanish into thin air.

Maude and Ollie rescue Amy from going splat but also transport her to the Wizard and away from the Wicked Order, because the Wizard has a story to tell about HIS great plan that he and Mombi couldn’t agree on before Amy got to Oz.
Our Order of the Wicked had the right idea and even Gert seemed to be working towards actually accomplishing the task, yet no one completely got it right.

In a weird twist, The Wizard reveals that the only way to kill Dorothy is to neutralize those keeping her in power. To do this, they must take the Tin Man’s heart, Steal The Scarecrow’s brain and remove The Lion’s courage. I’m sure you’ll have to snap Glinda’s wand or her neck, whichever gets the job done and ONLY THEN can Dorothy die.

I’m sure that’ll be the premise for the next two books though from what I read of the reviews it’s not as simple as just taking them out sniper style. The group will most likely need to do test the boundaries between Good and Evil, one of the book’s overarching themes.

The other would be the power of transformation. Down to the very last second we see characters we’ve always perceived as “Good” transform and warp into villainous versions of themselves. While in the same interactions we see beings who have long since been considered immoral making crucial decisions to save Oz.

We see Dorothy going from childhood hero to tyrannical despot, Glinda transform from Good Witch, moral compass of Dorothy and her friends to a magic wielding hellion tormenting munchkins. Her devotion to Dorothy the reason for why she has enslaved Munchkinlanders.

The scarecrow, who only needed a brain, transformed by his thirst to expand his knowledge has become a maniacal surgeon using his newfound skills to experiment on innocent Ozians. The Tin Man, the mechanical man with a human heart, mutates his victims into hybrid robots forced into military service for the sake of Dorothy. His love for her has been corrupted to protect her above all else.

The cowardly Lion has been able to transform his fear as well as the fear of other’s into courage, the magic amplifying his courage into a steroid that beefs him up and makes him more menacing than his former frightened self. He hungers for fear, and needs it to thrive.

Amy’s transformation is more traditional. She goes from being unloved, abandoned and powerless to a warrior witch battling Oz’s greatest villains. She evolves down in the caves, learning all that Glamora, Gert and Nox can teach her and coming into her own as a skilled adversary. We find her struggling to come to terms with what she must do and deciding what the true definition of Good vs Wicked in the process. Nox really drills the transformation home giving her a magical knife with a bug that transforms into a butterfly. Amy is meant to be the butterfly and the series will show her blossom into that.

I really enjoyed the series, despite it’s YA overtones and failure to complete the mission, Dorothy Must Die, really was an enjoyable read. I’m adding the remaining books and the prequels to my TBR. Right after I finish The Wicked Years series.

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IRL: (In Real Life) Ava Gardener’s Secret Conversations

Ava Gardner was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars during the 1940s and 1950s, an Oscar nominated actress she co- starred with Clark Gable, Burt Lancaster, and Humphrey Bogart over the span of her career. Born Ava Lavinia Gardner, she was the youngest of seven children from Grabtown, North Carolina. Her career began at age 18, after her brother in law displayed her photo in the front window of his Tarr Photography Studio on Fifth Avenue.

In 1988 following a stroke which paralyzed the left side of her face and after having been diagnosed with emphysema which wreaked havoc on her vocal chords,she’d convinced British author, Peter Evans to ghost write her memoirs. The book based on conversations Evans had with Gardner between 1988 and 1990. Didn’t see publication until 2013, after both Evans and Gardener has passed on.

Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations detailed her transition to Hollywood “It Girl” from her beginnings as an unknown in rural North Carolina. Her thoughts on Hollywood and the people in it it also included personal accounts of her notable dallainces including (but not limited to ) her marriages to actor Mickey Rooney, crooner Frank Sinatra and band leader Artie Shaw.

Gardener stated the reasoning behind the book was money. “I either write the book or sell the jewels,” Gardner told coauthor Peter Evans, “and I’m kinda sentimental about the jewels.”

Though the pair worked on the book for two years the project was inevitably aborted by Ava. Ex husband, Frank Sinatra, and co-author Peter Evans had bad blood between them. Sinatra had previously sued Evans for a previous article written. It is speculated that Sinatra asked Gardner how much she stood to make from the book, then gave her that amount to shut down the project.

In 2009, approximately twenty years after her death, her estate gave Evans the greenlight to move forward with the book. Evans had still been working on the piece when he passed away in August of 2012 at the age of 78. The book was published in July 2, 2013.

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IRL: (In Real Life) Rita Hayworth & The Star System

In The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo in order to reach the level of stardom she craved Evelyn Hugo had to undergo a complete transformation and recreate herself as per the studio standards. However, the Star System machine that existed in the book was a real thing.

In 1910, Independent Moving Picture Company advertised and credited “stars” like Little Mary, King of the Movies and The Biograph Girl making them household names an idea that generated publicity and skyrocketed ticket sales. Fan magazines like Photoplay and Motion Picture Magazine were published in 1916 garnering close to half a million.

Filmmakers like Cecil B. Demille exploited the public’s fascination with celebrities by using close – ups, filling the screen with gorgeous faces would soon become the trade mark of Hollywood. Stars like Mary Pickford (Little Mary), William King Baggot (King of the Movies) and Florence Lawrence (The Biograph Girl) became household names, ushering in a new way of production.

From the late 20s to the early 60s studios created and managed movie stars based on idealistic personas, fitting into real life public characters was emphasized more than whether or not the celebrities were talented actors/actresses. Studios molded and publicized their stable. Actors were contractually obligated to promote and protect these personas.

The star system was standard practice by the mid-1930s. All casting was type casting, and names of stars-to-be were often changed to fit archetypes. With the exception of gangsters, leading actors played idealized characters largely based on historical, romance, adventure or Western novels. On-screen wholesomeness was strict enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code, not even movies’ gangsters missed a shave or swore on screen. Meanwhile, studio publicists built wholesome off-screen images of stars that no actor could live up to and covered up scandals when actors did not.

“A star is made, created; carefully and cold-bloodedly built up from nothing,” said Louis B. Mayer. “All I ever looked for was a face. If someone looked good to me, I’d have him tested. If a person looked good on film, if he photographed well, we could do the rest.”

Star making could include changing the actor’s name; coaching the actor in diction, posture, horseback riding, dancing, singing, fencing, and other skills; physical enhancements could include makeup, hair styling and hair replacement; fitness training and cosmetic surgery.

During the 1950s Hollywood made stars our of Roy Scherer (Rock Hudson), Norma Mortensen (Marilyn Monroe), Ira Grossel (Jeff Chandler), Bernard Schwartz (Tony Curtis), Alexandra Zuck (Sandra Dee) and Eugene Orwitz (Michael Landon).

Excerpt from The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
“I knew what it would mean, playing Jo. I knew Jo was a white woman. And still, I wanted it. I hadn’t gotten on my back just to take baby step. “Jo,” I said. “Give me Jo.” And in so doing, I set the star machine in motion.”
Harry introduced me to studio stylist Gwendolyn Peters. Gwen bleached my hair and cut it to a shoulder length bob. She shaped my eyebrows. She plucked my widow’s peak. I met with a nutritionist, who made me lose six pounds exactly, mostly by taking up smoking and replacing some meals with cabbage soup. I met with an elocutionist, who got rid of the New York in my English, who banished Spanish entirely.
And then, of course, there was the three -page questionnaire I had to fill out about my life until then… “From now on, your mother died in an accident, leaving your father to raise you. He worked as a builder in Manhattan, and on weekends during the summer, he’d take you to Coney Island. If anyone asks , you love tennis and swimming, and you have a Saint Bernard named Roger.”
I sat for at least 100 publicity photos…it was sometime during those weeks of photo shoots that it hit me.
“I was being designed to be two opposite things, a complicated image that was hard to dissect but easy to grab on to. I was supposed to be both naïve and erotic. It was as if I was too wholesome to understand the unwholesome thoughts you were having about me.”

Very similar to the transformation Evelyn Hugo had to undergo, Maragarita Cansino’s transformation to Rita Hayward was just as grueling. Born to a spanish and an Irish – American mother, her arrival to Hollywood in the 1930s saw an exhaustive makeover that eliminated most traces of her ethnicity and transformed her into the woman we know today. In addition to restrictive diets and extreme exercise regimens she was also convinced to abandon her birth name and went through two years of painful electrolysis to change her low, dark hairline.
She was cast as someone who was worth years of investment and work, whose ambition propelled her past what Hollywood considered her “faults” and who, despite being completely manufactured, somehow still retained a genuine appeal. This paradox persists to this day: we want to know that stars, despite their fame and fortune, really are “just like us.”

Even though her ethnicity itself was used as a marker of the fact that she was an authentic star worth uncovering through years of careful production. One of her greatest paradoxes, “is that she can be read as ethnic or American, but also as ethnic and therefore American.”

To attain her coveted spot in Hollywood, Hayworth had to transcend not just her waistline or her hairline, but her own ethnicity, writes McLean—even though her ethnicity itself was used as a marker of the fact that she was an authentic star worth uncovering through years of careful production. One of her greatest paradoxes, “is that she can be read as ethnic or American, but also as ethnic and therefore American.”

Did you know about The Star System? Which celebrities do you know by different names? Leave A Comment Below!

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IRL: (In Real Life) The Seven Husbands of Elizabeth Taylor

Just like our title character Evelyn Hugo, starlet Elizabeth Taylor had Seven husbands of her own. She was actually married a total of Eight times, marrying one lucky man twice. In Real Life who were the Seven husbands of Elizabeth Taylor.

Hubby #1 (1950-1951) was hotel magnate Conrad Nicky Hilton, they were married for just under a year much like Evelyn’s first marriage to Ernie Diaz. However, more like her marriage to Don Adler, Elizabeth’s first marriage to Conrad was organized by MGM studios. Liz wanted was eager to marry young, as she was brought up with puritanical beliefs. Unfortunately; just like Evelyn, she soon regretted the decision. The Hilton heir was apparently an abusive alcoholic, much like Don. Lucky for Elizabeth Taylor, the pair divorced after only eight months.

Hubby #2 (1952 – 1957) A year after she divorced Conrad Hilton, she married British actor Michael Wilding. He was 20 years older than she and the pair had two sons Michael and Christopher. Allegedly three years into the marriage Wilding booked strippers to visit him in their home while Liz was filming a movie. After five years of marriage the couple divorced.

Hubby# 3 (1957 – 1958) Never to stay unwed for too long, Liz married producer, Michael Todd one month after finalizing her divorce from Michael Wilding. They got married while she was pregnant with their child, a daughter, Elizabeth Todd. Sadly within the first year of their marriage Michael Todd died in a plane crash, which left Li “Half – Crazed” with grief.

Hubby #4 (1959 – 1964) Evelyn married rock star Mick Riva after a few months and had the marriage annulled shortly after. Elizabeth Taylor married singer Eddie Fisher and was best friends with Liz’s late husband Michael Todd. It’s possible that the two began seeing each other during the time she was grieving following Todd’s death. Eddie Fisher was married to Debbie Reynolds during that time, so the pairing was a bit scandalous. They were married for five years.

Hubby #5 (1964 – 1974 and 1975 – 1976) Having started an affair with co-star, Richard Burton, while on the set of Cleopatra, he is often called the love of her life. Both were still married to other people at the time and were condemned by the Vatican for erotic vagrancy. Elizabeth Taylor married Richard Burton nine days after finalizing her divorce from Eddie Fisher. The couple married twice, the first time for 10 years before getting divorced in 1974. They tried to reignite their romance a year later, in 1975 but it wasn’t successful due to Taylor’s alcoholism and Burton’s infidelity. The pair divorced a year later.

Hubby# 6 (1976 – 1982) Liz stepped out of her usual dating pool and married politician John Warner five months after their first date. Having divorced Richard Burton the second time, Taylor’s notoriety helped Warner’s electoral campaign. The couple were married for six years, but Elizabeth Taylor grew bored with Washington, D. C. her alcoholism and drug dependency worsened and the couple divorced in 1982.

Hubby# 7 (1991 – 1996) The final husband of Elizabeth Taylor was to American construction worker Larry Fortensky, the pair met in rehab and married at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. The were only married for five years divorcing in 1996, but they kept in touch until her death in 2011. Taylor had bequeathed him $825,000 from her estate after she passed.

Perhaps the lives and loves of Evelyn Hugo were based on the real life romances of Elizabeth Taylor. Both married actors, producers, musicians and politicians, neither were ever really single for long and often endured salacious marriages the tabloids followed carefully. Maybe Liz and Evelyn shared a similar secret?

Did you know about The Seven Husbands of Elizabeth Taylor? What was your favorite Elizabeth Taylor film? Leave A Comment Below!

You can keep up with me, Noel Bleu and Blu Moon Fiction on FacebookTwitterInstagramGoodReads and Pinterest, or Shoot me an email @

For Watcher’s : The 7 Husband’s of Evelyn Hugo

I absolutely loooove a good book, but find me a good movie and you’ll find me on the couch. I’ve spent plenty of weekends binging Netflix suggestions and before there was streaming we had a giant wall of DVDs and VHS tapes. My mother still does. Though I absolutely love books, plenty of my friends can’t quite get into the habit. Some people are more visual than others. So I started this list for my wonderful friends who are not as literary inclined as I. For people who would rather just watch the movie. If that sounds more like you, then feel free to check out some of these titles.

This week’s for Watcher’s post is all about The Golden Age of Hollywood. Each of these movies came out in the 40s and featured some of the greatest names of that day. I made sure to add a few films from Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Hayward and Ava Gardner too.

  1. Cabin in the Sky (1943) Ethel Waters, Lena Horne, Duke Ellington, Star Studded Black Cast
  2. One Touch of Venus (1948) Ava Gardner, Robert Walker, Eve Arden
  3. The Lady From Shanghai (1947) Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles, Glenn Anders
  4. Little Women (1949) Elizabeth Taylor, June Allyson, Janet Leigh
  5. Pinky (1949) Ethel Barrymore, Jean Craine, Ethel Waters, Nina Mae McKinney
  6. Stormy Weather (1943) Lena Horne, Bill Robinson, Dooley Wilson, Star Studded Black Cast
  7. Gilda (1946) Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, George Macready
  8. A Date With Judy (1948) Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Powell, Carmen Miranda
  9. Whistle Stop (1946) Ava Gardner, George Raft, Jorja Curtright
  10. Key Largo (1948) Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor

Other Reads: The 7 Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Just finished reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and I am just in awe of that book. It was amazingly well written and I’ve already loaned a copy to my coworker who’s found herself unable to put it down. I do love a good historical fiction, especially one that leaves you wondering which parts are fact and which parts are made up. 

If you are looking for more juicy historical fictions like this one check Bleu’s Other Reads List  below!


  1. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden 
  2. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
  3. The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V. E. Schwab
  4. Verity by Colleen Hoover
  5. The Midnight Library  by Matt Haig
  6. Yellow Wife by Sadequa Johnson
  7. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
  8. Dizzy: A Fictional Memoir by Arthur Wooten
  9. Circe by Madeline Miller
  10. Romanov  by Nadine Brandes

Check out the Books and Looks for The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo here!