Last week, in my Sundays With Loretta post, I talked about an upcoming novel that would feature Loretta as a main character, along with her sisters. That book is now on store shelves, and as I meander through my own copy (because a true fangirl reads everything, sadly), I find that the author wasted no time in turning the sisters into whatever she needed them to be. There was very little care taken for accuracy, and while I know it is fiction, I feel that something of this magnitude should be taken with at least a bit of academic seriousness.
Since the beginning of the movies, we’ve had fan fiction about them and the people in them. In a local antique shop, there is a book called Ann Sheridan And The Ghost People Of Zanzibar (not the actual title, but approximate 🙂 ). This sort of thing may never go away, as even as recently as the 80’s and 90’s, authors like George Baxt published little murder mysteries with Golden Age stars as the investigators. They’re goofy, not meant to harm, and though they make reference to actual events, they are so far removed from the real lives of these people that they’re truly fictional. The main difference I find between this book and those is that there is a real possibility that someone out there could mistake the events of this new book as truth. The author dramatized some very real events, and made happen what she thought should have, or maybe wanted to happen, based on her own feelings. In that mix, we have many victims, as seemingly no one has been left out.
Chiefly, I want to talk about the terrible representation of the real, feeling, caring human that was Sally Blane. She’s presented as nothing more than bubbly, boy crazy, and with the edge of an attitude problem. Constantly, in the quarter of the book I’ve read, thus far, she asks about Clark Gable, wants someone to introduce them, and generally is a Gable worshiper. She’s treated more like a teenage school girl than an adult. At the time that the author has set the book, Sally was romantically linked to Russ Columbo, the ill fated “crooner” that many credit with popularizing the art. The most stunning oversight in the characterization of Sally is the failure to mention Russ. In fact, I feel as though the author read about these things, gleaning only the superficial, but left out the depth required. After all, even as a semi-major side character, if you’re using a real person, I feel that something must be used of their real personality. On September 2, 1934, Russ was shot in the head, accidentally, by his friend, Lansing Brown. Brown had been showing off and toying with two antique pistols, from his collection, under the assumption that both were unloaded. He said a match became stuck, somehow, and as he toyed with the trigger, the spark of the match was all it took to shot the unknown bullet.
It seemed that Russ’ “sweethearts” all had a common trait- they mothered him. Carole Lombard was quoted as saying that she loved him like a mother would her child, and Sally was known to say that Russ looked at her like a second mother. Attempts to create a love triangle were made by fan magazines, but it was never the case. Sally, Russ, and Lansing Brown were pals. Russ and Carole were closer to being an actual item, but she hesitated because of her recent failed marriage to William Powell.
The night that Russ died, it was Sally Blane who sat at his bedside. Sally stood watch, probably knowing the eventual outcome, but being the best pal a person could have, until the very end. Remember, Sally had only recently turned 24, at the time of Russ’ death. How many 24 year olds do you know who would even stick around, after figuring out that a guy her own age thought of her like a mom? But that was Sally- she cared, genuinely, about her friends, her family, and even strangers. To amount her to nothing more than a flirty child with too many boyfriends is a crime.
To the people who are now reading the book, with the knowledge of who Sally was, I know how much this just sucks. I’ve seen it before, time and again, where fiction begins to pour over into the realm of reality. I can only hope that these feeble attempts will somehow curb that.
If you’ve just read the name Sally Blane, in this book, without any prior knowledge of her existence, welcome. The only thing I can truly give the book credit for is getting some names who deserve attention out there. Sally Blane, “Bet” to her sisters, was a marvelous, joyful human being, whose life motto was that we are here to make other people happy. There is a lot to learn from Miss Sally, and I hope that you can separate that from what she was made into because she deserves it. I can honestly say that I’ve never researched another person who absolutely no one has anything bad to say about. So many people loved her, and I hope that those new to her will love her, too.