Such Mad Fun: Ambition and Glamour
in Hollywood’s Golden Age
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Please NOTE: Robin has been skyping with book groups! Such fun. Contact her through the website
2017-2018: On display in the Foreword Booth at the international Book Fairs in Beijing, Frankfurt and the Midwinter ALA Meetings
JUNE 24, 2017 GOLD MEDAL WINNER FOR ADULT NONFICTION/ BIOGRAPHY FROM FOREWORD REVIEWS INDIES
MARCH 15, 2017 FOREWORD INDIES BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARDS FINALIST (BIOGRAPHY)
CHECK OUT THE GOODREADS REVIEWS HERE.
A KIRKUS REVIEWS BEST BOOK OF 2016
SUNDAY AUGUST 28TH ROCKLAND COUNTY JOURNAL NEWS MEET THE AMAZING WOMAN WHO FOUND JANE’S DIARY (Link no longer available)
SEPTEMBER 8TH GUEST BLOG POST ON WOMEN WRITERS, WOMEN’S BOOKS.
OCTOBER 9TH THE HIGH POINT ENTERPRISE (NORTH CAROLINA) “PICTURE – PERFECT ENDING” (Link no longer available)
SAMPLES OF OTHER REVIEWS OR EXCERPTS :
. . . . In this well-researched account . . .the author thoughtfully examines the allure and trap of glamour. In this, Hall’s story mirrors those of many female professionals even today, who face immense pressures to maintain a certain look. Hall’s brushes with Hollywood and literary celebrities make great reading. Fitzgerald gave her an inscribed copy of Tender Is the Night (“the book may have been his warning to Jane about the consequences of marrying the wrong person, and the seductive power of wealth, alcohol, and a world of superficiality and showiness”). This portrait of a more literary mass-market America offers much food for reflection on modern culture.
A valuable, absorbing contribution to the history of women, golden-age Hollywood, and America’s magazine culture of the 1930s and ’40s.
KIRKUS STARRED REVIEW …. NAMED TO KIRKUS REVIEWS’ BEST BOOKS OF 2016
Precocious Jane Hall was only 10 years old when she was first published in the L.A. Times—and 22 when she started writing short stories for national magazines, fiction that soon caught the eye of a Hollywood agent. Soon enough, she’d traded the East Coast for Los Angeles, where she wasted no time befriending F. Scott Fitzgerald, writing screenplays for films starring the likes of Lana Turner, and chronicling her adventures in Hollywood for magazines like Cosmopolitan. Her time in Tinseltown is lovingly reconstructed in Such Mad Fun, a cultural history by producer and public historian Robin Cutler—who also happens to be Jane’s daughter. Get a taste of Jane’s high-spirited prose and effervescent spirit in this lightly condensed excerpt from the book, which finds our heroine traveling on assignment to the set of The Wizard of Oz for Good Housekeeping.
VANITY FAIR SEE THE EXCERPT
In Such Mad Fun, Robin Cutler’s story of her mother’s stint as a Hollywood screenwriter where she worked at MGM alongside Scott Fitzgerald, is the glittering centerpiece of an always fascinating tribute to a complex woman torn between home and career. Diary entries provide a window into the mixed emotions of a gallant woman trying to live an independent life, but shaped by the expectations of her class and time. Also revealing are the synopses of Jane’s short stories and screenplays, which illuminate the kinds of stories women were writing and reading — and watching — in that era of glossy surfaces and incipient rebellion.
MOLLY HASKELL, critic and author of From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies and the best-selling memoir My Brother My Sister.
Such Mad Fun adds much to our understanding of Depression-era American culture in this biography of Jane Hall, who in her early twenties became a successful magazine writer then made her way to Hollywood during the 1930s. It provides a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the studio system during its heyday as Hall negotiated interminable story conferences, demanding producers, the strictures of the Production Code, and credit squabbles with occasional escapes to Palm Springs to regroup. It also reminds us of the many challenges women of talent at the time faced as they pursued their ambitions. Robin Cutler tells the story of a remarkable woman and ably brings to life the milieus, both social and professional, Jane Hall inhabited during a fascinating life.
RICHARD A. FINE, Professor of English, Virginia Commonwealth University, and author of West of Eden: Hollywood and the Profession of Authorship
If you want to understand the power of a woman’s professional identity – and the effects of giving it up too soon – read this compelling history of ambition and success in Hollywood and New York. I hope “Such Mad Fun” inspires readers, especially women, to pursue their talents no matter what. Thoroughly researched, this is a beautifully written history of Hollywood’s Golden Age, and the role of the woman wunderkind writer who was the author’s mother. In the end, you’ll understand better your twentieth-century matriarchs, and most likely yourself. All my “womankin” are getting copies of Such Mad Fun. I hope this page-turner teaches them to never surrender their talents and brainpower
BETTY BOOKER, specialist in generational writing, long-time reporter/columnist, Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch and Boomer Magazine
Such Mad Fun is about the golden age of Hollywood, about mothers and daughters, about the ways people disappoint each other and themselves. It’s a seamless story of twentieth- century life narrated with style and verve and empathy.
Robin Cutler is pitch-perfect in her description of the glittering social worlds of 1930’s New York and Hollywood. Such Mad Fun chronicles the adventures of Cutler’s prodigy mother, Jane Hall, a beautiful and gifted young writer whose wit and creativity assured success in these meccas of glamour. Working from her mother’s writings and diaries, Cutler has crafted an absorbing coming-of-age story that shows what it took for a brilliant young woman to make it as a Hollywood screenwriter. Exposed to a breathtaking world of celebrity, Jane ultimately had to choose between her creative ambitions and the glamorous life she cultivated for social success. Written with the momentum of a page-turning novel, Robin Cutler’s excellent new book is a must read for anyone who appreciates both genius and glamour, especially when they are combined in one fascinating individual.
LINDSAY C. GIBSON, Psy.D, author of Who You Were Meant To Be :A Guide to Finding or Recovering Your Life’s Purpose.
Robin Cutler is a writer/historian who has written a biography of her mother, who led a rather extraordinary life from Depression-era debutante balls in Manhattan, to being a screenwriter at MGM, and beyond. Robin sent me an ARC of the manuscript because her mother once stayed at the Garden of Allah, and Robin wanted to know what I thought. I loved her book! It turns out that Jane Hall lived a life not unlike one of the characters in my books, only for realsies. It’s now available for pre-order, and comes with my highest recommendation.
MARTIN TURNBULL, author of five Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels.
I personally found the story of Jane Hall very inspiring. In a time where it was pretty much expected for a woman’s life to follow a particular pattern, Jane proved that not only was it possible to break that mould, but to also be successful at it. Such Mad Fun is not only a book for fans of Golden Hollywood, it has the potential to inspire anyone to believe that their dreams and ambitions are possible if they put their heart and soul into what they are doing.
CLASSIC MOVIE FAVORITES http://www.classicmoviefavorites.com/about/
.. . . .Shortly after we finished reading this book, we watched a 1930s screwball comedy. “This is Jane Hall’s world,” we thought. With Hall’s adventures in mind, we found ourselves experiencing the film in a different way. In fact, it was almost as if we were watching a screwball comedy for the first time.
We realized Such Mad Fun filled a gaping hole in our knowledge of 1930s America. You see, we (as in, yours truly) have read very little about rich New Yorkers during the Depression. Cutler explains the culture of the rich and, in doing so, gives us a greater understanding of them as portrayed in the films of the 1930s. We’re not joking when we say we regard this book as an anthropological guide.
We highly recommend Such Mad Fun for its engrossing look at an extraordinary woman of the 1930s, one who is still considered remarkable nearly 100 years later.
SILVER SCREENINGS https://silverscreenings.org/2016/08/31/jane-hall-goes-hollywood/
. . . .Of particular interest is Jane’s correspondence with the last surviving great-grandchild of Queen Victoria of England and the author’s revelation of how she got her mother’s diary .This book would be of interest to anyone pursuing a career in writing or who has an interest in learning about Hollywood’s Golden Age.
You had me at “Hollywood’s Golden Age.”
In Such Mad Fun: Ambition and Glamour in Hollywood’s Golden Age, historian Robin R. Cutler undertakes a daunting task—a biography of her own mother, Jane Hall, who worked as a screenwriter, fiction writer, and journalist during the 1930s and early 1940s. Jane Hall is a character worthy of her own Hollywood movie, and thanks to Cutler, she pops to vivid life from these pages. . . . . .Cutler has carefully pieced together her mother’s story through diary entries, letters, and other documentary evidence. Her portrait of Jane Hall is a rich, poignant account—not just of one woman’s life or of a single glamorous decade, but of a time when women writers forged names for themselves and enjoyed fulfilling careers.
__________AND FOR ROBIN’S OTHER BOOKS HERE ARE A FEW OF THE COMMENTS:________________________
ONLINE ARTICLES ABOUT A SOUL ON TRIAL AND THE LAUGHING DESERT
“Author Tells Story of The Salome Sun” by Chris McDaniel. November 9, 2012. http://www.yumasun.com/articles/salome-83109-hall-cutler.html
William S. Niederkorn in his The Times Traveler blog (which has now ended) featured the Sutton Case. September 14, 2009.
Crime Historian Laura James, Esq. reviews A Soul On Trial
Robin Cutler’s article The First Mother Who Fought the Military to Find Out How Her Son Died on History News Network. September 30, 2007.
EXCERPTS FROM REVIEWS OF A SOUL ON TRIAL
“Robin R. Cutler describes one of the most remarkable cases of a civilian challenging the power of the U.S. military in American history. . . .Cutler has made a substantial contribution to the histories of the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Naval Academy. This book should encourage further investigations into other instances in which the military has failed to live up to its own high standards of accountability and honor, and will be the standard against which those studies are judged. This is an exhaustively researched case study, yet at the same time it is so captivating, dramatic, and vivid that readers will feel as if they are sitting in the inquiry room sweating through the humid Annapolis summer with the hearing’s participants. This book could easily become a screenplay, and it is narrative history at its finest.”
H. Michael Gelfand, The Journal of American History, (September, 2008)
“A Soul on Trial is a good read, a well- researched account of an overlooked and sensational controversy, and a promising example of how to examine and contextualize, rather than just to cite, newspaper sources from the past. ”
Stephen Ponder, American Journalism, (Summer 2008)
“Exhaustively documented, A Soul on Trial, is a gift to the expanding archives of Marine Corps history. Cutler’s mastery of detail is noteworthy for one without apparent personal military experience . . . a superbly evocative description of a crime and a time.”
Chas Henry, Leatherneck (August, 2008)
“Cutler’s well-written and painstakingly researched account is a page turner with surprises throughout.”
R. Gregory Nokes, Oregon Historical Quarterly (April, 2008).
Notable Naval Books of 2007, “. . .the author’s intriguing story is enhanced by some revealing looks at the culture and politics of the period.” Lt. Commander Thomas J. Cutler (no relation), U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings (May, 2008).
“A Soul on Trial . . . is a fascinating work of nonfiction . . .The author meticulously presents the facts surrounding Sutton’s death. She also conducts a historical examination of the training of newly commissioned Marine Corps officers prior to World War I, military court proceedings at the turn of the century, and the media’s influence on the military, executive, and legislative branches of government. . . A timeless account of the importance of properly conducting initial investigations and military court proceedings. It also contains valuable historical lessons concerning proactive interaction with the media in the context of high visibility military cases. The actions of Marines are closely scrutinized by the media in this current operational environment, and this book is an invaluable historical reference.”
Major Keith Forkin, Staff Judge Advocate, Marine Corps Recruiting Command, Marine Corps Gazette (April, 2008)
“Cutler . . .seamlessly weaves together the proceedings with side trips into the widespread interest in the paranormal at the time, William James, military tribunal procedure, a little forensic medicine, politics and media spin circa 1909. The resulting tapestry never seems contrived or unduly weighted with tangential diversions.”
David J. Loftus, The Oregonian (12/16/07).
“Book Examines Mysterious 1907 Death at Naval Academy” a feature article by Earl Kelly, appeared in the Annapolis Capital on Sunday, July 15, 2007.
Comments by Experts
“A Soul on Trial is first a real-life murder mystery, with a wonderfully twisted plot involving a nervously secretive military, an outraged public and even a troubled ghost. And thanks to Robin Cutler’s meticulous research and talented story-telling, it is also a compelling portrait of America in the early 20th century, a country caught between the honorable beliefs of its past and the driving energy of its future. All of those elements combine to make this a provocative story and a terrific book.”
Deborah Blum, author of Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death; Professor of Journalism, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“Robin Cutler has written a lively and gripping account of a pivotal era in American history. Modern readers will identify with her timeless themes — citizens confronting their government and a mother’s love for her son — as they are drawn into this tale of drama and intrigue.”
Nathaniel Fick, author of the New York Times bestseller One Bullet Away; former Captain, First Reconnaissance Battalion, USMC.
“It is a great pleasure to endorse as an outstanding piece of historical exploration, this incredible story which Robin Cutler unfolds. What is so unusual is that it is all true. In the midst of the progressive era, we have a mystery worthy of Hollywood: a murder– or was it suicide? a cover up– or was it simply playing by the book? a psychic who correctly saw what was happening close to three thousand miles away–or was it all an act? a quest for eternal rest–or was it merely a desperate attempt to avoid the church penalty for suicide? It is all played out in Cutler’s book. Further, she deals with the internal values and practices of the military as it investigated (or perhaps the correct word is reinvestigated) a fatality on post which received national press attention. Cutler’s book is better than fiction!”
Jonathan Lurie, author of Military Justice in America: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, 1775-1980. Professor of History, Adjunct Professor of Law, Rutgers University.
“Robin Cutler’s A Soul on Trial is a gripping mystery story as well as an outstanding example of current social history at its best. A young Marine officer is found dead in ambiguous circumstances, and his mother doubts official suspicions of suicide. Fairness in judicial proceedings requires that individuals be able to participate in defense of their own interests. But few jurists could have anticipated that a ghostly apparition would seek to become part of the official record in determining his own cause of death! Even in 2007, readers can understand a mother’s challenging the official story about her son’s death, as happened in the case of former NFL star and Army Ranger Pat Tillman. Cutler reveals a similar maternal zeal a century earlier. This wonderfully fresh and lucid book offers much to the general reader as well as the specialist – an always insightful fusion of social history, the study of religion and spiritism, the history of military justice, and “history and memory” inquiries into truth-telling and myth-making. I recommend this book enthusiastically!”
Donald J Mrozek, Professor of History, Institute for Military History and 20th Century Studies, Kansas State University; author of Sport and American Mentality, 1890-1910.
“This is an intriguing tale of the death of a young Marine Corps officer, a military cover-up, and a mother’s crusade that brought it to the nation’s attention. The Sutton murder mystery fascinated reporters, members of Congress, high-ranking military officials, lawyers, doctors, clergymen and even spiritualists. Engagingly written, A Soul on Trial is an extensively researched and astutely analysed account of a riveting episode from the turn of the last century that is relevant for us today.”
John Whiteclay Chambers II, author of The Tyranny of Change: America in the Progressive Era; Professor of History, Rutgers University.
“In this excellent historical narrative, Cutler sheds light on many aspects of the social, cultural, military and legal history of the Progressive Era. Her appreciation of the historical context combined with good control of the legalities at stake make this intriguing story about the Sutton case hard to resist. A Soul on Trial exhibits a nice feel for the new worlds of women in the early 20th century. She also offers us a detailed portrayal drawn from aggressive digging into archival documents, of the culture and traditions of the Marine Corps. We see in the Corps’ handling of the media scrutiny regarding Jimmie Sutton’s death that everything old is new again. A super story about military justice and the way military culture and civil society relate to one another.”
Thomas C. Mackey, author of Pursuing Johns: Criminal Law Reform, Defending Character, and New York City’s Committee of Fourteen, 1920-1930; Professor of History, University of Louisville.
“A Soul on Trial is a truly arresting book. Robin Cutler’s meticulously researched examination of the 1907 death of Marine Lieutenant James N. Sutton provides a panoramic overview of American life in the decade before World War I. Cutler evinces an insider’s knowledge of Annapolis and the naval culture in which the Sutton case unfolded — international in its share of action yet at times surprisingly class bound and provincial in its outlook. Rosa Sutton’s ordeal also illumines from a new perspective the vast gulf that separated, and still separates, the ways men and women experience the world, as well as the power of the press to shape the national agenda. Cutler proves a skilled storyteller who weaves the disparate strands of this event into a rich and vivid narrative, one that resonates strongly with Americans’ lives today.”
Michael P. Parker, author of Presidents Hill: Building an Annapolis Neighborhood, 1664-2005; Professor of English, United States Naval Academy.