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Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood

by Sherri Snyder

Availablecloth$45.00s 978-0-8131-7425-9
Screen Classics
464 pages  Pubdate: 12/15/2017  6 x 9  76 b/w images

Listen: Sherri Snyder chats with Jim Junot on The Junot Files. | Listen online here

Listen: Barbara La Marr was a 1920s Hollywood star who was as famous for on-screen beauty and her off-screen personal tumult. The Online Movie Show with Phil Hall speaks with Sherri Snyder, author of Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood, and discusses the life and career of this remarkable performer. | Listen online here

Barbara La Marr’s (1896–1926) publicist once confessed: “There was no reason to lie about Barbara La Marr. Everything she said, everything she did was colored with news-value.” When La Marr was sixteen, her older half-sister and a male companion reportedly kidnapped her, causing a sensation in the media. One year later, her behavior in Los Angeles nightclubs caused law enforcement to declare her “too beautiful” to be on her own in the city, and she was ordered to leave. When La Marr returned to Hollywood years later, her loveliness and raw talent caught the attention of producers and catapulted her to movie stardom.

In the first full-length biography of the woman known as the “girl who was too beautiful,” Sherri Snyder presents a complete portrait of one of the silent era’s most infamous screen sirens. In five short years, La Marr appeared in twenty-six films, including The Prisoner of Zenda (1922), Trifling Women (1922), The Eternal City (1923), The Shooting of Dan McGrew (1924), and Thy Name Is Woman (1924). Yet by 1925—finding herself beset by numerous scandals, several failed marriages, a hidden pregnancy, and personal prejudice based on her onscreen persona—she fell out of public favor. When she was diagnosed with a fatal lung condition, she continued to work, undeterred, until she collapsed on set. She died at the age of twenty-nine.

Few stars have burned as brightly and as briefly as Barbara La Marr, and her extraordinary life story is one of tempestuous passions as well as perseverance in the face of adversity. Drawing on never-before-released diary entries, correspondence, and creative works, Snyder’s biography offers a valuable perspective on her contributions to silent-era Hollywood and the cinematic arts.

Actress and writer Sherri Snyder regularly portrays Barbara La Marr in a one-woman performance piece she wrote for the Pasadena Playhouse/Pasadena Museum of History production, Channeling Hollywood, and she maintains the tribute website,

Rich with details, and never becoming discursive, Barbara La Marr – The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood is a fascinating study of a life and career that will cause the reader to have greater respect and admiration for its subject. It is one of the best film books of 2017. -- James Neibaur Blog

This gripping biography by Sherri Snyder details every twist and turn of La Marr’s breathless existence from teenage rebel to beloved star. -- Sight & Sound

One of the "Best Film Books of 2017." -- Huffington Post

One of the "Best Celebrity Bios of 2017" -- The Entertainment Report

One of the things I love most about University Press of Kentucky is its penchant for releasing stellar biographies on long forgotten Hollywood legends. Author Sherri Snyder does a wonderful job here of telling Barbara La Marr’s life story from its very beginnings in the late nineteenth century to its very end in the mid-1920s. It’s extremely evident that Snyder’s research was meticulous because literally nothing was glossed over. The events of La Marr’s life – and there were plenty – are presented clearly, succinctly,
accurately (as far as I could gather), and respectfully. -- Super Veebs

Through archival research, as well as talking to family and friends, Snyder has been able to untangle the myths and lies and find the truth at the heart of Barbara La Marr’s short but dramatic life. This book provides much needed insight into the workings of a young Hollywood, but more than that, it ensures that Barbara La Marr has now been rescued from obscurity and can rightly be remembered not only for the importance of her film career, but for her life as a daughter, friend, wife and mother. -- Cinema Retro

The ‘Girl Who Was Too Beautiful’ moniker is both a blessing and a curse for Barbara La Marr’s legacy. It ensures her place in the pantheon of Hollywood’s most intriguing figures, but at the same time discourages modern audiences from viewing her as anything more than Roaring Twenties eye candy. Therefore, the task that Sherri Snyder has undertaken is invaluable; Snyder manages to humanize an actress who is all too often defined merely by her physical appearance and freewheeling lifestyle. Expertly researched and captivatingly written, Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood manages to paint the most complete picture of La Marr’s life to date. A scholarly work on Barbara La Marr was long overdue; the silent film community as a whole should be thankful that Snyder was not only up to the task, but has created a work that will serve to define La Marr’s life and career for decades to come. -- Charles Epting, editor, Silent Film Quarterly

Snyder’s work is fresh and enthralling. Her dedication and compassion for her subject shines through. And we are richly rewarded with a truly well-written biography of a long-forgotten star. -- Stephen Michael Shearer, author of Patricia Neal: An Unquiet Life, Beautiful: The Life of Hedy Lamarr, and Gloria Swanson: The Ultimate Star

Snyder beautifully steps up to the task of providing film scholars a thoughtful and well-researched depiction of La Marr’s life, career, and legacy. Snyder’s work offers an honest and incredibly personal perspective of La Marr’s life. Snyder’s prose justly portrays both the rewarding and challenging moments throughout La Marr’s life and career. -- Hometowns to Hollywood

Snyder’s completed manuscript is impressive in both its scope and detail . . . . A fluid and captivating narrative. -- Christina Rice, author of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel

Sherri Snyder digs deep into the life of Barbara La Marr, giving an in-depth look at the intelligence and talents of the “girl who was too beautiful.”  We see the real three-dimensional La Marr for the very first time, a thoughtful, generous, and creative woman who died much too young. -- Mary Mallory, film historian and author of Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays: 1920-1970, Hollywoodland: Tales Lost and Found, and Hollywood at Play: The Lives of the Stars Between Takes