The Symbol by Alvah Bessie
New York : Random House, 1966. First Printing. Stated. Hardcover. 305 pages ; 21 cm. $5.95 dust jacket with minimal wear. Pages are clean and unmarked. Binding is firm.
The Symbol is the story of Wanda Oliver —an orphan child who became one of the great Hollywood stars of our time. Beautiful, red-haired, sexy, funny, she was the symbol of womanhood for millions. Her success was legendary, her personal life chaotic, her death, by her own hand, tragic. She was married and divorced three times—first by Tom Kelly, the young aircraft mechanic; then, after her star began to rise, by Buck Wischnewski, the great football hero, the shyest, nicest man Wanda was ever to know; and then by Calvin Bernard, the famous painter, who tried to teach Wanda what womanhood really meant. And besides her husbands there was Luke O'Brien, the wartime flying hero—a gentleman in the daytime and brutal, savage aggressor at night, and there was Helmut Thierbach, the brilliant German film star who treated women—including Wanda—as though they were objects to satisfy his desire.
The Symbol is a triumph of storytelling as it moves from Wanda's childhood to her days as a photographer's model and bit player. It tells of her first real film role, her phenomenal rise in Hollywood, her disastrous loves and marriages, her growing dependence on alcohol and sleeping pills, her battles with the studios, and then the last tragic act of her life. In Wanda Oliver, Alvah Bessie gives us a full-length, absolutely convincing portrait. He has, in an uncanny way, entered her mind and heart, so that we know and feel what it must be like to be so famous and so haunted.
Alvah Bessie is the author of four novels and two works of non-fiction—most recently, Inquisition in Eden. He was born and brought up in New York, has lived in France, Spain, and Germany, and presently makes his home in San Rafael, California, near San Francisco.
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