Dear Reader

Dear Reader #189

Dear Reader,

Sunshine, book two in my Golden Age of Hollywood series, will be published in April 2024. Here are the pre-order details and the blurb.

I wanted to fly, I had no idea why, but my childhood dream was to fly like a bird. 

Born Abigail Summer, my friends knew me as Sunshine, partly due to my surname, and partly due to my personality. This is the story of my life – pre, during and post World War Two.

While the war raged in Europe, I found myself in Hollywood. I had no ambitions to become an actress but, so the moviemakers said, the cameras “loved me”. 

I guess I was photogenic and, as an actress, I certainly relied on my looks. However, in such tempestuous times as World War Two life was never easy. I witnessed a murder and endured family heartache. I discovered that handsome, wholesome stars sometimes possessed darker personalities. On a brighter note, I also discovered the meaning of true love.

As for my dream to fly…sometimes you need to be careful what you wish for…

Clara Bow’s twenty-eighth movie, released on December 27, 1925, was The Ancient Mariner, a silent fantasy based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1798 poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Clara played Doris Matthews, a beautiful, innocent young girl. At this stage of her life, Clara was still young and had certainly retained her looks. However, even before she set foot in Hollywood, her innocence had long gone.

Once again, as an actress Clara was literally and figuratively treading water. That said, the film, now sadly lost, did receive excellent reviews from the critics.

My 3 x great grandfather Richard Stokes was born on 27 December 1842 in Shoreditch, London. He spent his childhood in Green Street, Mile End with his elder brother and two younger sisters. His father, William, was a ‘corn meter’, a customs and excise man dealing with the trade that arrived via the River Thames. His mother, Jane Esther Axe, was a very capable woman who managed her family’s affairs after her father’s death. Compared to many, Richard enjoyed a good start to life.

Vessels moored at London’s Custom House in 1755

In 1860, my 3 x great grandfather Richard Stokes met Lucy Sarah Glissan, daughter of John Glissan and Sarah Foreman, who were pharmacists. Lucy was living with her sisters, Amelia and Mary Ann in Mile End Old Town, London. Aged 17, Richard was a gas fitter.

A ‘brother’, William, was also living with the sisters. William was a newborn baby, Richard and Lucy’s baby. To save face, Lucy had lied to the enumerator. Would Richard marry Lucy, or abandon her and her baby?

On 27 May 1861, my 3 x great grandparents Richard Stokes and Lucy Sarah Glissan married at St Mary’s, Whitechapel Road. Lucy had recently given birth to their son, William. A happy day. However, tragedy lay ahead: on 28 August 1861, baby William died. Rare for the time, all of Richard and Lucy’s siblings had survived into adulthood. William’s death must have hit them hard.

The parish church of St Mary’s, gutted by fire in 1880

1865, and life for my 3 x great grandparents Richard Stokes and Lucy Sarah Glissan was moving in the right direction. After losing their baby, William, Lucy had given birth to another baby (my 2 x great grandfather) also named William. Furthermore, Richard had established himself in a trade: office stool maker. For hundreds of years, broken only when Richard’s father William had moved from Pangbourne to London, the Stokeses were master carpenters.

My 3 x great grandfather Richard Stokes established himself as an office stool maker and regularly featured in the trade directories. His wife, Lucy Sarah Glissan, gave birth to eight children. Her first and eighth born died in infancy. The other six, including my 2 x great grandfather William, made it into adulthood. William continued the Stokeses woodworking tradition and became a master carpenter.

I’m exploring the life and career of Virginia Cherrill, the person who, along with Charlie Chaplin, delivered the “Greatest single piece of acting ever committed to celluloid.”

Separated from her husband after seventeen months of marriage on grounds of incompatibility, Virginia found herself in Hollywood, staying with relatives. At social events, she met many prominent people, including Charlie Chaplin.

The timeline of Virginia’s meetings with Chaplin varies, but it would appear that he noticed her on a beach and, when they met again at a boxing match, he invited her to co-star in his new movie, City Lights. 

Chaplin often cast unknowns in his movies and he hired Virginia, who had no acting experience or ambitions to become an actress, without a screen test. By Chaplin, this was an inspired piece of casting.

United Artists sent out press releases and Virginia, along with this unflattering picture, appeared in local, national and international newspapers. Fame and fortune beckoned…

Mr Smith Goes to Washington 33% v 67% His Girl Friday

Sunset Boulevard 95% v 5% Meet John Doe

High Noon 37% v 63% The Thin Man

2001: A Space Odyssey 70% v 30% In the Heat of the Night

The Great Escape 70% v 30% Stagecoach

Psycho 51% v 49% The African Queen

Double Indemnity 68% v 32% The Adventures of Robin Hood

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

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