In Review – Girls on Film: Lessons from a Life of Watching Women in Movies (2022)

If you’re a fan of TCM, you’re already familiar with Alicia Malone, who has been one of the hosts on the network since 2018. A native of Australia, Malone is the author of three books: Backwards and in Heels: The Past, Present and Future of Women Working in Film (2017); The Female Gaze: Essential Movies Made By Women (2018); and her latest, Girls on Film: Lessons from a Life of Watching Women in Movies (2022). All three books – as indicated by their titles – focus on Malone’s passion for exploring, highlighting, and celebrating women in film, both in front of and behind the camera. Girls on Film differs from these, however, in that it is also a semi-memoir of Malone’s life. I took a copy of this book on my recent trip to the TCM film festival, to read while traveling, and let me tell you – I devoured it like it was a box of Fannie May milk chocolate buttercreams.

This easy-to-read tome grabbed my attention from the very start, where Malone points to movies as a source of joy in her life and shares a quote by French director Francois Truffaut, who once stated, “I think I like the image of life better than life. I don’t think real life is as satisfying as film.” Malone writes in a comfortable, conversational tone; each chapter centers on a specific period in her life and discusses the films and performers that she relates to, draws inspiration from, or achieves answers regarding life’s questions.

Alicia’s book introduced me to Mr. Movies.

Some of the personal experiences shared by Malone in the book include seeing The NeverEnding Story (1984) at the age of three and crying hysterically when she witnessed the death of the main character’s horse; starting a film club at her all-female high school which turned out to be woefully unsuccessful; her self-taught film education, which used Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guides as a foundation and relied on information provided by Australian movie critic and historian Bill Collins, also known as Mr. Movies; and her professional stepstones, from working in a video store, to being an autocue operator at a local television station, to hosting at Australia’s Movie Network, to moving to Los Angeles and, eventually, TCM. She also speaks with candor about the “character” of Alicia Malone that she created for her career (complete with a different last name and dyed red hair), and her return to the “real” Alicia, which has included allowing her hair to resume its natural blonde color and moving from Los Angeles to a small town on the East Coast (where she has a dream of opening her own movie theater).

I’ve seen bits and pieces of this film, but Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is now a must-see.

Interspersed among these details, Malone discusses a variety of films with female lead characters, as well as the off-screen lives of the performers who brought these characters to life. One of the main things I loved about this book is that I never knew, from page to page, what was coming next – an interesting peek at Alicia’s personal life, details about the off-screen lives of a variety of actresses (including Vampira, Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner, Audrey Hepburn, and Ingrid Bergman), or a thought-provoking discussion on a beloved film or one that I have now added to my watchlist, like Woman of the Year (1942), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), Smooth Talk (1986), and Mad Love (1995).

It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a book this much – in fact, before I even finished it, I purchased Malone’s Backwards and in Heels book, and I’ve placed her second book on my Amazon wish list. Check this one out – whether you’re an avid TCM watcher, a champion of films with memorable female characters, a classic movie fan, or all of the above, I guarantee you’re going to enjoy Girls on Film.

~ by shadowsandsatin on May 24, 2022.

2 Responses to “In Review – Girls on Film: Lessons from a Life of Watching Women in Movies (2022)”

  1. Great review, Karen! You’ve convinced me, I’m looking for both books, too!

    Lady Eve

  2. I’ve read the Backward in High Heels book, but hadn’t heard of this other book until now. Great review! (I hope Amazon pays you commission, because I bet I’m not the only one ordering a copy based on your review.)

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