Cheat and Charmer

Eliz­a­beth Frank
  • Review
By – September 24, 2012

From Pulitzer Prize – win­ning author Eliz­a­beth Frank comes Cheat and Charmer, a raw and grip­ping look at a Hol­ly­wood fam­i­ly, the love and oblig­a­tions that bind them togeth­er and the lies and betray­als that tear them apart. Set in 1950s Hol­ly­wood, Frank’s nov­el bril­liant­ly cap­tures a town run­ning scared from the threat of Com­mu­nism and a loom­ing black­list. The sto­ry revolves around sis­ters Dinah and Vee­vi, the one a Hol­ly­wood wife and moth­er, the oth­er a star­let of such aston­ish­ing beau­ty that she is described as the eighth world wonder. 

When Dinah is sub­poe­naed to appear before the House Un-Amer­i­can Activ­i­ties Com­mit­tee chaired by Sen­a­tor Joe McCarthy, she makes a deci­sion of great con­se­quence, sav­ing her husband’s career at the expense of her sister’s. Haunt­ed by her tes­ti­mo­ny, Dinah is forced to reex­am­ine her val­ues and com­mit­ments, her mar­riage and her rela­tion­ship with her sis­ter. Under­neath Veevi’s stun­ning exte­ri­or, Dinah dis­cov­ers a woman turned ugly by inse­cu­ri­ty and duplic­i­ty and a sis­ter inca­pable of mean­ing­ful love. 

Though the sto­ry lacks a sto­ry­book end­ing, it is here that Frank’s tal­ent is most clear­ly reflect­ed. Her writ­ing rings with uncom­pro­mis­ing authen­tic­i­ty, pro­vid­ing the read­er an insider’s view of a depraved Hol­ly­wood, while expos­ing the fan­ta­sy of its mes­mer­iz­ing glam­our. And while nei­ther of the sis­ters is Jew­ish, Cheat and Charmer has the unmis­tak­ably Jew­ish fla­vor of old Hol­ly­wood, with its Jew­ish stu­dio heads, writ­ers and moneymakers.

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