Across three women's films, the status of the literary novel in the midst of changing media environments is melodramatically plotted through the figure of “old acquaintance.” Vincent Sherman's 1943 Old Acquaintance pits the meager output of celebrated writer Katherine “Kit” Marlowe (Bette Davis) against the stream of popular, lowbrow novels written by her friend Millie Drake (Miriam Hopkins). This contest of literary style and production is closely adapted in George Cukor's 1981 film Rich and Famous. In Pedro Almodóvar's 1995 La flor de mi secreto, friction between literary styles and markets is subdued through melodrama's focus on affective rather than taste-making practices, appearing as a viable metaphor of the fate of book-objects in a zero-sum marketplace. This article focuses on Rich and Famous, which explores the question of affinity between women, lowbrow and highbrow, and the fate of the novel circa 1980. The particular and volatile experience of “alikeness” that founds friendship and the possibility that literary value is volatile—that high- and lowbrow are alike—are imagined in its nuanced representation of what Ronald Britton termed “publication anxiety” and in its use of cinematic space to stage the possibility of amicable if incongruous contemporaneity.
Novel Circulations: Old Acquaintance, Rich and Famous, La Flor de Mi Secreto
melissa jane hardie is senior lecturer in in the English Department and Associate Dean Undergraduate for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney. She is currently completing a monograph on the closet after queer theory that analyzes the relationship between the supersession of media and genres and the persistence of closet epistemologies in their wake. She is also working on a new project that examines the fate of the novel as object after modernism, focusing on the remediation of that object in visual and audiovisual media, including film and television.
Melissa Hardie; Novel Circulations: Old Acquaintance, Rich and Famous, La Flor de Mi Secreto. Novel 1 May 2017; 50 (1): 112–122. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-3854331
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